“Unquestionably, when it came to dividing, dismantling, dismembering, desolating, detaching, dispossessing, destroying, or dominating, Mama Elena was a pro.”
Tita’s alliterative litany of characteristics describes Mama Elena’s ruthless personality. Tita is familiar with Mama Elena’s strict rule and lack empathy. The same skill Mama Elena uses in precisely cutting a watermelon she also uses in her dealing with humans. Everything is precise, decisive, and oftentimes destructive.
"She remembered then the words that John had once spoken to her: ‘If a strong emotion suddenly lights all the candles we carry inside ourselves, it creates a brightness that shines far beyond our normal vision and then a splendid tunnel appears that shows us the way that we forgot when were born and calls us to recover our lost divine origin. The soul longs to return to the place it came from, leaving the body lifeless.’"
Finally in the arms of Pedro, the one she loves, Tita becomes overcome with happiness. However, as Dr. Brown warned her before, becoming over-happy can have deathly consequences. Tita remembers this in time to calm herself and prevent death but unfortunately, Pedro’s matches are all lit at once and he dies in bed.
"Something strange was going on. Tita remembered that Nacha had always said that when people argue while preparing tamales, the tamales won’t get cooked. They can be heated day after day and still stay raw, because the tamales are angry. In a case like that, you have to sing to them, which makes them happy, then they’ll cook."
Rosaura and Tita get into a heated argument when Rosaura accuses Tita of sneaking around with Pedro and prohibits Tita from having any more to do with Esperanza. The intensity of their argument affects the meal that Tita is preparing for Dr. Brown’s Aunt’s visit. Rosaura and Tita’s anger transfers to the tamales and prevents them from cooking. Tita must sing to them in order to make them cook, further illustrating the continual exchange between human emotion and food.
“It appeared that the two of them had forgotten the most elementary rules of good manners, which tell us that at a social gathering one does not bring up the subject of personalities, sad topics or unfortunate facts, religion, or politics”
Pedro and Dr. Brown get into an argument about Mexican politics while Tita finishes dressing. Their disagreement is largely a result of the antagonism between the two men over Tita and Dr. Brown’s betrothal. Pedro does not want to lose “his woman” to another man. According to Tita’s upbringing however, common courtesy dictates that such polarizing topics as politics should not even be broached during house visits.
“Anything could be true or false, depending on whether one believed it.”
This quote sums up Chencha’s reasoning for making up stories. Chencha is known for her tendency to embellish stories and tell half-truths. Burdened by the responsibility of telling Mama Elena that Tita refuses to return home, Chencha considers whether she must tell Mama Elena the truth. She decides to tell Mama Elena a different version of the truth instead so as not to be the bearer of bad news.
“Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’—she was on the verge of boiling over. How irritable she was! Even the cooing she loved so much—the sound made by the doves she had reestablished under the roof of the house, a sound that had given her so much pleasure since her return—even that noise was annoying”
This quote contains the title of the novel, ‘Like water for chocolate’. The figurative language used to describe Tita’s emotional state is based in a culinary process. The saying reflects the extent to which even language joins human emotion and food. A colloquial phrase, it also shows how culturally important certain foods and recipes are to the De la Garza women.
“It wasn’t enough he’d made his wife jealous earlier, for when Pedro tasted his first mouthful, he couldn’t help closing his eyes in voluptuous delight and exclaiming: ‘It is a dish for the gods!’”
Tita proves to be a much better cook than Rosaura, which makes both Mama Elena, and Rosaura evermore worried about her seducing Pedro. Tita proves that their fears are valid when she uses food to convey her passionate feelings to Pedro. Though he is married Pedro cannot help but succumb to the effects of Tita’s cooking. But his adoration makes Rosaura jealous and frustrates Mama Elena until one day she arranges for them to leave the ranch and Tita behind.
“Take care to chop the onion fine. To keep from crying when you chop it (which is so annoying!), I suggest you place a little bit on your head. The trouble with crying over an onion is that once the chopping gets you started and the tears begin to well up, the next thing you know you just can’t stop”
The opening lines introduce the relation the novel sets up between food and humans. In fact, the opening reveals much about the structure and content of the remainder of the work. For instance, it offers both warning and instruction in the same manner that the recipes that follow offer. Additionally, the opening lines also introduce the effect that food has and will continue to have on human feelings and emotions. Esquivel begins with a commonly known effect; the instance of onions causing tears, but she later describes more fantastical consequences of eating food.
“Despite the time that had passed since that evening, she remembered it perfectly: the sounds, the smells, the way her new dress had grazed the freshly waxed floor, the look Pedro gave her…That look!...It was then she understood how dough feels when it is plunged into burning oil. The heat that invaded her body was so real she was afraid she would start to bubble—her face, her stomach, her heart, her breasts—like batter…”
Tita and Pedro fall in love with each other practically at first sight. Tita can only understand and express her initial encounter with love through the context of the kitchen. She feels like ‘dough’ being fried whenever Pedro looks at her. From this point forward, Pedro’s gaze will always be accompanied by a sensation of heat.
“During the funeral Tita really wept for her mother. Not for her castrating mother who had repressed Tita her entire life, but for the person who had lived a frustrated love. And she swore in front of Mama Elena’s tomb that come what may, she would never renounce love.”
Only after Mama Elena’s death does Tita begin to understand the woman under whose rule she had lived for so long. Indeed, Tita comes to relate to her mother who experienced the same inability to be with her lover that Tita experienced. Tita chooses to remember this part of her mother, the most human part, instead of the strict and ruthless woman that Tita had known since birth.
Like Water for Chocolate Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Like Water for Chocolate is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I don't believe that Pedro's desire to marry Tita was a secret. John might be surprised that Pedro was still an interest, being that he was now married to Tita's sister, but it shouldn't have been a complete shock.
The author's tone is both gentle and direct. Esquivel does not mince words, but through the main character, we are apprised of the story's main events like she's an old friend joining us for a cup of coffee.