Recipe books are not thrilling for the typical reader and story books are not thrilling for cooks. But when a love story is poured into a recipe book, you have a combination that is arousing to the senses like few other books would ever do.
Laura Esquivel gives you a story of a woman in love and whose only outlet for expression – passion, agony, ecstasy that is being in love- is through food. The title ‘Like water to chocolate’ refers to the Spanish phrase which alludes to the boiling point of extreme emotions like anger, passion and sexuality.
We all have our moments when we reached out to food to express. Sometimes it’s eating that tub of ice cream or a bar of chocolate when you had the most horrible day. Or baking a cake because you can’t contain the excitement or just want to try something new. Or missing Amma’s mango chutney she makes whenever we fall sick. Or eating ginger cookies and getting nostalgic about the ones that grandma used to make And just like food is universal, so is love. We’ve had our crushes, fallen in love, got bruised, picked up the pieces and for some lucky people, had their happy endings.
Which is why when the combination is put forth, the result is something which is entirely relatable and yet, Laura’s added her own secret ingredient which makes it equally elusive and magical.
The book is told in 12 parts, one for each month of the year and each starts with a recipe. When we start reading , it seems more like recipe book which incidently has a story woven in. But slowly and steadily, keeping the kitchen and cooking as the central point, she builds her characters and the complexities between them. The main point of the story revolves around Tita and Pedro who are unable to come together because of social customs and traditions. It is Tita’s joy,frustration,anger which gives fruit to marvelous culinary delights and recipes.
One of the things we loved about the book was the revelation of ingredients- the various permutation and combinations which we had not though of before. One of the key turning points in the book revolve around quail in rose petal sauce. Rose?! Who would have thought of adding roses to meat? Then there are the culinary secrets, like how to make the most perfect cup of hot chocolate! How are we not supposed to love such a book?
It’s hard to believe that this is Laura Esquivel’s first book because she displays a wonderful sense of balance. Sometimes she overwhelms you with recipes, the descriptions of it’s preparation and we are lost, mesmerised by the scents that’s arising from the stove.
Then just as suddenly we are swept away in emotions and drama of the story. More over the language is highly reminiscent of Marquez’s “One hundred years of solitude” since it’s written in ‘magical realism‘. It’s a work of a wonderfully talented writer who knows her food.
All in all, whether you are someone who loves to read or just someone who loves food and cooking then this is a book that you have to get hold of.
Ps: Do let us know what you thought about the book. Or if you try one of the recipes!