In Laura Esquivel's novel Like Water for Chocolate, how do food and recipes reflect "real life" in the chapters?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Each major section of Laura Esquivel's novel Like Water for Chocolate begins with a new, real recipe as well as cooking instructions. The recipes correspond with incidents happening in the protagonist Tita's own life and therefore show us what she has learned about coping with life. Hence, Esquivel's recipe motif helps to develop her theme concerning coping with life's heartaches and hardships.

The recipe for "quail in rose petal sauce" serves as one example of a recipe found in the book that corresponds with Tita's life. In the directions, Tita gives us the following warning:

Remove the petals carefully from the roses, trying not to prick your fingers, for not only are the little wounds painful but the petals could soak up blood that might alter the flavor of the dish and even produce dangerous chemical reactions. (Ch. 3)

In the chapter that follows, we learn that Pedro has just given Tita a bouquet of pink roses because he senses Tita has been feeling depressed since Nacha's death and is hoping to ease Tita's suffering. Tita is so overcome by emotion at receiving the bouquet that she "clasp[s] the roses to her chest so tightly" that the bleeding from her hands due to the cuts from the thorns turns the pink roses red. She then gets the inspiration to cook Nacha's "prehispanic recipe" for pheasants using quails instead and the bloodied rose petals.

In this chapter, the cuts she received from the rose's thorns, which made her fingers bleed, turning the pink roses red, symbolize the pain she feels in her heart due to losing Pedra as a husband. Therefore, Tita develops the recipe as a means to cope with her emotional pain. Hence, from this example, we can easily see how Esquivel uses the motif of recipes to correspond with moments in Tita's life and to give her a coping mechanism.

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