This is one of my all-time favorite books. Originally written in Spanish as Como Agua Para Chocolate, it is a love story, recipe book, and ethnic soap opera all rolled into one.
The book tells the story of Tita, the youngest of the three de la Garza sisters, who is forbidden from marrying, since family tradition dictates that she must care for her mother – the domineering Mama Elena – to the end of her days (sound familiar?)
Tita’s true love, Pedro, reluctantly decides to wed her sister, Rosaura, in order to remain close to Tita. This is not a great idea to begin with – and becomes even less so when a jealous Tita begins using her natural affinity and skill with food to draw Pedro away from her sister.
The book is divided into 12 chapters (one for each month of the year), each preceded by a traditional Mexican recipe. Ingredients, recipes, emotions, and the supernatural all simmer together with often startling results. Tita’s passion, anger, love, jealousy, frustration, and yes – sometimes joy, find their way into the food she prepares for the de la Garza family, affecting everyone who eats it in different ways (my personal favorite: Tita’s culinary prowess causes her other sister Gertrudis to elope from the de la Garza ranch, buck naked, with a revolutionary soldier).
Esquivel weaves magic with uncomplicated words and a sensually woven tale. This is a visually rich story, so it’s no surprise that it was translated into a film. Gimme the book anyday, though – it contains the recipes!