As soon as one steps into the story of Tita, the youngest daughter in an intimidating Mexican family living in the late 1800s, one is literally swept off their feet into the world of Latin magical realism.
Following the story of Tita over the expanse of many years crammed into the divisions of twelve months of a year, the storyline defies time going forward, backwards, and sometimes seemingly sideways, all stories, tangents, and anecdotes falling into place with the conclusion of the novel.
The plot follows the love life of Tita, each month of the year in its division of the novel, preceded by a recipe, and each recipe offering valuable foresight into the misadventures of her life. The novel rotates around food, so it isn’t irrational that food should begin to take on a magical quality of its own. It becomes undeniable that the preparation of the food isn’t just seasoning; it makes a home for Tita.
In January, the story goes back in time to tell of Tita being introduced into the world while being swept up on a wave of tears, being formed from when she first felt the stung of onions as her mother was chopping them in the kitchen. The novel picks up and what follows is a love story, but the heated career of her life is set against the backdrop of cooking, the food taking on magical alchemical properties of its own and helping to mold the story. Tita falls in love with a man who she cannot marry due to the archaic rule of her household; the youngest daughter must live and care for her mother until the mother’s death. She is set in tragic twist of fate, her older sister being married off to the man she loves.
The food comes into play with magic as she cooks her way through the kitchen. In February she makes a wedding cake for her sister’s wedding to the man she loves and accidentally cries into the batter, making all who consume become both sick in the heart and within their stomachs. A quail in rose sauce that she creates from a lovingly given bouquet of roses given to her by her lover makes the other sister of the family run off in love and passion with another man.
Overall, I thought it was a spectacular introduction to the world of magical realism, and reading it left me “hungry” for more. One should read perhaps though with a grain of salt, but still play along, you must accept the magic woven into the story as the characters do in their own lives for it to make sense and for the wonder to take a hold of you as well.
As a word of warning: this should be read by ages 15 and up. As it follows an intense impassioned love story there are minor bits of sexual imagery that should not be read by the wrong audience. Proceed with caution and eat all you’d like, for the story will take you on the ride of your life.
-Sophia U., 11th grade