I saw the movie based on this book in the early 1990s, when it first came out, and loved it. But for some reason I did not read the book until recently.
Like Water for Chocolate was originally published in Spanish in 1989. The title is a Spanish saying that refers to the boiling water used for making hot chocolate. If someone is “like water for chocolate,” their emotions are boiling over—an apt title because this book is about characters boiling over with lust and love, and the main character is an accomplished cook whose dishes sometimes provoke magical, unintended consequences.
While the location of the novel is not specified, swimming in the Rio Grande is mentioned, so it must take place in northern Mexico. A coming revolution is referenced. The Mexican Revolution took place from 1910 to 1920, so the story must take place before that.
The story is told by a present-day narrator who claims it is about her great-aunt, Tita. Each of the twelve chapters is named for a month of the year, and each is preceded by a recipe which is significant to the events of that chapter. Tita is the youngest daughter of an imperious mother who insists that she follow the tradition of the family and not marry. Instead, she must take care of her mother until the mother’s death. Tita, however, has fallen in love with her ardent suitor, Pedro. When he is informed of the family tradition, he agrees to marry Tita’s sister Rosaura instead, as a way to be close to Tita. To make matters worse, Tita is in charge of cooking the wedding feast, including the wedding cake. She sheds copious tears into the cake batter. When the wedding guests eat the cake, each begins weeping uncontrollably, longing for a lost love.
After the wedding, Pedro moves into the family home with Rosaura, and Tita must endure seeing him every day. Pedro insists that he is still in love with Tita. Will Tita find the courage to defy her mother? Will Pedro and Tita end up together? To find out, read this delightful book full of strong women, food, and a bit of magic.