Smells, love, company, frustrations, anger, sex, secrets, sensations, memories.. This is what a kitchen (and this movie translated “Like water for chocolate” ) is all about.
Growing up in a Mexican kitchen I grew very fond of certain dishes, certain smells from spices. For me the kitchen meant getting closer to my grandmother, it meant getting advice on different things in life not only the cooking tricks that nobody will ever give you but it was also listening to my grandmother’s stories and how she met grandpa and how he would come and meet her secretly at the kindergarten where she worked with a couple gardenias she had to hide before the relationship was accepted. all of these stories I heard while her wrinkled fingers mixed diced dried fruits with the flour to then make the traditional Christmas bread.
For me this movie was close to my heart since it is real not only how we communicate our feelings and thoughts through food but also how it becomes a language.
Years later as a chef right now I bet that for what I’m cooking and in the way I am cooking it my family would know if I am angry or I am sad, they know when I am in love or they know when I am cooking out of anger as a therapy. My people can read my cuisine just like my kitchen and ingredients can read me.
A Mexican cosy cuisine, a traditional one, where every time is warm and smelling of something nice; has become for many families the point of encounter. Whether it is for a celebration, to give good or bad news or simply as a point of reunion to share what happened during that day.
Dinner is now in my family the most important time of the day, they only time when we all sit down, open a cheap wine and eat. Sometimes my brother making a perfect pasta, sometimes my sister making her incredible curry, sometimes is myself with my inventions and moles… but it is as soon as we smell that tortilla getting warm or that bread in the oven or that smell of the chimney starting to burn that nobody needs to call the others. The smell will bring us down the stairs directly to that table that is the witness of all our family story.
Now this is a normal week.. I have to mention Sunday BBQ where the real planning, debating and brainstorming of each one of our lives takes place.
Just like Tita (main character in the movie) at some point I had a boyfriend nobody liked and would cry in the kitchen (my safe place). And now after watching this movie again I realize that whenever I am very sick I sit by the stove to wait for my kettle to get warm, when I am sad I sit by the stove to cry while and a soup gets warm, when I am frustrated I sit by the spices cabinet to smell and cry and decide what to cook (my sister can witness on this being true).
After watching this movie again I discovered that just like Tita my kitchen is my world. I have lived in this house since I was born. My kitchen holds my feelings, my secrets, my remembrances… everything! And of course after watching I realized once again how important family traditions are (of course those in the movie are a bit extreme) but the ones we have at home are incredible.
Christmas for example, is the only time of the year were all the generations will sit to cook all together in the round table.. I will have my grandmother with her 95 years old peeling garlic and boiled eggs almost blindly, then my sister getting the limes from our backyard garden tree to then make lots of juice and my mother who is the only one that knows the recipe by heart will guide us on the amounts just calculating my smell and taste. You may wonder what is my task? I am always the one to clean the turkey inside out because it was the most unpleasant task which I always loved (I was intrigued by the animals insides).
Later on my brother was in charge of setting the fireplace while my father would choose the selection of wines for the night.
My mother preparing the cod and my sister the beans Spanish style which she grew to be an expert at. Indeed the only time of the year where we sit to talk about live, religion, remembrances, smells, spices… it is a time when my grandmother suddenly remembers what her mother used to cook. It is the time when my mother would tell us her terrible newlywed cooking experiences. It is the time when my sister would admit that cooking was not for her but it has become her greatest strength and it is the only time when I am NOT the chef of the house but only a helper to the experts.
This movie is not only a piece of art but it is like watching an album with pictures of my own family kitchen (of course in a happier, healthier context).
A movie you must watch but of course if you have the chance to read the book first DO SO it is much more amazing and detailed not to mention you can find all the recipes in there.
Happy reading, watching and remembering.