It’s a 5 – 6 pages rough draft

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Like Water For Chocolate
Laura Squalevella
Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd);
ISBN: 0553472550
Copyright 1994
Chrutnuw Ro/ INGREDIENTS 1 can of arOin
1/2 choriw aaye oreyano 1 can
of chitej rrano 10 haro ro
PREPARATION: Take care to chop the
onion fine. To keep from crying when you
chop it (which is so annoying!), I suggest you
place a little bit on your head. The trouble
with crying over an onion is that once the
chopping gets you started and the tears
begin to well up, the next thing you know you
just can’t stop. I don’t know whether that’s
ever happened to you, but I have to confess
it’s happened to me, many times. Mama
used to say it was because I was especially
sensitive to onions, like my great-aunt, Tita.
Tita was so sensitive to onions, any time they
were being chopped, they say she would just
cry and cry, when she was still in my greatgrandmother’s belly her sobs were so loud
that even Nancha, the cook, who was halfdeaf, could hear them easily. Once her
wailing got so violent that it brought on an
early labor.
And before my greatgrandmother could let out a word or even a
whimper, Tita made her entrance into this
world, prematurely, right there on the kitchen
table amid the smells of simmering noodle
soup, thyme, bay leaves, and cilantro,
steamed milk, garlic, and, of course, onion.
Tita had no need for the usual slap on the
bottom, because she was already crying as
she emerged, maybe that was because she
knew then that it would be her lot in life to be
denied marriage. The way Nancha told it,
Tita was literally washed into this world on a
great tide of tears that
spilled over the edge of the table and flooded
across the kitchen floor.
That afternoon, when the uproar had
subsided and the water had been dried up by
the sun, Nancha swept up the residue the
tears had left on the red stone floor.
There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound
sack-it was used for cooking and lasted a
long time. Thanks to her unusual birth, Tita
felt a deep love for the kitchen, where she
spent most of her life from the day she was
When she was only two days old, Tita’s
father, my great-grandfather, died of a heart
attack and Mama Elena’s milk dried up from
the shock.
Since there was no such thing as powdered
milk in those days, and they couldn’t find a
wet nurse anywhere, they were in a panic to
satisfy the infant’s hunger. Nancha, who
knew everything about cooking-and much
more that doesn’t enter the picture until later
offered to take chargeof feeding Tita. She
felt she had the best chance of `educating
the innocent child’s stomach,” even though
she had never mauled or had children.
Though she didn’t know how to read or write,
when it came to cooking she knew
everything there was to know.
Mama Elena accepted her offer gratefully,
she had enough to do between her mourning
and the enormous responsibility of running
the ranch and it was the ranch that would
provide her children the food and education
they deserved-without having to worry about
feeding a newborn baby on top of everything
From that day on, Tita’s domain was the
kitchen, where she grew vigorous and
healthy on a diet of teas and thin corn gruels.
This explains the sixth sense Tita developed
about everything concerning food. Her
eating habits, for example, were attuned to
the kitchen routine: in the morning, when she
could smell that the beans were ready, at
midday, when she sensed the water was
ready for plucking the chickens, and in the
afternoon, when the dinner bread was
baking, Tita knew it was time for her to be
Sometimes she would cry for no reason at
all, like when Nancha chopped onions, but
since they both knew the cause of those
tears, they didn’t pay them much mind. They
made them a source of entertainment, so
that during her childhood Tita didn’t
distinguish between tears of laughter and
tears of sorrow. For her laughing was a form
of crying.
Likewise for Tita the joy of living was
wrapped up in the delights of food. It wasn’t
easy for a person whose knowledge of life
was based onthe kitchen to comprehend the
outside world. That world was an endless
expanse that began at the door between the
kitchen and the rest of the house, whereas
everything on the kitchen side of that door,
on through the door leading to the patio and
the kitchen and herb gardens was completely
hers-it was Tita’s realm.
Her sisters were just the opposite: to them,
Tita’s world seemed full of unknown dangers,
and they were terrified of it. They felt that
playing in the kitchen was foolish and
dangerous. But once, Tita managed to
convince them to join her in watching the
dazzling display made by dancing water
drops dribbled on a red hot griddle.
While Tita was singing and waving her wet
hands in time, showering drops of water
down on the griddle so they would “dance,”
Rosaura was cowering in the corner stunned
by the display. Gertrudis, on the other hand,
found this game enticing, and she threw
herself into it with the enthusiasm she always
showed where rhythm, movement, or music
were involved. Then Rosaura had tried to
join them-but since she barely moistened her
hands and then shook them gingerly, her
efforts didn’t have the desired effect. So Tita
tried to move her hands closer to the griddle.
Rosaura resisted, and they struggled for
control until Tita became annoyed and let go,
so that momentum carried Rosaura’s hands
onto it. Tita got a terrible spanking for that,
and she was forbidden to play with her
sisters in her own world. Nancha became
her playmate then. Together they made up
all sorts of games and activities having to do
with cooking. Like the day they saw a man in
the village plaza twisting long thin balloons
into animal shapes, and they decided to do it
with sausages. They didn’t just make real
animals, they also made up some of their
own, creatures with the neck of a swan, the
legs of a dog, the tail of a horse, and on and
Then there was trouble, however, when the
animals had to be taken apart to fry the
sausage. Tita refused to do it. The only time
she was willing to take them apart was when
the sausage was intended for the Christmas
rolls she loved so much. Then she not only
allowed her animals to be dismantled, she
watched them fry with glee.
The sausage for the rolls must be fried over
very low heat, so that it cooks thoroughly
without getting too brown. When done,
remove from the heat and add the sardines,
which have been deboned ahead of time.
Any black spots on the skin should also have
been scraped off with a knife.
Combine the onions, chopped chiles, and the
ground oregano with the sardines. Let the
mixture stand before filling the rolls.
Tita enjoyed this step enormously, while the
filling was resting, it was very pleasant to
savor its aroma, for smells have the power to
evoke the past, bringing back sounds and
even other smells that have no match in the
present. Tita liked to take a deep breath and
let the characteristic smoke and smell
transport her through the recesses of her
It was useless to try to recall the first time
she had smelled one of those rolls-she
couldn’t, possibly because it had been before
she was born. It might have been the
unusual combination of sardines and
sausages that had called to her and made
her decide to trade the peace of ethereal
existence in Mama Elena’s belly for life as
her daughter, in order to enter the De la
Garza family and share their delicious meals
and wonderful sausage.
On Mama Elena’s ranch, sausage making
was a real ritual. The day before, they
started peeling garlic, cleaning chiles, and
grinding spices. All the women in the family
had to participate: Mama Elena, her
daughters, Gertrudis, Rosaura, and Tita,
Nancha, the cook. And Chencha, the maid.
They gathered around the diningroom table
in the afternoon, and between the talking and
the joking the time flew by until it started to
get dark.
Then Mama Elena would say: “That’s it for
For a good listener, it is said, a single word
will suffice, so when they heard that, they all
sprang into action.
First they had to clear the table, then they
had to assign tasks: one collected the
chickens, another drew water for breakfast
from the well, a third was in charge of wood
for the stove. There would be no ironing, no
embroidery, no sewing that day. When it
was all finished, they went to their bedrooms
to read, say their prayers, and go to sleep.
One afternoon, before Mama Elena told them
they could leave the table, Tita, who was
then fifteen, announced in a trembling voice
that Pedro Muzquiz would like to come and
speak with her.
After an endless silence during which Tita’s
soul shrank, Mama Elena asked: “And why
should this gentleman want to come talk to
Tita’s answer could barely be heard: “I don’t
Mama Elena threw her a look that seemed to
Tita to contain all the years of repression that
had flowed over the family, and said: “If he
intends to ask for your hand, tell him not to
bother. He’ll be wasting his time and mine
too. You know perfectly well that being the
youngest daughter means you have to take
care of me until the day I die.”
With that Mama Elena got slowly to her feet,
put her glasses in her apron, and said in a
tone of final command: . II “That’s it for
Tita knew that discussion was not one of the
forms of communication permitted in Mama
Elena’s household, but even so, for the first
time in her life, she intended to protest her
mother’s ruling.
“But in my opinion “You don’t have an
opinion, and that’s all I want to hear about it.
For generations, not a single person in my
family has ever questioned this tradition, and
no daughter of mine is going to be the one to
Tita lowered her head, and the realization of
her fate struck her as forcibly as her tears
struck the table. From then on they knew,
she and the table, that they could never have
even the slightest voice in the unknown
forces that fated Tita to bow before her
mother’s absurd decision, and the table to
continue to receive the bitter tears that she
had first shed on the day of her birth.
the next week she didn’t speak a single word
to her.
Still Tita did not submit.
anxieties sprang to her mind.
Doubts and
“Congratulations,” she said, “your stitches
are perfect -but you didn’t haste it, did you?”
For one thing, she wanted to know who
started this family tradition.
“No,” answered Tita, astonished that the
sentence of silence had been revoked.
It would be nice if she could let that genius
know about one little flaw in this perfect plan
for taking care of women in their old age.
`Then go and rip it out. Baste it and sew it
again and then come and show it to me. And
remember that the lazy man and the stingy
man end up walking their road twice.”
If Tita couldn’t marry and have children, who
would take care of her when she got old?
Was there a solution in a case like that?
Or are daughters who stay home and take
care of their mothers not expected to survive
too long after the parent’s death? And what
about women who marry and can’t have
children, who will take care of them?
And besides, she’d like to know what kind of
studies had established that the youngest
daughter and not the eldest is best suited to
care for their mother. Had the opinion of the
daughter affected by the plan ever been
taken into account? If she couldn’t marry,
was she at least allowed to experience love?
Or not even that?
Tita knew perfectly well that all these
questions would have to be buried forever in
the archive of questions that have no
In the De la Garza family, one obeyedimmediately. Ignoring Tita completely, a very
angry Mama Elena left the kitchen, and for
What passed for communication between
them resumed when Mama Elena, who was
inspecting the clothes each of the women
had been sewing, discovered that Tita’s
creation, which was the most perfect, had not
been basted before it was sewed.
“But that’s if a person makes a mistake, and
you yourself said a moment ago that my
sewing was .
“Are you starting up with your rebelliousness
It’s enough that you have the audacity to
break the rules in your sewing.”
“I’m sorry, Mami. I won’t ever do it again.”
With that Tita succeeded in calming Mama
Elena’s anger. For once she had been very
careful, she had called her “Mami” in the
correct tone of voice. Mama Elena felt that
the word Mama had a disrespectful sound to
it, and so, from the time they were little, she
had ordered her daughters to use the word
Mami when speaking to her.
The only one who resisted, the only one who
said the word without the proper deference
was Tita, which had earned her plenty of
slaps. But how perfectly she had said it this
time! Mama Elena took comfort in the hope
that she had finally managed to subdue her
youngest daughter.
Unfortunately her hope was short-lived, for
the very next day Pedro Muzquiz appeared
at the house, his esteemed father at his side,
to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage. His arrival
caused a huge uproar, as his visit was
completely unexpected. Several days earlier
Tita had sent Pedro a message via Nancha’s
brother asking him to abandon his suit.
The brother swore he had delivered the
message to Pedro, and yet, there they were,
in the house.
Mama Elena received them in the living
room, she was extremely polite and
explained why it was impossible for Tita to
“But if you really want Pedro to get married,
allow me to suggest my daughter Rosaura,
who’s just two years older than Tita. She is
one hundred percent available, and ready for
marriage At that Chencha almost dropped
right onto Mama Elena the tray containing
coffee and cookies, which she had carried
into the living room to offer don Pascual and
his son. Excusing herself, she rushed back
to the kitchen, where Tita, Rosaura, and
Gertrudis were waiting for her to fill them in
on every detail about what was going on in
the living room. She burst headlong into the
room, and they all immediately stopped what
they were doing, so as not to miss a word
she said.
They were together in the kitchen making
Christmas Rolls. As the name implies, these
rolls are usually prepared around Christmas,
but today they were being prepared in honor
of Tita’s birthday. She would soon be sixteen
years old, and she wanted to celebrate with
one of her favorite dishes.
“Isn’t that something? Your ma talks about
being ready for marriage like she was dishing
up a plate of enchiladas! And the worse
thing is, they’re completely different! You
can’t just switch tacos and enchiladas like
Chencha kept up this kind of running
commentary as she told the others-in her
own way, of course-about the scene she had
just witnessed.
Tita knew Chencha
sometimes exaggerated and distorted things,
so she held her aching heart in check. She
would not accept what she had just heard.
Feigning calm, she continued cutting the rolls
for her sisters and Nancha to fill.
It is best to use homemade rolls. Hard rolls
can easily be obtained from a bakery, but
they should be small, the larger ones are
unsuited for this recipe. After filling the rolls,
bake for ten minutes and serve hot. For best
results, leave the rolls out overnight,
wrapped in a cloth, so that the grease from
the sausage soaks into the bread.
When Tita was finishing wrapping the next
day’s rolls, Mama Elena came into the
kitchen and informed them that she had
agreed to Pedro’s marriage-to Rosaura.
Hearing Chencha’s story confirmed, Tita felt
her body fill with a wintry chill: in one sharp,
quick blast she was so cold and dry her
cheeks burned and turned red, red as the
apples beside her. That overpowering chill a
lasted a long time, and she could find no
respite, not even when Nancha told her what
she had overheard as she escorted don
Pascual Muzquiz and his son to the ranch’s
gate. Nancha followed them, walking as
quietly as she could in order to hear the
conversation between father and son. Don
Pascual and Pedro were walking slowly,
speaking in low, controlled, angry voices.
“Why did you do that, Pedro? It will look
ridiculous, your agreeing to marry Rosaura.
What happened to the eternal love you
swore to Tita?
Aren’t you going to keep that vow?”
“Of course I’ll keep it. When you’re told
there’s no way you can marry the woman you
love and your only hope of being near her is
to marry her sister, wouldn’t you do the
Nancha didn’t manage to hear the answer,
Pulque, the ranch dog, wentrunning by,
barking at a rabbit he mistook for a cat.
“So you intend to marry without love?”
“No, Papa, I am going to marry with a great
love for Tita that willnever die.”
Their voices grew less and less audible,
drowned out by the crackling of dried leaves
beneath their feet.
How strange that
Nancha, who was quite hard of hearing by
that time, should have claimed to have heard
this conversation. Still, Tita thanked Nancha
for telling her-but that did not alter the icy
feelings she began to have for Pedro.
It is said that the deaf can’t hear but can
understand. Perhaps Nancha only heard
what everyone else was afraid to say. Tita
could not get to sleep that night, she could
not find the words for what she was feeling.
How unfortunate that black holes in space
had not yet been discovered, for then she
might have understood the black hole in the
center of her chest, infinite coldness flowing
through it.
Whenever she closed her eyes she saw
scenes from last Christmas, the first time
Pedro and his family had been invited to
dinner1 the scenesgrew more and more
vivid, and the cold within her grew sharper.
Despite the time that had passed since that
evening, she remembered it perfectly: the
sounds, the smells, the way her new dress
had grazed the freshly waxed floor, the look
Pedro gave her . . .
That look! She had been walking to the table
carrying a tray of egg-yolk candies when she
first felt his hot gaze burning her skin.
She turned her head, and her eyes met
Pedro’s. It was then she understood how
dough feels when it is plunged into boiling oil.
The heat that invaded her body was so real
she was afraid she would start to bubble-her
face, her stomach, her heart, her breasts-like
batter, and unable to endure his gaze she
lowered her eyes and hastily crossed the
room, to where Gertrudis was pedaling the
player piano, playing a waltz called the Eyes
of Youth.”
She set her tray on a little table in the middle
of the room, picked up a glass of Noyo liquor
that was in front of her, hardly aware of what
she was doing, and sat down next to Paquita
Lobo, the De Ia Carzas’ neighbor. But even
that distance between herself and Pedro was
not enough1 she felt her blood pulsing,
searing her veins. A deep flush suffused her
face and no matter how she tried she could
not find a place for her eyes to rest. Paquita
saw that something was bothering her, and
with a look of great concern, she asked:
“That liquor is pretty strong, isn’t it?”
“Pardon me?”
“You look a little woozy, Tita. Are you feeling
all right?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“You’re old enough to have a little drink on a
special occasion, but tell me, you little devil,
did your mama say it was okay? I can see
you’re excited-you’re shaking and I’m sorry
but I must say you’d better not have any
more. You wouldn’t want to make a fool of
That was the last straw! To have Paquita
Lobo think she was drunk.
She couldn’t allow the tiniest suspicion to
remain in Paquita’s mind or she might tell her
Tita’s fear of her mother was enough to make
her forget Pedro for a moment, and she
applied herself to convincing Paquita, any
way she could, that she was thinking clearly,
that her mind was alert. She chatted with
her, she gossiped, she made small talk. She
even told her the recipe for this Noyo liquor
which was supposed to have had such an
effect on her. The liquor is made by soaking
four ounces of peaches and a half pound of
apricots in water for twenty-four hours to
loosen the skin1 next, they are peeled,
crushed, and steeped in hot water for fifteen
days. Then the liqu …
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