“You don’t have to think about love; you either feel it or you don’t.”
~ From Like Water for Chocolate
Oh, love. Sigh.
If only it were so simple. If only we didn’t have to think about it. If only we all just felt love and then acted on it and then somehow magically managed to mutually sustain it for all time. And that was all there was to it. It’s wonderful how the movies make love so beautiful, so simple, so logical, so lasting.
Love must be the most fabulous and complicated and greatest emotion of all time. A potent, illogical neurological condition that chemists, biologists, physicists, medical doctors, philosophers, writers and countless others throughout history have struggled to define and explain.
There is no rational explanation for love. No real definition for love. No formula. It just is. Still, unlike the handsome Pedro who uses the line above, “You don’t have to think about love…” on beautiful Tita, in Like Water for Chocolate, I do think love might just be worth thinking about! I guess the trick is not to OVER-think it.
If you haven’t seen Like Water for Chocolate – it’s a 1992 Mexican film about thwarted love and the power of food. Love and food and the connection between them feature big time in this movie. A visual feast, it’s based on the book of the same title by Mexican writer, Laura Esquivel. At the time of its release, it was the highest grossing Spanish film ever released in North America.
The film made me hungry – in all kinds of ways. It made me think of a trip I took to the beautiful, historic city of Oaxaca in South-western Mexico last year. About the incredible 16th century Spanish architecture. About the exquisite and carefully prepared food in elegant upmarket restaurants. I hadn’t expected that. I’d expected nothing but taco stands and cantinas. My vision of Mexico was almost embarrassingly stereotypical – bordering on racist. I had visions of towns like those in movies of the old wild west. What I found was a place rich in culture and art and history. And a cuisine both fragrant and fabulous – sometimes complex and sometimes surprisingly delicate. A little like love. No formula.
In the pretty little hotel I stayed in off the Pino Suarez in Oaxaca, the two middle-aged, somewhat formidable Mexican sisters who ran the place, offered a light breakfast each morning of coffee ladled from a large earthenware jug, and bread or cake – sometimes chocolate cake. It made me happy – sitting amongst the flowers in the morning sunshine on the terrace – drinking coffee and eating chocolate cake.
Until I went to Mexico I thought of this chocolate and raspberry cake only as a rich dessert. After Mexico and after watching Like Water for Chocolate, I’m reminded that I don’t eat nearly enough cake for breakfast.
If love has a flavour, for me it would be this – a weekend morning and a mug of good, strong coffee with a thin slice of this dense, moist chocolate cake covered in raspberries – if not served in the sunshine on the terrace, then preferably served in bed.
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake
(Recipe adapted from one that made the rounds in my neighbourhood a few years ago.)
1 cup boiling water
3 oz or 90 grams of really good quality bittersweet chocolate
½ cup butter
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pint of raspberries
Preheat oven to 350º F. Generously butter a Bundt cake pan.
Place the chocolate and butter in a large Pyrex bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let stand, stirring occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream and baking soda and set aside. Beat the eggs white until stiff, and also set aside.
Add the vanilla, egg yolks and sugar to the chocolate mix and beat well. Next add the sour cream and baking soda mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites.
Spoon or pour the mixture into the Bundt cake pan and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cake rest 10 minutes before unmolding.
2 tablespoons butter
⅔ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over gentle heat until the chocolate is melted and the icing is smooth. Pour over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with raspberries.