Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
 
From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister 

Like Water For Chocolate is a deceptively simple book - a love story set in Mexico, interspersed with recipes, related in unadorned, uncomplicated language. Yet when the ingredients are combined and simmer, subtle and unusual flavors emerge. On one level, this is the story of Tita, youngest daughter of the formidable matriarch Mama Elena who forbids Tita to marry her true love Pedro because tradition says that the youngest daughter must care for her mother until her death. When Pedro marries Tita's oldest sister in order to be near Tita, it begins a life-long conflict filled with passion, deception, anger, and pure love. Interwoven throughout the narrative are the recipes, which, like an ancient Greek chorus, provide an ongoing metaphorical commentary on the characters and their culture. Finally, there is the food itself that Tita creates as head cook on the family ranch, food so vibrant and sensual, so imbued with her feelings of longing, frustration, rebellion, or love, that it affects everyone who eats it. The combination of all these elements, with a good measure of the supernatural thrown in, makes for an earthy, quirky book, sad and funny,  passionate, and direct, told by Tita's grand-niece who follows in her footsteps, using her cookbook and continuing a tradition quite different from the one her great-grandmother tried to impose.

 
Awards and Accolades:
Originally published in 1990, Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) won Laura Esquivel international acclaim. The film based on the book, with a screenplay by Laura Esquivel,  swept the Ariel awards of the Mexican Academy of Motion  Pictures, winning eleven in all, and went on to become the largest grossing foreign film ever released in the United States. In 1994 Like Water for Chocolate won the prestigious ABBY award, which is given annually by the American Booksellers Association to the book the members of the organization most enjoyed hand-selling. The book has been translated  into thirty languages and  there are over three million copies in print worldwide.  Ms. Esquivel lives in Mexico.
      Laura Esquivel