Como Agua Para Chocolate
*edit: an old blog post I made for a UNI class back in 2015, definitely would love more people to read*
The only English Like Water for Chocolate contains is the name, but the good thing about food is that it is a language of its own. This film, filed with magical realism, was released in 1992 based on the popular novel that was first published in 1989 by Laura Esquivel. It became one of the highest grossing Spanish language film released in the United States during that time. From beginning to end the entire movie takes place in the kitchen, which becomes the highlight of the plot. It attracts the audience with warmth and color to make them feel as if they were in the same ambience as the protagonist.
This story takes place in the United States-Mexico border in 1910, narrating the life of Tita de la Garza. The story is narrated in third person omniscient by Tita’s great grandniece whose name remains unknown. She sets the scene explaining the significance and annoyance of crying while chopping onions, stating that she inherits her Aunt’s sensitivity. The narrator explains the beginning of Tita’s life in which Mama Elena, Tita’s mother, gives birth to her in the middle of the kitchen. Tita comes out a crying baby, foreshadowing her fate. Being that she was the youngest of the three sisters, Tita could not have the fortune of marriage for the Mexican tradition states she must to take care of her mother until death.
Tita befriends a housemaid who teaches her all sorts of dishes. She grows up working in the kitchen loving it immensely, gaining control and talent to prepare the most delicious of foods. She serves the entire family and caters important events that are held in the ranch. At the age of 15 Tita meets a boy, Pedro, whom she falls in love with at first sight. As the years go on their secret love grows to the point where Pedro alongside his father asks Tita’s mother for her hand in marriage. Without consideration Mama Elena denies the offer but makes a compromise by giving up her eldest daughter Rosaura to wed. Pedro accepts this negotiation by explaining that he would marry only to be closer to Tita. Tita doesn’t see this as a solution and becomes heartbroken.
Tita is overwhelmed with pain because she must prepare the wedding cake causing her to cry. Tears spill over onto the batter, which give the guest an unsettling stomachache, the first of many times where Tita’s emotion pass over to whoever eats her food. By the end of the day Tita is distraught not only for the loss of her love but also because the housemaid had also died.
A year passes and Tita’s longing for Pedro grows immensely and because she is unable to touch him she infuses her emotions into the meal she prepares. This passion transfers onto her middle sister Gertrudis where she impulsively leaves the household and escapes with a revolutionary soldier. Rosaura gives birth to a baby boy whom Tita is the only one who can feed and nourish its needs. This brings Pedro closer to Tita, giving each other craving looks from across the room. Mama Elena sees through Tita’s innocence barking at her to stay far away from Pedro before she ruins the family name.
At a gathering Tita meets a young American doctor named John Brown. He is intrigued by her kindness and beauty asking her if she’d ever marry. She denies saying that that is not an option for her. During a storm Tita and Pedro run into each other, finally stealing kisses in the middle of the night. Mama Elena suspects her whereabouts and ships Rosaura and Pedro far into Texas. Months pass while Tita still takes abuse from her mother’s harsh words leading to a day where there is news that the baby boy has died from malnutrition. This is the final straw for Tita where she then retires to an attic for days and becomes crazy in grief. Doctor Brown is called upon to take care of her with his son, months passing and her well-being not changing. At last with a visit from a house friend and a well-cooked traditional meal her strength was regain. During this time John fell in love with Tita eventually asking for her hand. Tita agreed knowing that she would never return to the ranch.
As fate would have it, Mama Elena dies during an ambush making Tita return for her funeral where she reunites with Pedro and Rosaura once again. With all the grief Rosaura gives premature birth to a girl, but with all the blood loss she may never have a baby again. John must go for a few days leaving Tita to stay at the ranch. Pedro become jealous of her love for another and seduces her, taking away Tita’s virtue. For days ahead Tita feels guilty allowing her to interact with her dead mother, claiming that she is a shameful whore. Tita mistakes her anxious mind with a pregnancy, telling Pedro of a false hope and planning to run away. One night Mama Elena appears to disturb the peace making Tita fill with rage screaming at her mother that she has always hated her. With these words Mama Elena leaves but not without setting Pedro on fire. Pedro calls out for Tita and Rosaura become resentful. John returns and Tita is filled with fault and sadness, expressing what happened while he was away. He stated that he did not care what she’s done, all that matters is whether she wanted to continue on with the marriage, the choice was hers.
The ending scene leads with an ambiguous tone, not allowing the audience to know of her decision immediately. There are all kinds of preparations for a wedding to take place. John is seen sitting at a table in a suit, but Tita is dancing happily with Pedro. It is 22 years later and Pedro’s daughter, Esperanza, is being married to John’s son. As Esperanza leaves with her husband Pedro and Tita run off into the now empty ranch. As they enter Tita sees her old housemaid setting up candles for the both of them. Tita and Pedro are free to consummate their love but in doing so Pedro dies in her arms. Filled with confusion and distraught she sets the house on fire. The narrator explains that all that was left was Tita’s cookbook. She states that Tita’s life would never die throughout generations because of her love of food.
This story evokes that in the Spanish culture food is the best way to express feelings that cannot be said. Throughout the entire story the richness of flavors, colors, and knowledge brings all types of people together. In Spanish the quote “La vida sería mucho más agradable si uno pudiera llevarse a donde quiera que fuera, los sabores y olores de la casa maternal,” states that life would be sweeter if only the same richness of flavor from home could be taken anywhere. This expresses the desire and need of family that many traditions follow. Food is used as a way to remedy a broken heart or bring together a household.
Tita states frequently that food only tastes as good as how much love is put into the technique. It determines how well the dish will be accepted by everyone. Many times, throughout the movie, Tita pours love, anger, sadness, and joy into her dishes and each time the people would feel all her emotions. I believe the meaning of food is the expression of oneself because the result will only be as pleasurable as the passion poured into making something great.