Tag Archives: romance

Love and Chocolate: Like Water for Chocolate, The Chocolate Kiss, and Chocolat

19 Sep

When I think of chocolate I associate it with so many special moments as a child: bunnies for Easter, trick-or-treating for candy bars, and chocolate birthday cakes, but the thing I think of most as an adult is chocolate as the food of love.  One of my favorite memories of falling in love with my husband is making and sharing hot chocolate made from Nutella one snowy evening.  Chocolate appears in many of the books I’ve enjoyed from mysteries like Diane Mott Davidson’s Dying for Chocolate to science fiction with Kage Baker’s chocolate loving cyborgs in her Company series to the absurd humor of Robert Rankin’s the Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.  But in books focusing on romance it often is a driving force in the novel.  Three examples of this are in the magical realism of Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Joanne Harris’s Chocolat.

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel












I fell in love with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate when I read it for a women’s literature course in college.  The title comes from the fact that water to make chocolate must be almost at the boiling point, which reflects a passionate nature.  The novel chronicles the life of Tita, who as the youngest daughter in her family is not allowed to marry her true love Pedro, but instead must care for her mother until she dies.  Pedro instead marries one of Tita’s older sisters in order to remain close to Tita.  Tita channels all her emotions into her cooking and as a result people who eat her food feel her intense emotions from passion to sadness.  I remember being charmed by the 1994 movie when I watched it after reading Like Water for Chocolate for the first time, but have found it a little over the top in its execution when I watched it more recently when I led the library’s book discussion of Like Water for Chocolate during Hispanic Heritage month.  Although I might not believe in the fairy tale ideal of “true love” quite as much as when I was in my early twenties there is still a lot of magic in Esquivel’s writing and her description of food.  Although chocolate is in the title there are a number of other foods from wedding cake to quail with a rose petals sauce featured and several recipes are given.

If you are interested in trying food inspired by Like Water for Chocolate or other great books, then you will definitely want to consider going to Novel Night, a delicious fundraiser run by the Friends of the Hoboken Library on October 18.  You can get tickets and learn more at their website. 

The Chocolate Kiss, by Laura Florand












I found The Chocolate Kiss a sweet read.  For those who may have sampled the nonfiction Parisian treats I had mentioned in a previous blog post, Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss provides a fictional spin on love and delicious delicacies in Paris.  Magalie Chaudron works at her Aunt’s La Maison des Sorcieres, small tea shop in Paris’s charming Ile Saint-Louis (Florand claims she was inspired by an actual chocolate shop she had visited there). Magalie’s Aunt’s tea contains magical properties, but Magalie imparts her wishes in her delicious hot chocolate (a recipe is included at the end of the novel).  When a new branch of Paris’s top pastry shop opens down the block, Magalie is ready for a fight to keep her Aunt’s shop in business, but is surprised to find herself drawn to the charismatic young pastry chef, Philippe Lyonnais who attempts to seduce her with a variety of macarons (these sound so delicious I wanted to run over to one of the French bakeries in town to buy a few of the trendy French cookies).  Although the romance elements are nicely written by Florand, I found myself even more drawn to the story line of Magalie’s overcoming her feeling of rootlessness that came from moving with her parents frequently between America (the homeland of her father) and Provence (where her mother grew up).  The story not only has Magalie finding love, but also herself.  Those who enjoy Chicklit or New Adult genre works will find this a quick and enjoyable read.  Several of Florand’s other novels, including the similarly chocolate infused romances The Chocolate Heart and The Chocolate Touch, are also available from BCCLS libraries.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris













When I read The Chocolate Kiss, it reminded me a lot of Joanne Harris’s novel Chocolat which also centers on a magically endowed chocolate maker, Vianne Rocher.  However, Chocolat is set in a small rural village in France rather than cosmopolitan Paris and there is a wider focus on the lives of the supporting characters such as the timid Josephine, who are affected by the magical chocolates of Vianne.  I loved the way that Vianne was able to pick out each character’s favorites and that their choices would be reflective of their innermost self.  In some ways this is the reverse of Like Water for Chocolate, instead of causing people to feel Tita’s emotions, Vianne’s chocolates encourage the villagers to confront their own hidden desires.  Harris followed up Chocolat with two sequels The Girl with No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis, which did not quite capture the magic of the original for me, but are interesting reads for those wondering what the next chapters for the characters are.  I first encountered the movie that was based on the book staring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp and it is one the few cases where I am equally charmed by the theatrical interpretation as the original print work.  Out of the three novels, this would be my favorite, but all are worth sampling.

You’ll be tempted to have a cup of hot chocolate while you enjoy these books.  If you want to try my own recipe for romance and have hot chocolate made with Nutella for a hazelnut infused chocolate treat, you can try Martha Stewart’s version, which makes a perfect two person portion for those who want to share with their love.

Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Love and Sweets in Paris: Paris in Love, Lunch in Paris, and Paris, My Sweet

23 Oct

Paris, like New York, is a city that conjures up strong emotions and pictures in one’s mind whether or not you have actually been there.  My grandmother grew up in Paris, but moved to New Jersey when my father was two.  I have been lucky enough to visit Paris twice—once as a tween with extended family and once as an adult with my fiancé.

Paris for me always feels both beautifully foreign and yet nostalgically like home.  I grew up with homemade croissants and petite pains au chocolate as a weekend breakfast treat. Thanksgiving included escargots floating in garlic butter before the turkey, and salad was always served at the end of the meal.  I had heard so many stories about Paris that by the time I actually got there it felt like visiting a pen pal who you have written for years; you may have never seen them before, but you already know them so well.

I was interested in these three memoir pieces since all three women left this area (New York or New Jersey) and had their own unique encounters with Paris.  All are enamored with the delicious French cuisine, but they are in different stages of their lives romantically (one single, one engaged, and one married with two kids), which gives a unique view of their experience there.  Whether you have lived in Paris or simply have daydreamed about a trip, you will enjoy these vicarious visits.

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

Eloisa James is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of historical romances and a Shakespeare professor.  In this memoir she describes the year she spent on sabbatical from her teaching job with her Italian born husband and two children in Paris.  James details both her interest in both French pastries and French fashion.  The work intersperses snippets from her Facebook posts with longer essays.  James was inspired to spend the year abroad after overcoming cancer.  I found many of the longer essays which look at both her time in Paris and invoke her childhood to be very moving, but I also highly enjoyed the moments of humor many of them detailing her son and daughter’s experiences at an Italian Language school and some bits about their ongoing efforts to get their overweight chihuahua to lose weight that made me giggle out loud.  Fans of her romance novels will enjoy an insight into James’s life, but even if you are not a regular reader of that genre, you will still find something to delight in this engaging book.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard


What makes this perspective distinctive from the other two memoirs is that Elizabeth Bard is not simply a visitor or short term resident of Paris, but marries a Parisian and becomes a French citizen.  Because of this she delves more deeply beneath the surface of what it is to be French and must accept how these changes became a permanent part of her life.  The novel begins with her first lunch date in Paris with Gwendal, a young man from Northern France and their subsequent romance.  After spending weekends together, she soon moves in with him in Paris.  The book as she notes does not end in the way of fairy tales with her marriage, but pushes onward through a serious illness of a beloved family member and her further experiences of acclimating to life in Paris.  The book includes a few recipes at the end of each chapter and concludes with her decision to write this book as a kind of cookbook.  Although the recipes are a nice addition for those who want to create a little piece of Paris to eat in their own home, they didn’t feel essential to the book, which felt very rich on its own.  I liked that the book balances her love of Gwendal and the art and charm of Paris with the shifts in expectations of what one’s future will be that come from moving permanently to another country.

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas


Thomas’s book, like Bard’s, will appeal to foodies, but in the place of recipes she includes recommendations for bakeries, cafés, and boutiques for acquiring the delicious treats she chronicles during her time working as an ad executive for Louis Vuitton in Paris.  For those not planning to hop a plane across the Atlantic in the near future there are also recommendations for places where sweets can be acquired in New York City.  Thomas’s stay in Paris does not have a definite end like James’s yearlong sabbatical, but with her struggle to master the language and periodic pining for the States it is clear that she is not putting down roots in the same way that Bard does.  However, her job does allow for some workplace drama and humor that the other two lack.  It also causes her to reevaluate decisions that she has made in her life such as with earlier relationships, which add greater depth to what at first felt a bit of a shallow lark. However, many of these issues such as infertility and which country she will choose to make her permanent home are left unresolved at the memoir’s end.  The wonderful descriptions of the sweets is what truly caries this work.

-Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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