I love chocolate. One of my crowning achievements in High School was my annual Chocolate party, in which everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was centered around chocolate. Everyone was required to wear white, brown, or black. There was all the manner of chocolate snacks such as (but not limited to): truffles, chocolate mints, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate fondue fountains, chocolate covered pretzels, Oreos, and more. There was chocolate milk, chocolate soda (courtesy of Jones Soda, whom I love) and the list goes on and on. There was a white chocolate gift exchange (it’s a white elephant gift exchange, except everything has to be chocolate themed), and we watched chocolate movies. This of course, meant that Chocolat! was a staple, as well as Charlie and the Chocolate factory. But after three consecutive sugar comas, my chocolate parties were retired before I could debut the movie Like Water for Chocolate at the event.
Dang. Let me pause for a single moment and say, WordPress, you let me down. I had a lot more information saved in this post that is now gone. Drat.
But life goes on. What I wanted to comment on, is the huge difference between watching the movie and reading the book. While I totally loved the book and thought it was fascinating, engaging, and magical, during the movie I felt like I was constantly making “excuses” for the movie (to be fair, to watch the movie without context is a little challenging). But the style of the two is so different it is really worth noticing. Much in the style of fables or fairy tales, most of the characters in the novel are rather flat, while the plot itself is complicated and interwoven with supernatural/magical happenings, which no one seems particularly frightened of (food that evokes certain emotional/physiological responses, jumping naked onto the back of a strangers horse etc.). Naturally, when we read fairy tales, while we acknowledge them as obvious fiction, there are parts in all of us (hopeless romantics, anyone?) that want to believe the fairy tale. We even look for clues in the fairy tales to make them more believable, such as identifying ourselves with the hero or heroines plight, picking favorite Disney princesses, and singing the songs to ourselves when we’re cleaning the house. Or is it just me?
On top of the fairy tale aspect of this story, in which we are heartily rooting on the main character Tita as she tries to finally be united with her love, Pedro. Let me interrupt here before I go on, however, and say that while I loved Tita for her strength, kindness, and love, I thought Pedro was rather insipid and stupid. I mean, really? You married the sister to get closer to Tita? How stupid can you really be? Urgh. Anyhow, we identify with her through her disappointments and frustrations, but even more so, through her love of, and magical talents with, food. As a culture, almost everything that is significant in our lives is usually linked to the idea of food. Birthday? You have cake. Thanksgiving? You eat turkey (or tofurkey). Fourth of July? Hot dogs. Almost every single important event in our lives is connected culturally to some sort of food/kind of eating. Why? Because food not only symbolizes life and prosperity, but community. Food brings people together at the dinner table, on a date, at a wedding, and more. Food is something we share with others, and take joy/pride in. It connects people. Have you ever read a piece of fiction and drooled over the idea of the food? I find the dishes in Brian Jacques Redwall series particularly mouth-watering. Or the magical foods in Harry Potter. We enjoy food as people, and when we read about food, it is a way for us to connect with the story in ways that we are familiar with.
That is why this book is so magical. Not only can we sympathize with and love Tita as a character, but the ability to cook her recipes, to share her magical talents with food, is the ultimate connection we can have with the story. We can physically experience the story, which does not happen often.
I think that was also why I was so disappointed when I saw the movie. It lacked that connection for me. While it was certainly captivating and entertaining, I lost that love and connection with Tita that made the book so good. I was able to relate to her and experience things with her through her recipes, which I could follow. (I would highly recommend it, they are DELICIOUS). I was able to experience things through the universal connection of food, which, was so lacking in the movie to be confusing.
But perhaps if I watched it during a Chocolate party, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. 😉