In the wee dark hours sleeplessly far from dawn, my fifteen year old self was penetrated irrevocably by Like Water for Chocolate. My parents slept upstairs as I sat wearily tiptoeing into the teenage years of my ongoing insomnia. A midnight movie had ended, and I contemplated to lazily returning upstairs when the first scenes of the subtitled film began to play and my romantic world would be changed forever. I often say that the movie La Bamba was probably to blame for my penchant for Mexican men but if the music of Richie Valens made my heart flutter, the smoldering love in Like Water for Chocolate stirred my burgeoning sexual passions.
Almost half a century later, the story and that awakening night holds a place in my mind and heart.
The emotion the actors managed to convey pierced through the night and the language barrier and impressed upon me a tale of woe, love, passion, and desire so startlingly foreign while at the same time speaking to me as if it were gospel about the forces of nature and sexual passion. It was mesmerizing.
Moved to previously uncharacteristic academic interest I spoke to my English teacher about the movie, and surprisingly to me she not only knew the story but offered to lend me the book; thus beginning again in my post puberty years my fascination with secret worlds that lie in books.
The novel itself, authored by Laura Esquirel seems to be a translation from Spanish. It is at times simplistic; as, if the translator favored clarity over emotion in the writing style in the hopes of allowing the narrative to carry the tale. A prejudice my nescient xenophilia attempts to convince me is rooted in the fantasy that the native tongue would be more suited to putting word to the sensuous scenes. The novel is interesting in that it splits itself up into monthly installments, although I can’t imagine taking a year to read this tiny book.
The main protagonist Tita, as the story goes, was born in a flood of tears on the kitchen table and it was there that she was raised surrounded by the aromas of food. Pedro fell in love with Tita and their passion burned until the day Tita told her mother Pedro would be asking for her hand in marriage. Tita being the youngest was expected to care for her mother until death and never marry. Pedro agreed instead to marry Tita’s sister allowing him always to stay close to Tita and so begins their life of togetherness and separation under the watchful eye of Tita’s mother. The only way Tita has to communicate with her one true love is through her cooking.
Each chapter begins with a list of ingredients for a recipe included in the book; the instructions intertwined within the chapter itself intimately connecting the events in Titas life with the tastes and aromas that accompany them.
This week Like water for chocolate is on my nightstand and our plans for a date night movie.
If you want a sneak peek at what to expect from the movie search for the scene on youtube where Tita serves her family including her forbidden love interest Pedro, quail with rose petal sauce. If only I could cook as well as Tita, I would be putting that recipe to use on date night too.