The topic for Day 22 of 30 Day Book Challenge is “favourite book you own.” This is tricky. Firstly, I usually borrow the books I read or download them to my Kobo hence, I don’t own a lot of physical books. Secondly, I feel like I’m cheating on all my other books – and I don’t want my books to feel that way. (Yah. They’ll be able to tell.) But, well oh well, I got to say, my favourite book amongst the one I own is “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel.
This novel revolves around the bizarre story of the all-female De La Garza family. Apparently, the Mexican tradition condemns the youngest daughter to look after her mother until she dies. As such, Tita is forbidden to marry. Unfortunately, this man Pedro was seduced by the magical food she cooks and falls in love with Tita. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion with food being their only channel of communication.
The book is a very well-written piece of magical realism as opposed to the kind of mass-produced romantic tripe that’s marketed towards women these days. Its theme dwells on the prowess of food, unrequited love, and doomed love stories. Plus, the women who sustain the life in the story do so by starving themselves of their own desires. A complex sensual but mystical love story. Now, who am I not to like that?
In addition, Laura Esquivel structures her story into 12 monthly chapters, each centered around a recipe of a meal with mystical qualities and exotic ingredients. Each dish is central to the plot of the chapter: Christmas rolls; wedding cakes; quail in rose petal sauce; turkey sauce; chorizo (sausage); matches; ox tail soup; Champandongo; chocolate; cream fritters; beans; and chiles in walnut sauce. One has to marvel the book’s capacity to instantly transport you into its earthy, vibrant and voluptuously decadent world. And, more excitingly, each dish that Tita prepares expresses her emotions to Pedro. But, the hilarious part is the dish’s comic and heartbreaking effects on everyone else who consumes her dishes.
Plus, I like the sensuality of “Like Water for Chocolates.” Esquivel uses her sensual, decadent words and the reader’s imagination to produce and aphrodisiac effect on the latter. I like having it in my shelf, telling my friends and colleagues about the peeping toms, intercourse on horseback, the pouring of a frustrated libido into food-preparation, and lovemaking that causes actual sparks and death. But most importantly, I like being able to say, “I have a copy of the book at home. I can bring it tomorrow and lend you.” Then, as I pass the book to them, I’ll open it to the part where Gertrudis felt so hot after eating some food that she caused a fire in the toilet! Haha!
To better understand the sensuality of the book, here’s another excerpt for you to read.
“She felt so lost and lonely. One last chile in walnut sauce left on the platter after a fancy dinner couldn’t feel any worse than she did. How many times had she eaten one of those treats, standing by herself in the kitchen, rather than let it be thrown away. When nobody eats the last chile on the plate, it’s usually because none of them wants to look like a glutton, so even though they’d really like to devour it, they don’t have the nerve to take it. It was as if they were rejecting that stuffed pepper, which contains every imaginable flavor; sweet as candied citron, juicy as a pomegranate, with the bit of pepper and subtlety of walnuts, that marvelous chile in walnut sauce. Within it lies the secret of love, but it will never be penetrated, and all because it wouldn’t be proper.”
Come on! We all know what she’s talking about, right?
Last but not the least, I like this book because it reminds me of my university days when I was taking “Magical Realism” together with Margie. It reminds me of the time when I had so much wonder and curiosity for new books, themes, and genres, especially once I’ve never encountered before. I like reading the book and discussing it with my friends. That’s probably the closest thing I’ve experienced to a book club. Plus, I was surrounded with people who love books just as much, if not more.
Okay, let me just leave you with one last excerpt ok? I like this because of it’s metaphor and its implication on the ridiculously out-of-this-world ending (no spoilers).
“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves; we need oxygen and a candle to help. In this case, the oxygen for example, would come from the breath of the person you love; the candle would be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion that lights one of the matches. For a moment we are dazzled by an intense emotion. A pleasant warmth grows within us, fading slowly as time goes by, until a new explosion comes along to revive it. Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul. That fire, in short, is its food. If one doesn’t find out in time what will set off these explosions, the box of matches dampens, and not a single match will ever be lighted.”
Compared to my sparse collection, Cumuloquoise has fridges and cupboards full of books – literally. And apparently, among all the books she owns, Cumuloquoise’s favourite is “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories” by Tim Burton. Why? Go visit her page to find out.
I’ll catch you tomorrow for a book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t. A book? Just one? Really? We’ll see…