sckenda's Reviews > Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
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Mar 29, 14

bookshelves: magical-realism, women, mothers-and-daughters, love, domestic, mexico, latin-america, international, latino, mystic, movie
Recommended for: Lovers of Magical Realism; Lovers of Food
Read from May 29 to June 01, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Tita de la Garza lives a life of self-sacrifice in revolutionary Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. There is power, love, and life in food, and this novel explores the life force of food and the women who nourish us by starving themselves of their own desires in order to do so.

Food takes on mystical qualities, and Laura Esquivel structures her story into 12 monthly chapters, each centered around a recipe with exotic ingredients that is central to the plot of the chapter: Christmas rolls; wedding cakes; quail in rose petal sauce; turkey sauce; chorizo (sausage); matches; ox tail soup; Champandongo; chocolate; cream fritters; beans; and chiles in walnut sauce.

Tita has a sixth sense about food, and, just as a poet plays with words, she juggles ingredients and quantities while still remaining faithful to the culinary secrets from ancient times.

Tradition decrees that Tita, the youngest daughter, must serve her mother, Mama Elena. Denied love, Tita swallows her sorrow and flavors meals with her tears. How does a cook’s mood affect her food?

Each of us is born with box of matches inside us, but we can’t strike them all at once or by ourselves:
You must take care to light the matches one at a time. If a powerful emotion should ignite them all at once, they would produce a splendor so dazzling that it would illuminate far beyond what we can normally see; and then a brilliant tunnel would appear before our eyes, revealing the path we forgot the moment we were born, and summoning us to regain the divine origins we had lost. The soul ever longs to return to the place from which it came, leaving the body lifeless.(117)
Tita, like the matches, awaits kindling and illumination. Courage and persistence are needed for liberation and self-determination, and few people are prepared to pay the cost.

The title, “Like Water for Chocolate,” conveys the idea that water is better than milk for hot chocolate but must be brought to the brink of boiling several times. Care must be taken with quality chocolate, which can easily become bitter or scorched. In what way is Tita water for chocolate? Will Tita ever find freedom? Love?

Conclusion
This is a four-star book to which I awarded five stars, as I do to all good books that change me in some way. Very often, we consume without appreciation for the love, the skill, and the hard work expended on our behalf. I suppose every family has these women with servant-hearts, who toil without glory or even recognition– who sacrifice for others and defer their own dreams. History celebrates the conquerors, so I was grateful to author Laura Esquivel for forcing me to acknowledge this more important realm of the domestic hearth and to honor the women of this world who possess skills, wisdom, and love greater than my own.

June 3, 2012
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Reading Progress

05/29/2012 page 47
19.0% "I leave behind the world of lecherous men to join a wise latina in the kitchen. Smells have the power to evoke the past as does the exotic voice of Laura Esquivel." 4 comments
06/01/2012 page 154
63.0% "WOW!! This is a phenomenal book that like poor Tita in the kitchen, sat on my shelves neglected and unread for 15 years. At last I have discovered her. I will finish tonight and review ASAP. This book is a game-changer for me!"

Comments (showing 1-41 of 41) (41 new)

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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I suppose every family has these women with servant-hearts who toil without glory or even recognition– who sacrifice for others and defer their own dreams.

A. BLOODY. HEM.

Said the man who just made brownies iced with mocha-peanut butter icing despite the fact that he hates chocolate so as to make the gruesome twosome happy; plus corn puddin', plus pork chops, plus cole slaw; and brought it all in for under $20, because money's tight; plus made the vet appointment for the dog who's not so well; but who has no health insurance and can't go see his own doctor, of whom there isn't one, to get blood tests and meds.

WOMEN, eh? They're the sacrificers, huh?


message 2: by Les (new) - added it

Les Thank you for another wonderful review, Steve. I was curious about your review after seeing your "game-changer" comments. I appreciate the reasoning in upgrading a 4 star to a 5 star. A book does not have to be an absolute classic in order to elicit changes within us. I plan on reading this soon.


message 3: by sckenda (last edited Apr 13, 2013 12:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

sckenda Richard wrote: A. BLOODY. HEM. WOMEN, eh? They're the sacrificers, huh? "

Ah my contrarian friend, I forgot that you are not inclined to grant the fairer sex (OH SNAP!) any slack. Of course, I acknowledge many exceptions to any rule, and I will gladly sing your domestic praises as well. I can't help but think that the world would have been better off with a few less Napoleons and Alexanders and a few more Titas and kindly grandmothers. But, please grant that I did acknowledge the real threat of the castrating and wicked mothers. All kidding aside, I am disturbed and very sad to learn of your lack of health insurance.


sckenda Les wrote: "Thank you for another wonderful review, Steve. I was curious about your review after seeing your "game-changer" comments. I appreciate the reasoning in upgrading a 4 star to a 5 star. A book does n..."

Thanks,Les. Yes, some domestic duties of my own kept me from getting right on the review. But, it is my plan to submit a review for every book that I read henceforth, and a kind comment such as yours gives me all the reward that I need for such an endeavor. Thanks so much, and please keep commenting, and I will do my best to reciprocate, even if a few days behind.


message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Beautiful review, Steve. Haven't read it, but I remember the movie as very powerful, and the book is one of my wife's favorites.

Richard, I too am very sorry to hear about your circumstances. It ain't right, that is for sure.


sckenda Jim wrote: Beautiful review, Steve..."

Thanks, Jim. I love it when you show up. I think Richard once described you as radiating a soothing calm, and I couldn't agree more.


message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Steve wrote: "Jim wrote: Beautiful review, Steve..."

Thanks, Jim. I love it when you show up. I think Richard once described you as radiating a soothing calm, and I couldn't agree more."


Thanks so much, Steve (and Richard). I can't think of a higher compliment - it reflects the person that I want to be, and sometimes am.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways No, no it's all down to me being crabby as hell, and resenting being in constant pain. I shouldn't snap on anyone, and certainly least of all you! I am sorry.

I'm pleased to say in my self-defense that I'm not freshly radicalized by my changed circumstances, but have been this way for years, but I *am* more urgently involved in anti-conservative causes due to the shifts.

And Jim, please believe me, you are a most soothing presence. You don't seem to have an unkind word to say even to the fools and eejits.


message 9: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Richard wrote: "And Jim, please believe me, you are a most soothing presence. You don't seem to have an unkind word to say even to the fools and eejits..."

Richard, I can't tell you how flattering those statements are to me. I came to the realization some time ago that I would feel better if I remained calm, and the calm exterior is a side effect of my continuing effort to feel better. It works for me, most of the time, and it is very gratifying to know that others can sense it and draw some benefit as well.

I have also noted that the fools and eejits have a tendency to get really riled when you talk back to them. And I have a firm enough grasp on the underlying circuitry to have worked out some alternative approaches, and those sometimes work. One example is fact flooding - it confuses them. If the tricks don't work, I take a hike.

With that said, I find it completely appalling that anyone in this country who is in constant pain would not have health insurance. But then, I know that there are many millions who can't get proper care here. And none of that is even slightly soothing, to me or to anyone with a speck of conscience.


message 10: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie I've heard of this book and did I ever misunderstand the title. Yeah I thought, getting water instead of chocolate would be such a disappointment. So it must be a metaphor of how flavourless and dull LIFE itself is when we are expecting the sublime (chocolate IS sublime). I could totally see all that without reading the book! and knowing nothing about it! I was even using this analogy in my own mind, like when you are expecting diamond earrings for christmas and instead you get a biography of Margaret Thatcher. Man that is so like water for chocolate. And then...Water for Elephants came out...well let's just say I was really confused. I just do not have room for elephants!!!


sckenda B0nnie wrote: "I've heard of this book and did I ever misunderstand the title. ."

Hah. Bonnie. Me thinks I notice a pattern in which you always proclaim your bafflement and then say the most profound things. Socrates did the same thing. The passage that describes the meaning of Like Water for Chocolate states that you can make it with water or milk, but water is better for the digestion and for the dissolution of the chocolate. But either way it is a near run thing that requires skill to bring out the flavor of the best cocoa. I grew up on Nestle Quick, so I don't really know about these things either. ALso, Margaret Thatcher made me laugh because I thought of the dominating mother and the complete opposite of a woman laboring quietly in the kitchen. I will be sure and send you Maggie's two-volume autobiography about the Downing Street Years. :) Oh, and hey, you found my review pretty fast. Am I showing up now?


message 12: by sckenda (last edited Apr 13, 2013 12:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

sckenda Jim wrote: " "I agree that the current structure is unsustainable, and I think wisdom might lie in starting to think ahead for the inevitable tectonic shift that must occur when the average person ..."

Jim, thanks so much for the great book recs. It is so much better to plant a garden rather than curse the darkness-- mixaphorically speaking. Your point is, I think, that we are not as powerless as we feel, and if we focus on working the problem rather than passivity and helplessness, we begin to change the dynamics. As the saying goes: think globally; act locally.


message 13: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Socrates, LOL. Next you'll be offering hemlock for chocolate!! I can take on Maggie, btw. She's a kitten compared to Ayn Rand. No, you are not showing up. I have to stalk you...watch out for boiled rabbits.


message 14: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Steve wrote: "Jim, thanks so much for the great book recs. It is so much better to plant a garden rather than curse the darkness-- mixaphorically speaking. Your point is, I think, that we are not as powerless as we feel, and if we focus on working the problem rather than passivity and helplessness, we begin to change the dynamics...."

Yes, that is exactly the way I look at it. We really are not powerless; we just need to work with the tools at hand. Dollars are votes, and there is power in the numbers.

@Bonnie: Great comments as always!! You actually talked about the book - what a concept!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Steve wrote: "Richard wrote: "*sigh* Does this mean I can't go on a Congressional killing spree when/if I get my terminal diagnosis? Y'all're no fun."

A guy from the Capitol Hill police investigation unit for d..."


That I am a serious threat to slow-moving rodentia and cannot be trusted with the clicker. Somehow we will always end up watching science shows or BBC America.


message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Richard wrote: "*sigh* Does this mean I can't go on a Congressional killing spree when/if I get my terminal diagnosis? Y'all're no fun."

Since Bonnie stopped by, I can insert a Dylan quote here: "You go your way, and I'll go mine".


message 17: by sckenda (last edited Jun 03, 2012 08:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

sckenda B0nnie wrote: "Socrates, LOL. Next you'll be offering hemlock for chocolate!! I can take on Maggie, btw. She's a kitten compared to Ayn Rand. No, you are not showing up. I have to stalk you...watch out for boiled..."

Hah. YOur approval means so much to me that I would personally message you with a hand delivery of each new review would it not come across as a little creepy and desperately trolling for votes. Now, who's the stalker??


message 18: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Steve wrote: "B0nnie wrote: "Socrates, LOL. Next you'll be offering hemlock for chocolate!! I can take on Maggie, btw. She's a kitten compared to Ayn Rand. No, you are not showing up. I have to stalk you...watch..."

Steve, I need stalkers and trolls so I can feel successful!


message 19: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Jim wrote: "Richard wrote: "*sigh* Does this mean I can't go on a Congressional killing spree when/if I get my terminal diagnosis? Y'all're no fun."

Since Bonnie stopped by, I can insert a Dylan quote here: "..."


Jim, uncanny coincidence - I was just listening to Like a Rolling Stone when I saw your mention of Dylan...


message 20: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim B0nnie wrote: "Jim, uncanny coincidence - I was just listening to Like a Rolling Stone when I saw your mention of Dylan..."

Yes, of course! I think it's just the old geezer pulling strings, clutching his Presidential Medal of Freedom...Ah, How does it feel?

"You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it"


I don't know, I can almost hear John Boehner singing those words, with a troubador cap, guitar and harmonica... Maybe not quite the way Dylan intended, but it looks and sounds very real to me in 2012.


Gloria Your review's conclusion undid me. :)
Nicely done.


sckenda Gloria wrote: "Your review's conclusion undid me. :)
Nicely done."


Gloria, I am so glad you included the smilie face for a clue that maybe it was okay for me to undo you. :) THanks, so much for your encouragement-- from the very beginning when I posted my first status update. Your thoughts are very important to me since you liked this book so well.


message 23: by knig (new)

knig Steve, great review, but my tuppence is on the healthcare issue. I do NOT understand how the US is able to lag behind every industrialised western country in healthcare and still the republicans are able to convince the population that they have it better than sliced cake and apple pie. Michael Moore's 'Sicko' notwithstanding. God bless the NHS, I say.


Traveller Lovely, Steve. :)
I've been wanting to write a review of this myself for some time, but i read it just long ago enough for it not to be quite fresh enough in my mind anymore. I prefer to engage while the material is still fresh enough that i still have all the detail at my command. Hmm, perhaps a quick scan through would suffice in that regard..


sckenda Traveller wrote: "Lovely, Steve. :)
I've been wanting to write a review of this myself for some time, but i read it just long ago enough for it not to be quite fresh enough in my mind anymore. I prefer to engage whi..."


Hi Traveller. I have been thinking about you what with all your royal attention these days. I know exactly what you mean. THere are so many worthy books that I would like to tell people about, but over the years my recall of detail is not sufficient enough to back up my recommendation. I might try it anyway. I tend to highlight passages that move me for ready reference. That is a help when refreshing recollection. THank you for commenting.


message 26: by Clif (new)

Clif Hostetler I read this book long before my Goodreads.com era. Magical realism is not my thing. I'm pretty sure I would have given it one star at the time. After reading your review it makes me look like a dolt for totally missing the meanings beyond the story level.


sckenda Clif wrote: "I read this book long before my Goodreads.com era. Magical realism is not my thing. I'm pretty sure I would have given it one star at the time. After reading your review it makes me look like a do..."

Thank you, Clif. Of course, I know you are being playful, but you are a premier reviewer with an outstanding intellect. I often miss so much in my own reading. If I don't like a book, reputed for its quality, I usually just call it a misunderstanding and leave it at that. The fault is more often than not my own.

Perhaps you exercise so much precision and logic in your career that maybe magical realism may just be uncongenial for you. I have developed a taste for it somehow, despite my love of logic and the requirement of it in my career.


message 28: by Brian (new)

Brian Robbins Beautiful review, Steve - especially the conclusion.


sckenda Brian wrote: "Beautiful review, Steve - especially the conclusion."
Thank you, Brian.


message 30: by Arah-Lynda (last edited Aug 31, 2013 06:38PM) (new) - added it

Arah-Lynda Now that's what I am talking about! Hello again Steve.


sckenda Arah-Lynda wrote: "Now that's what I am taking about! Hello again Steve."

LOL, Hello again my good friend. :) Always full of good cheer and encouragement. Thank you.


message 32: by Rickey (new) - added it

Rickey Unusual book that I would never have considered reading until I read your review. And I so agree with your conclusion.


sckenda Rickey wrote: "Unusual book that I would never have considered reading until I read your review. And I so agree with your conclusion."

Thanks Rickey. Like you, the book was outside of my normal reading material, so I am glad that I started forcing myself to listen to different voices and GR has helped me to do that.


Helen Very often, we consume without appreciation for the love, the skill, and the hard work expended on our behalf. I suppose every family has these women with servant-hearts, who toil without glory or even recognition– who sacrifice for others and defer their own dreams. History celebrates the conquerors, so I was grateful to author Laura Esquivel for forcing me to acknowledge this more important realm of the domestic hearth and to honor the women of this world who possess skills, wisdom, and love greater than my own.

Had to copy that whole thing to tell you how much I loved your thoughts on this magical book.


sckenda Helen wrote: "Very often, we consume without appreciation for the love, the skill, and the hard work expended on our behalf. I suppose every family has these women with servant-hearts, who toil without glory or ..."

Helen, I am so pleased and happy to learn that you have read my review and that you like it. As I recall from your blog, you love cooking and delight in cookbooks, so I could see that this book would be marvelous fit for you. I am not surprised you think it magical. THank you so much for the respect you always give me. :)


Helen Of course! No one reviews like you, Steve. I do love cookbooks...I read them like they're novels!
Incidentally, this was also a magical movie. Have you seen it?


sckenda Helen wrote: "Of course! No one reviews like you, Steve. I do love cookbooks...I read them like they're novels!
Incidentally, this was also a magical movie. Have you seen it?"


You are very kind. THank you, Helen. THe best part of absorbing cookbooks like you do is that you can share the product with your family and friends. It's a lot harder to do that with a book, but I am trying to do so with these reviews so my kids (when they are older) might better understand what I have been thinking and reading all these years.


Helen They are extraordinary reviews, Steve. I'm sure your children will appreciate them--and borrow from them for book reports!


sckenda Helen wrote: "They are extraordinary reviews, Steve. I'm sure your children will appreciate them--and borrow from them for book reports!"

Oh I forgot to say, yes. I have seen the movie and loved it. It really helped me visualize certain parts especially the food. :)


message 40: by Florence (Lefty) (last edited Mar 30, 2014 11:01PM) (new) - added it

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Oh Steve, you've inspired me - both to read this book and to finally learn how to cook a decent meal:)


sckenda Florence (Lefty) wrote: "Oh Steve, you've inspired me - both to read this book and to finally learn how to cook a decent meal:)"

LOL. Florence. I am guessing you probably possess extraordinary culinary skills and that you are just poking a little fun at yourself, but I still think that your cultivating of your flower garden is one of the best ways of increasing goodness in the world. :) Thank you for your kind comment.


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