In which Esquivel provides a distinctly disturbing portrait of true love

Tita, the youngest daughter of a Mexican family, is in love with Pedro. Pedro is in love with Tita. So far so good. But for some absurd reason, Tita’s mother insists that her role in life is to take care of her until she is dead. This means no marriage, and no Pedro.

However, they manage to reach a peculiar and unsatisfactory compromise – Pedro is to marry Tita’s sister Rosaura instead, to stay close to her.

The only way that Tita is able to show her love for Pedro is through cooking marvellous and magical dishes that appear in the form of recipes throughout the chapters.

But the thing is, I couldn’t get over the fact that the whole premise of the book is stupid. Why would Pedro marry Rosaura when that would only make three people miserable rather than two?

Couldn’t they have run away like Tita’s eldest sister Gertrudis, who after eating her sister’s passionate dish (inspired by a steamy scene in the kitchen that made me snort with laughter) shed all clothing and jumped on a horse with a soldier (Juan) and gallop away? They didn’t even have to make it that dramatic. They could have caught a train.

But this is the thing, although Tita’s mother (Mama Elena) acts as if they must obey the rules she sets out, it becomes evident that she was married against her will and is only bitter. She should get off her high horse – Gertrudis was her illegitimate child!

Tita is a weak and rather pathetic character, who makes up in magic what she lacks in courage. Thing is, cooking up a spring chicken doesn’t mean things are fine and dandy. Cooking is great but can’t solve her problem.

She also doesn’t want to forgive Rosaura for having married the love of her life, despite the fact that her sister wasn’t given a lot of options. She then lives under the same roof, making love to her sister’s husband through culinary means, and watches as Rosaura fails at marriage, children and finally health. In fact, sge can’t even breastfeed her own children while Tita can. Why? The whole thing seemed rather unfair.

After some time, Tita catches the eye of the local doctor, John Brown, and leads him on mercilessly until practically the day of their wedding, all the while making Pedro insanely jealous.

At the end, what I’m sure is intended as a love story that trumps all odds comes across as an excercise in selfishness and cowardice. Maybe I’m too modern, but their obstacles for being together seem less ludicrous than the magic in the book.

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