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Theme of Food and Magical Realism in Like Water for Chocolate


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The hierarchy of needs tells us that our need to feed is fundamental, basic and primitive it consumes us which is why feeding even for humans can seem like a religious ritual at times. Human beings are worldly creatures, constantly seeking to please their senses good food can be as hypnotic and addictive as any chemical substance, causing people to live through it rather than having them need it simply in order to survive. The Kitchen in every household is the place where a person has the power to produce a combination of flavours so appealing that it can almost magically subdue the most frenzied person.

Hence the person who labours there has a great deal of responsibility entrusted upon them but then also has the right to command a great deal of respect. Tita was destined to make people journey through the food she prepared and her kitchen was the most vital tool she possessed as it gave her the power not only to please people but again in some sort of supernatural way, to make them feel exactly how she did at the time. Almost hinting to the paranormal activity certain combinations of flavours implicate, Tita is able to communicate through her food, enabling any reader to anticipate her feelings far clearer through the incidents her ‘magical meals’ result in as opposed to just words that Esquivel might have used throughout the course of the novel. Even before she was born the reader can see the effect food had on her and one can immediately draw insight into the connection Tita would share with the world of culinary arts, personified by her birth in the very kitchen that she would slave, serve and unhinge her world in.

Tita grew up in Nacha’s world, little did she know that it would be the recipes she learnt here, the ones that had been modified and passed down from one generation to the next over the years that would mould her future. Tita was born into servitude of her mother and from a young age, she was told to suppress her own desires in order to complete the tradition and unconditional service she owed to her mother being her youngest born. Being the apprentice to Mama Elena’s knowledge of cooking, Tita with the coaching and meticulous training of none other than Nacha, Tita was destined to be a great cook. Her talent enabled her to excel fast and she soon began to receive a great deal of praise for her mastery of complex dishes. Tita was an extremely talented person but unfortunately received very little scope to pursue things of interest to her.

However, the one place that spelt no bounds for her, a place where she could experiment free of scrutiny and judgment giving her for the first time an opportunity to explore her full potential ignited a great gift that Tita may not have otherwise discovered. When reviewing her abilities of which Tita possessed many, she was only ever allowed to experience freedom within the walls of the place of her birth. When a person is isolated and encroached upon for so long an outburst is always at hand and there are many destructive paths a person may go down. It was not easy when had to live in Mama Elena’s house constantly bending to her will but in a sense, it gave Tita who had no real way to express herself a wonderful, recreational yet constructive and beautiful means to convey her thoughts although they produced violent and destructive reactions at times.

They say that nothing compares to the satisfaction or the amount of pleasure one can have had after devouring a good meal. The standard of food in this novel also helps to communicate feelings that characters share for each other in the novel. An example of this would be in the way Pedro always publicly praised Tita’s cooking while Mama Elena and Rosaura always tried to pick at it. Also for example when Mama Elena approved of it, it brought Tita great joy and sets a tone not only for what Tita will feel or is feeling but also provides the same information for Mama Elena who in some ways determines Tita’s day to day temperament for quite a while at least while she was alive if not after.

Appreciation and degrading someone on purpose is two actions that communicate a lot of emotions or feelings that a person may have for another as it incorporates the concept of judgment and takes it into account when coming to a decision. Tita’s meals being served on the table frequently or for that matter even when they are prepared for some occasion provide an opportunity for this constant scrutiny of Tita. Although people may seem to be talking only of the food, their speech reflects their mindset toward Tita and that helps to establish the emotional ‘swing’ of the household at that point to one another and almost creates sides giving once again a more realistic representation of what the present scenario is at that stage in the novel.

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“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” Tita dispenses a lot more than just happiness and in fact, she conveys everything she feels mainly via her food and although preparing a meal can be an extremely therapeutic process for her, her caged emotions somehow transformed into the food itself produce reactions and outcomes of all kinds depending on her temperament at the time. There is no limit to how intense or of what magnitude of feeling her food manages to inculcate in an individual but the impact of her mindset when preparing the food can be seen by the toll it takes on all who consume it managing to induce the strongest emotions that in the end reflect Tita’s disposition. Even complex emotions such as love and sensuality pose no challenge to her and it is evident that she manages to display her feelings for John as well as Pedro in a certain way taming them wordlessly by attending to their appetites more than sufficiently letting them know of her intentions via the communicative strength of her food that now poses as a medium far better than any worldly one that maybe is clouded by misunderstood words or misinterpreted ones for that matter.

The use of food is also prominent in the way it helps in the setting of situations at the present moment by correlating the dish in some way to the past. Every chapter states a recipe in the very beginning and provides some sort of history stating memories of a time previous to this one where the same dish had been cooked and also provides some sort of evidence in the form of an account of an incident that had occurred that day stating the dish’s previous significance as opposed to the one it might have now. These changes sometimes help the reader understand how much things have changed as well and how time has brought about changes in the character. Especially Tita as she is the one who always ponders over these events that then get her thinking in a certain way about some of her problems that determine future occurrences as a result of that being incorporated in her food once again helping to develop a better understanding of her identity.

There are various occasions in the book that call for the preparation of various dishes and Tita’s references to their use in the past also provides a little bit of background information about members of the ranch and this also helps a reader to comprehend Tita’s present mentality and how she wishes to go about things this time, why she would do so, what outcomes were and what possible outcomes may be. Also, these references to the past have a certain impact on Tita in the way they create an element of nostalgia stating what Tita requires right now once again giving the reader a practical day to day situation that can illustrate how she feels far better than anything she may otherwise have to say.

There are two clear aspects of Tita’s identity that are only brought up whenever she happens to cook. Her whole life, Tita was told she was not good enough a daughter, not good enough a cook, not good enough a sister or mother figure and sadly this altered her to the extent that she was not a very assertive person anymore. However, when Tita cooks she is sure and precise, she never stumbles, her dishes always turn out well and she knows this is something she can claim recognition for. This displays a side of Tita that was not previously well known to the reader in that she was also a confident person and someone who was well skilled and renowned in her field. Knowing this it is no surprise that Tita made such an effort to produce a good meal. This also tells us that there is a part of Tita that is not humble and silent and that in her own way she too does crave recognition and enjoys being praised for the hard work that she carries out so silently and diligently.

The preparation of Food definitely has therapeutic properties that help to calm Tita down and cooking being the mainstream of her life, there is no doubt in my mind as to why it takes a familiar dish to lift her spirits almost directly stating the importance of cooking to her day to day health and this establishes the fact that Tita’s health is also in direct correlation with the time she is able to spend in the Kitchen. Tita is unable to discuss or explore her sexual desires and urges and therefore, many a time her food acts as a channel for her frustration taking on the form of a powerful aphrodisiac. Her physical needs have been suppressed for far too long and Tita is ready to explore her body, she is curious and she is desperate but to no avail, as Mama Elena’s eyes never once leave her and Pedro unnoticed. Although Tita is young, the aphrodisiacal nature of her food describes literally just how desperate and willing she is and had the food not been able to communicate that properly, Pedro would not have had the courage to make his move

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A person’s true identity is probably the greatest mystery in the world to everyone else. People will always claim to be honest but how can one ever know whether someone is telling the truth or not. In the end it comes down to trust and sometimes it pays off if your lucky but most often not and most people end up breaking your trust which makes the concept invalid no matter what the reason. People do eventually discover the true nature of their family and friends but the question I think one has to ask is why all this actually realized. “Actions speak louder than words” We learn about other people best when we see the way to react to situations or by their actions which ultimately reflect their true nature. Esquivel uses this technique cleverly in the book in order to establish a far less distorted image we may have regarding any of the characters as Tita’s food takes a toll on most characters of the book at one point or another. Although Tita’s problems are well stressed upon her thoughts on the same are not always very clear and therefore when her food is consumed and we say the affected behave, we get a physical representation or an enactment of what Tita was actually feeling at the time of preparation. This leaves the need to ask questions at a minimal level as examples are provided through incidents in the book and provides a more basic yet effective and enduring image of the present scenario in the book.

Tita is able to create vivid experiences for people. Her food can arouse a wide range of emotions in any person who falls prey to her culinary gift. Food used in the book also helps highlight the intensity of certain emotions in the novel not only by watching people and learning about what they feel but also to the extent they feel it and whether they are able to cope with it. Tita’s food seems to hypnotize people. Her emotions are concentrated enough not only to pass the message of what she feels on but also to drive people mad to a certain extent. There are instances in the book where people after eating Tita’s meal are unable to cope with what they feel and they end up participating in the most hideous acts that they might not have otherwise done as a result of not knowing how to deal with these complex emotions they were feeling. The complexity of situations formed after the consumption of Tita’s food also hints at the complexity of her emotions and once again help to establish Tita as a character with a mind of her own as well as an ambition to break free which is why I think her reactions take on a very abrupt and violent form no matter how beautiful they may be in some ways.

There is also a great deal about Tita that helps forge her identity simply by looking at her preparation of the food she is to serve every day. Each dish can sometimes require weeks of planning as well as systematic preparation and Tita never fails. Even the way she is able to come up with a dish out of a very limited selection of ingredients and make it appeal to John’s mother and manage to do everything else at the same shows us a side of Tita that says she is intent on holding her own and can do so proving that to a certain extent she too incorporates some planning into what she does and that she is more than capable of managing her duties efficiently and in a regulated fashion although everything else in her life may seem haphazard.

Tita’s food definitely finds a way to permeate through people and one can also argue that her intentions also materialize via the food she cooked. For example, when Rosaura undergoes major illness, initially becoming obese she continues on to suffer from bad breath and is unable to produce milk for Pedro’s child which ironically is provided by none other than Tita eventually. Tita had felt fear and guilt and was a master of these two emotions but hate was something new to her. The first time she had a licensed attempt at dealing with hate was when she contemplated her feelings for Rosaura. If Tita’s food could produce such violent reactions even in the environment that surrounded her there is no doubt left that her intentions might have taken a physical toll on people as well. It is not till Rosaura takes on this unhealthy form that Tita’s hopes and wishes with Pedro begin to materialize. Although it may not even be intentional one must contemplate the possibility that Tita somewhere did not have the best intentions for Rosaura especially since she selfishly claimed Pedro to be hers knowing of the kind of love Tita shared with

him. This is one of the few instances where the negative effect of Tita’s concoctions can be noted even in the way her prescribed treatment to Rosaura’s bad breath and acidity fails. However, one can also argue that Tita does not deliberate on what to feel while cooking but happens to give all food that enters her kitchen a little bit of the thoughts that are on her own mind slowly, surely and steadily unburdening herself once again referring to cooking as a kind of therapy for her.

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The food Tita prepares is constantly personified by her own emotions being able to transform into the food and then in turn affect all those who dare to consume it. The food always seems alive in the way it has a changing role and takes on a different form at different phases within the novel. Its constant changing nature imitates a trait or instinct all human beings possess in the way it is able to change and impact people to a far greater extent than one could have imagined. The food in the novel almost behaves in the form of a messenger or a person that goes around updating characters with the general feeling within the household at the time but also manages to arouse desires and affect people from a physical point of view as well. The characters within the storyline as well as the reader’s of the novel itself undergo a sort of journey with Tita’s culinary productions and the way in which they provide us with the enactment of what people feel at every stage there is very little to doubt when trying to figure what going on in the minds of certain characters.

Tita works to be a pleaser for most of her life. When she was born she was taught how to serve and how to bind herself to this life that had been bestowed upon her. She manages to develop a language through certain ingredients and recipes that prove words superfluous in the end. With a strong passion for the right flavour, Tita set out every day in order to satisfy the hunger of all present within the household. One rule that appears prominent about the developed language is that its effect is directly proportional to the need for its presence at the time. Tita’s food acquires the ability to describe and portray feelings in the book between one character and another so vividly.

However, while Tita has been preparing food all along it is only when her life starts getting upsetting that the food she creates possesses such power. I think a key element to the power behind Tita’s food can be directly linked to the level of passion she experiences at the time of preparation. Passion although powerful throughout the course of this novel does not always have to play a detrimental role but it just so happens that Tita’s passion for cooking, unfortunately, comes out of a lacking feeling she encounters at every other avenue in life. Although it is almost as if her passion receives a negative connotation which is why people receive controversy and an outburst of negative emotions once her food has been consumed, it is only because Tita is only able to let go and be free in the kitchen. It is at this point where her expressiveness is at its peak and sadly Tita has a lot of disturbing things to express.

However, Tita is also able to communicate her joy and happiness when the few moments of her day allow it. Her ability to cook transforms Esquivel’s words into a sort of film within the novel as every emotion is accounted for by a role-play of emotion that helps any reader to come to a much clearer conclusion of events in the novel. Tita’s constant back-breaking work helps define her as a woman of great substance. Capable of replicating any emotion via a careful selection of ingredients she is truly a sorcerer and possesses qualities any woman can be proud of. We see emerging as a more confident individual throughout the course of the novel and had it not been for her belief in the power she had developed, Tita would not have been as refined and clear about the life she wanted.

The confidence that developed as a result of her faith in herself helps her to overcome a great deal of tragedy achieving her dreams and to some extent completing dreams that others close to her may have wanted to be done. There are few scenes where food does not play a role. Food is plentiful throughout the story. The responsibility of food seems to overshadow the roles of the rest of the characters in the story, without the use of this food to convey an added sense of power over the story. Tita communicates her feeling through the food, and she really seems to transform the food with her own emotions.

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Theme of Food and Magical Realism in Like Water for Chocolate. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from