PTPI Blog


Discussion Question for Like Water for Chocolate – Cooking with Love

October 16th, 2014

Question answered by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator at PTPI.

What traditions does your family have that involve food? Is there a secret ingredient or preparation method that your family claims as only yours?

Photo - Blog Post 2

Food is a central element of Like Water for Chocolate. Tita’s family regularly gathers round the table to share a meal, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Tita puts herself into every dish she cooks. Nacha mentors her in the culinary arts; by the end of the novel, Tita is mentoring others.

Cooks often go beyond a written recipe, experimenting with new flavor combinations, altering ingredient lists based on what they have in their pantry, and updating antiquated parsley-covered presentations. As a cover artist who makes a classic track sound new again, Tita has a transcendent effect on at least three of the meals in the novel. The intense longing she feels at her sister’s wedding is internalized in the cake she prepares and translates into an interesting reaction from the guests. Quail in place of pheasants, coupled with rose petals marked by Tita, leads to an unexpected effect for Tita’s family members in March. In November, Tita’s anger almost ruins her bean dish until she finds a way to coax the beans into deliciousness. Ultimately it is Tita, and not just the ingredients or method of preparation, that influences her food and its impact on those she feeds.

As I was growing up, my mother and grandmother had a custom of saying that they were making my food with love. I don’t expect that this line was unique to my family—I’ve seen it used as marketing language in the grocery store—but it meant so much nonetheless. Somehow, the love with which my mother and grandmother prepared meals transferred into the taste, into the food’s ability to sate a hunger, into the togetherness that my family felt, gathered at table.

Last year, when my mother mailed me cookies on a whim, she included a note that meant more than the cookies themselves (delicious though they were!). Love was my mother’s not-so-secret ingredient in the cookies and something that I’ll always treasure.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.

 


Cultural Cooking: Instant Coffee Cake from Romania

October 14th, 2014

Recipe Title: Instant Coffee Cake

Submitted by: Adriana Bruma

PTPI Affiliation: Roman, Romania Community Chapter

Instant Coffee Cake

Instant Coffee Cake

Recipe Description: This cake is a family recipe. I make it at Christmas and it is part of our family tradition. I have the recipe from my cousin. I like making it and my friends enjoy eating it.

Preparation and Cook Time: 35-30 minutes

Ingredients:

Note: Remember to pay attention to the unit of measurement used. Check conversions online or click here for a quick guide to U.S. and metric conversions. 

For the Cake:

6 eggs

12 tablespoons of powdered sugar

140 grams ground nuts

2 tablespoons of flour

1 packet of baking powder

 

For the Cream:

250 g soft butter

150 g powdered sugar

2 yolks of eggs (other than the ones for the layer)

2 teaspoons of instant coffee

1-2 packets of vanilla powder

 

Instant Coffee Cake before Toppings are Applied

Instant Coffee Cake before Toppings are Applied

Recipe Steps:

The Cake:

1. In a large bowl, put the yolks of the 6 eggs and the sugar. Blend them until the sugar melts and the whole mixture becomes light yellow. I use a wooden spoon for this step.

2. Then, add the nuts, flour and baking powder and continue to stir.

3. Separately, whisk the whites of the eggs until they hold their shape and add them into the previous mixture. Add one spoon at a time.

4. Prepare the baking tin. Line the bases with baking parchment. Put the mixture into the tin and gently level the surface with the back of a metal spoon or a spatula.

5. Put it in the oven and bake it for 25 – 30 minutes or until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer inserted into it comes out clean. Pay attention to its color (so not to burn the cake). Leave to cool in the tin; then put it on a square serving plate. I cannot tell you the exact temperature, because we do not have an electrical oven. But I think it is the normal temperature you use when making cake. (Note: The average baking temperature for cookies is 165 degrees C and 325 degrees F.)

 

Instant Coffee Cake with Toppings

Instant Coffee Cake with Toppings

Cake Toppings:

1. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat it (with an electric whisk) in order to take the water out of it. Then, add the sugar and the vanilla powder and continue to mix them with an electric whisk.

2. Add the two yolks of eggs and, finally, add the 2 teaspoons of instant coffee. Continue mixing until the whole mixture becomes light brown.

3. In the meantime, put some nuts into a tin and bake them in the oven. Let them cool and try to remove the crust.

4. Spread the cream on the top of the layer. Level the surface with the back of a metal spoon or a spatula.

5. Spread pieces of fried nuts on it and some melted chocolate. You can grate some chocolate over the top or use something else for decoration. Now, the Instant coffee cake is ready to be cut in pieces and served. Enjoy it!

If you would like to contribute to our series, Cultural Cooking, please complete the recipe submission form and email photographs to intern1@ptpi.org.

To learn more about People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or check out our Facebook Page.


Discussion Questions for Like Water for Chocolate

October 8th, 2014

Questions prepared by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator at PTPI

Photo - Book Announcement - Option 2

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

  1. Pivotal points in the novel use magical realism to advance the story: otherworldly events are sandwiched between everyday, expected happenings. What effect does this mixture have on the story and on you as the reader? What is the author’s intention here? Is this technique part of your culture’s storytelling heritage?
  2. What does the Mexican Revolution, the setting for the novel, have to do with Tita’s story? Would this novel have been as impactful if it had taken place at another time in history?
  3. La Familia de la Garza, Tita’s family, is a meeting point for treasured tradition and daring exploration, where the constant tension seems to be how to honor the past while living in the present. Where and how do you see this tension in your family or community in 2014? What suggestions does the novel offer for resolving this tension?
  4. Discuss the different images of what it means to be a woman in society as represented by key characters in the story: Tita, Rosaura, Gertrudis, and Mama Elena. Which of these characters seem most in line with what society expects a woman to be, and which characters press social boundaries?
  5. What is the central conflict between Tita and her sister Rosaura? Is it really over a person, or is it deeper than that?
  6. All three daughters leave home and return in this novel, but the impacts of leaving and returning are different for each daughter. What makes the difference? Have you been profoundly impacted by leaving and returning to your own culture or home community? If so, what made the difference for you and allowed you to grow?
  7. In October, Tita’s sister Gertrudis tells her, “The truth! The truth! Look, Tita, the simple truth is that the truth does not exist; it all depends on a person’s point of view.” Do you agree with Gertrudis’ assertion? Is truth relative and contingent on a person’s experiences? What does this mean for us in today’s globalized world?
  8. Characters in this story move between two cultural landscapes—northern Mexico and southern Texas in the U.S. What challenges or advantages does this movement create?
  9. It can be easy to relate to the protagonist (Tita) in a novel like this, but which other character speaks to your own experience in a significant way? Does that character navigate situations as you would?
  10. How would this story have been different if Tita had been the narrator?

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.