Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel

Subject: Culture
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1288
Topics: Book, Food, Mexican Culture

Table of Contents


Like water for chocolate is a structured book, that explores the cultural traditions and the value of recipes in preparing food and home remedies. The subtitles establish the role of food in the experiences and romantic moments recognized in the traditional world of México. Tita’s mother tells her from a young age that she will never be allowed to marry or have her own family, because of family traditions. Being the youngest daughter she has to dedicate her life to taking care of her mother until the mother dies. Believing she has no other choice, Tita resigns to a life of servitude to her mother. Tita learns about life in the kitchen with the guidance of the powerful food recipes at the beginning of every chapter. The novel is divided into various elements that charm up the image of several narratives based on the various events and family gatherings. The tale weaves into the fabric of the narrative some great recipes and home remedies offering substantial opportunities for cultural diversity. This paper will explore the cultural traditions and values of food and recipes in like water for chocolate. Furthermore, it will emphasis on how the recipes correspond to the themes and events of their respective chapters, and the role of food in maintaining important Mexican traditions.

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The novel is based on the story of two characters, Tita and Mama Elena her mother. The entire novel entails the struggle they endure in their fight against each other. Tita being the youngest has been forbidden by family traditions to marry and Mama Elena forces her to uphold this oppressive tradition. The protagonist of the story constantly pursues love and freedom while the antagonist stands as the chief opposition to this self-actualization. From the beginning this mother-daughter relationship faces difficult moments, as Tita is born prematurely after her father passes suddenly. Mama Elena fails to nurture and never forms any bond with Tita. Tita later develops a connection with food because it serves as an outlet to her emotions and the relationship gives her the power to nurture.

Food serves as a medium of communication as it transmit emotion from one person to another. The principle of food is that it often causes physical and emotional unrest. Tita’s cultural status barely accords her an opportunity to express her emotions so she uses the food she prepares to express herself. For instance, the Guests at Rosaura’s wedding eat cake baked with Tita’s tears and fall sick. Likewise, Tita’s passion for Pedro leads her to prepare a passion filled dinner which compels Gertrudis to leave the ranch and join her. These two events suggest that emotions and food have mutually dependent force that assert passion, love and pain.

Esquivel’s novel illustrates the Mexican tradition grounded on food recipes. According to Larissa and Perez, (3) every group is distinctive in their cultural flavor, its mythology, its ritual and customs and its position within the social structure.

The author incorporates recipes into the novel so as to tell the culture of the story. However, the recipes are formulas, memories and traditions handed over to the next generation.

Each recipe at the beginning of the chapter tells a story of Tita’s life; the main character and who is mostly connects closely with food preparation. From the moment she was born we can see the close relationship with food which creates a vivid image of her connection to food throughout the book. “Tita made her entrance into this world, prematurely, right there on the kitchen table amid the smells of simmering noodle soup, thyme, bay leaves, and cilantro, steamed milk, garlic, and of course, onion.” (Esquivel,5).

According to Raymond (187), each nuclear family in Mexico City maintained a separate residence and household economy. However, the homes were not randomly located but tended to form a cluster. Generations lived in close proximity communicating and sharing rituals. First cousins grew up together almost as siblings. Consequently, depending on the time and season of the year Tita would prepare certain dishes for special occasions. Mexicans by their cultural tradition prepare tradition to prepare separate dishes for certain events. For instance, during Christmas holidays also known as Dia de la Candelaria the last festivities they eat tamales and atole drinks. Furthermore, the Christmas Eve tradition is celebrated by eating turkey and other Mexican foods as per the Mexican Culture. Different dishes are also served for various occasions in the Mexican cultural activities like marriage.

Notably, each chapter in the book has some unique recipes which have been selected based on occasion in that chapter. During Roberto’s baptism Tita prepares turkey (Esquivel, 65).Similarly, when medicines are unable to cure Tita’s when she falls sick, Chencha formulates some soup made of ox-tail which cures the illness. (Esquivel, 125).

This shows a lot of time and effort is required in the preparation of every dish as the formula has to be followed entirely. However, Esquivel tends to believe that there are more invisible ingredients in the recipe that makes the food suit the occasion. These unseen ingredients are demonstrated by Tita throughout the novel and they include hate, love, and sorrow. One cannot visualize the extra constituents by just looking at the dish rather by looking at the reaction once the meal is eaten. For example, Gertrudis was drawn to Tita by her meal prepared with rose petals to depict passion and love. Therefore, Juan smells the aroma and runs to meet this lady who definitely needs a man to love her and quench the raging fire within her (Esquivel, 55)

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The book theme is based on religion and myths of reality and magic projected to the domesticated realm of a household dominated by women. Furthermore, Tita’s tears which were often onion-induced are symbols of deep emotional connections which appear not only when she is cooking but also when she is deeply moved. Tita’s tears are physical manifestations of renewal and cleansing. Additionally, the novel is set during the Mexican revolution, which challenges the systems both socially and politically providing a context for individuals to question existing values and structures.

It is against this national scene that the protagonist and her sisters face their mother’s authority and their society and cultural expectations of women. The individuals struggle for liberation from a government run by a few like her mother. This is a painful and wild journey for the Tita and her siblings. Tita is often reprimanded by her mother for even the smallest forms of rebellion, such as not performing household chores exactly as her mother likes or not addressing her as “Mami” in the right tone of voice.


The De la Garza family traditions are made for better or worse, and Tita has to follow the rules being the youngest daughter or Mama Elena will became unpleasant. The family unit is depicted as central to the traditional social order. Within the old system, children are accountable to their parents as their closest authority well into adulthood. From an early age, Tita and her sisters are taught to be obedient to their mother, Mama Elena, and to social rules concerning proper female behavior. Tita’s mother teaches her children that self-sacrifice and duty are expressions of love. Moreover, food is used as a medium of communication during emotional moments and as a mode of transmitting important cultures and traditions.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. London: Black Swan, 1993. Internet resource.
  2. Lomnitz, Larissa A, and Lizaur M. Pérez. A Mexican Elite Family, 1820-1980: Kinship, Class, and Culture. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1987. Print
  3. Smith, Raymond T. Kinship Ideology and Practice in Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. Print.
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