Food as a Metaphor for Unexpressed Emotions in Like Water for Chocolate
An oppressed soul finds means to escape through the preparation of food in the novel, Like Water for Chocolate (1992). Written by Laura Esquivel, the story is set in revolutionary Mexico at the turn of the century. Tita, the young heroine, is living on her family’s ranch with her two older sisters, her overbearing mother, and Nacha, the family cook and Tita’s surrogate mother. At a very young age, Tita is instilled with a deep love for food "for Tita, the joy of living was wrapped up in the delights of food" (7). The sudden death of Tita's father, left Tita's mother's unable to nurse the infant Tita due to shock and grief. Therefore Nacha, "who [knows] everything about cooking" (6) offers to assume the responsibility of feeding and caring for the young Tita. "From that day on, Tita's domain was the kitchen" (7). Throughout the novel, food is used as a constant metaphor for the intense feelings and emotions Tita is forced to conceal.
The story begins with Tita passionately in love with Pedro Muzquiz and he with her. "She would never forget the moment their hands accidentally touched as they both slowly bent down to pick up the same tray" (18). Their romance is cursed from the start, however, because of an old family tradition, stating that the youngest daughter must remain unmarried and care for the mother as long as either may live. Pedro, unaware of the tradition, comes to the ranch to ask Tita's mother, Mama Elena, for Tita's hand. Mama Elena tells Tita, "If he intends to ask for your hand, tell him not to bother. Heíll be wasting his time and mine, too. You know perfectly well that being the youngest daughter means you have to take car...
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... other," and "[make] mad passionate love wherever they happened to end up" (242). Unlike the first wedding, Tita too is infected with the powerful enchantment of the food. "For the first time in their lives, Tita and Pedro made love freely" (243). The novel ends with both Pedro and Tita, overcome with pleasure and emotion, dying in each other arms.
Metaphors are powerful tools often used by authors to communicate a deeper meaning. Metaphors also tend to make the piece more thought provoking, and thus more interesting and intriguing. Laura Esquivel does a marvelous job of using food as a metaphor for unexpressed emotions in the novel Like Water for Chocolate. She takes the aching soul of a young girl and turns it into a cookbook of feelings and emotions cleverly disguised with food.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. Doubleday, 1992.