Study Guide

Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate Summary

The time: the turn of the 20th century (1910-1917); the place: a ranch somewhere far off in Mexico. Something is cooking in the kitchen—and yes we do mean that literally and figuratively. The narrator of Like Water For Chocolate is the great-niece of Tita De la Garza, the main protagonist of the novel.

"It wasn't easy for [Tita] whose knowledge of life was based on the kitchen to comprehend the outside world" (1, 7). From the very beginning, we realize that Tita's life is really, really unfair. Here's a point by point summary of just how sucky things are in her life:

  • Her mother, Mama Elena, is a strict, abusive, tyrannical, borderline psychopath whose main goal in life is to keep Tita as a slave.
  • Pedro, the love of Tita's life, marries her sister, Rosaura, instead of her.
  • Her other sister, friend, and confident, Gertrudis, is kidnapped by a general in the revolutionary army and ends up working in a brothel.
  • Her best friend, mother figure, and culinary guru, Nacha, passes away.
  • John, doctor and gringo, loves her, but Tita's not sure she can love anyone but Pedro, who, honestly, is a bit of a brat.

So Tita is up against a lot. Luckily for us, she's a true fighter and muscles through her hardships with grace and cunning. One way she does this? She expresses her love for Pedro through her food. Halfway through the novel, she escapes from the ranch with John. After Nacha dies, she keeps her close by cooking and continuing on the family recipes.

Cooking, for Tita, is a form of therapy (chicken enchiladas are good for the soul.). It helps her through physical and mental abuse by her mom, losing her nephew, depression, and more. Of course, there are other elements besides family drama—there's a war going on.

And not just any war—for Mexico, it was the BIG war, the one in which peasants and natives came together under the leadership of the likes of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata to revolt against the current dictatorship. These men and women wanted a free Mexico, a democratic Mexico, and set the country boiling, much like the women under the tyrannical rule of Mama Elena.

  • Chapter 1

    JANUARY, Christmas Rolls

    • We get our first recipe of the novel, Christmas rolls, and how to prepare them. More please.
    • Our unnamed narrator lets us know she is especially sensitive to onions, just like her great-aunt Tita.
    • Making a grand entrance into the world, Tita is born "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" (1,2). (Symbol anyone? Anyone?).
    • Tita is literally washed into the world on "a great tide of tears," which the cook, Nacha, must clean up.
    • Two days later, Tita's father dies of a heart attack and her mother's (Mama Elena) milk dries up.
    • Luckily, Nacha is up for the job of feeding Tita.
    • "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" (1,5). Delish.
    • Tita becomes a kitchen baby, hardly ever leaving Nacha's side.
    • Her sisters, Gertrudis and Rosaura, don't share Tita's love of pots and pans, but one day she convinces them to come into her world.
    • A cooking demo leads to Rosaura burning her hands, and Tita gets a big ol' spanking from Mama E.
    • One day, while making sausage on the ranch, Tita announces in front of the family that Pedro Muzquiz wants to come speak to Mama E.
    • Mama E tells Tita that "being the youngest daughter means you have to take care of me until the day I die" (1,22). Ouch.
    • Turns out there's a weird family tradition of indentured servitude for the youngest child (fun!) and Tita is stuck between wanting to obey her mom and wanting to follow her heart.
    • Unfortunately, the next day Pedro Muzquiz appears with his father (don Pascual) at the De la Garza house, ready to profess his burning love for Tita.
    • Not one to crumble under pressure, Mama E refuses to let Tita go…but offers up her other daughter, Rosaura, instead. Can we get a daaaaaaaaaaaaaang, that's cold?
    • Meanwhile, Tita is preparing the Christmas rolls, oblivious of the dagger being twisted into her back.
    • Chencha, the maid and queen of gossip, bursts into the kitchen, informing Tita and Nacha of the switch and exclaims, "You can't just switch tacos and enchiladas like that" (1, 48).
    • Confirming Tita's biggest fear, Mama E tells her that she agreed to Pedro and Rosaura's marriage.
    • Ah, but things are not always as they seem… Nacha overhears Pedro tell his father that he "will marry with a great love for Tita that will never die" (1, 57).
    • In bed, Tita remembers the first time she saw Pedro, and how she understood how dough feels to be "plunged into boiling oil"—she's got it bad.
    • Next day, not one to beat around the bush, Pedro confesses his love for Tita in the kitchen.
    • Oh, young love in the time of Revolution. Tita says she feels the same, and "From that night on she would love him forever" (1, 74). Aww.
    • Back in the present, Tita wraps herself in the bedspread she started the moment Pedro first spoke of marriage, but alas, she can't warm up her icy cold insides.
    • The chapter (and the rest to follow) ends with "TO BE CONTINUED…"
    • Huh?? We'll admit it; at first we're baffled by this culinary cliffhanger.
  • Chapter 2

     FEBRUARY, Chabela Wedding Cake  

    • It's a big day in the De la Garza house and Tita and Nacha are making the cake for Rosaura and Pedro's wedding.
    • As if that task weren't difficult enough, Tita also has to castrate and prepare 200 roosters for the guests. Talk about torture…
    • Tita gets emotional (understandably) while (gulp) pulling out the roosters' testicles.
    • Mama E is not sympathetic to her daughter's plight—in a rage she gives "Tita a tremendous slap that left her rolling in the dirt […]" (2, 83).
    • Tita beats the cake batter but stops when she hears a baby chicken in one of the eggs.
    • Mama E thinks she's crazy and cracks the egg to reveal an…egg.
    • Is Tita going crazy? Or is she just overworked? We never find out.
    • Cry me a river… When they're finally left alone, Tita and Nacha cry together "until there were no more tears in Tita's eyes. Then she cried without tears, which is said to hurt even more, like dry labor" (2,100).
    • It's filling time. As soon as Tita opens a jar of apricot jam she has a steamy flashback to when Pedro catches a glimpse of her exposed leg.
    • In the heat of the moment, Pedro tries to explain his motivations for marrying Rosaura.
    • Tita runs away from Pedro only to find Chencha and Gertrudis working on the virginal sheet for the wedding night.
    • Since Tita is unable to concentrate on making the fondant icing, Nacha tells her to go to bed.
    • Nacha fears that Tita's tears may have affected the taste, the flavor is delicious.
    • Oops. Nacha is suddenly overcome with an "intense longing" for lost love.
    • One is the loneliest number and Nacha cries all night and in the morning she's too weak to help with the wedding.
    • People love to talk, and the guests are in frenzy over the not-so-secret love triangle between Tita, Pedro, and Rosaura.
    • Tita puts on her best happy face and when she congratulates Pedro, he confides that he only has eyes for her.
    • Caught in the act. Mama E swoops over and warns Tita to stay away from Pedro.
    • Tita's tears strike again. The guests eat cake…and feel intense longing, which leads to an intense session of group vomiting.
    • Natch, Mama E blames Tita and she gives her a beating that leads to two weeks in bed recovering from bruises.
    • When Tita goes looking for Nacha she finds her dead, "medicinal leaves upon her temples, a picture of her fiancé clutched in her hands" (2,154).
    • "TO BE CONTINUED…"
  • Chapter 3

    MARCH, Quail in Rose Petal Sauce

    • Pedro (otherwise known as Mr. Obvious) sends Tita a bouquet of red roses to congratulate her on being named official ranch cook.
    • D'oh. Rosaura, who is preggers and knows what's up between her hubby and Tita, sees the bouquet and cries.
    • Mama E tells Tita to get rid of them.
    • What does Tita decide to do with the roses? Why, a recipe of course.
    • When the quail in rose petal sauce is served the reactions are mixed: Pedro loves, loves, loves it; Rosaura gets sick; and Gertrudis gets turned on.
    • Can you say aphrodisiac? Gertrudis is so hot and bothered that when showers the bathroom catches on fire.
    • Natch, she runs out of the bathroom to save herself and the smell of Gertrudis's body is so strong it makes Juan (a rebel soldier) gallop on horseback toward her.
    • When he sees Gertrudis he knows she "desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her" (3,190).
    • What happens next is NOT for kids: Juan lifts Gertrudis onto his horse and they make intense love (and yes, the horse is galloping the entire time). Yowza.
    • Both Pedro and Tita watch the steamy escapade from the ranch—Pedro wants to ask Tita to run away with him, but doesn't. Talk about frustrating…
    • Post love-making sesh, Mama E asks Tita what happened and she invents a story about the Federal troops setting fire to the bathroom and kidnapping Gertrudis. Nice one.
    • Mama E buys the story, hook, line, and sinker.
    • Later, Father Ignacio (the parish priest) tells Mama E that Gertrudis is working at a brothel.
    • How does she react to this news? Mama E burns Gertrudis's birth certificate and pictures and her name is never mentioned again.
    • We are told that each year, Tita prepares the quail dish in honor of her sister's "liberation."
    • That same night, Tita works on her bedspread and starts writing a cookbook.
    • "TO BE CONTINUED…"
  • Chapter 4

    APRIL, Turkey Mole with Almonds and Sesame Seeds

    • This scrumptious meal is for a big celebration—the baptism of Roberto, Pedro and Rosaura's first child.
    • Despite the drama, Tita feels as "immense tenderness" toward her baby nephew.
    • As Tita prepares the mole, Pedro listens to the sound of the pans and Tita singing, smells the almonds browning…all that combined turns Pedro on and he jets over to the kitchen.
    • He finds Tita on her knees, grinding almonds and sesame seeds.
    • Breasts move freely, sweat drips, sexual innuendos fly; they lock eyes for an intense moment.
    • But before anything can happen Chencha walks in and Pedro scampers out. We can only assume a cold shower is in store for him…
    • Tita tries to pretend that nothing happened, while Chencha chats about a bloody battle that took place in the plaza.
    • Tita's faith is restored in Pedro; she thought he was over her.
    • In a flashback, we find out that Mama E (surprised?) told Pedro to quit praising Tita's food because it made Rosaura feel insecure.
    • As our flashback continues, Tita asks Nicholas (a farmhand) to take a suitcase full of clothes and trinkets to Gertrudis.
    • All of a sudden, Rosaura is in labor. And Tita is the only one around to take care of her.
    • E and Chencha are at the market buying supplies for the baby and Pedro is on the way to pick up Dr. Brown.
    • Labor in the time of Revolution. Pedro is captured by the Federales, and Mama and Chencha can't return because of a shooting that breaks out in the village.
    • With no knowledge of giving birth and a sister near death, Tita prays for help from Nacha.
    • When Tita opens her eyes, the "dark tunnel" (Rosaura's vagina) is transformed into "a red river, an erupting volcano, a rending of paper" (4,243). Sounds pleasant, right?
    • It's a boy. Little Roberto is alive and well and Tita feels "new love."
    • Finally, Mama E and Chencha arrive with the Lobos, followed by Pedro and Dr. Brown.
    • Of course, Dr. Brown is struck by Tita's beauty, and gladly agrees to visit Rosaura several times a week.
    • Complication #7676: Rosaura has no milk.
    • Mama E hires a wet nurse, but she is soon killed by a stray bullet from a battle between the Rebels and the Federales.
    • Chencha goes to find another wet nurse in the village, but has no luck.
    • Desperate to calm the child, Tita gives him her breast.
    • Got milk? A supernatural act occurs and Tita is able to nurse the baby.
    • Pedro comes in the kitchen, see's Tita looking "like Ceres herself, goddess of plenty" (4,256) and kisses her on the forehead.
    • When Tita takes the baby from her breast, Pedro gets an eyeful.
    • Tita covers herself just as Mama E comes in the kitchen.
    • Mama E takes the chocolate atole Tita has prepared for Rosaura—the drink is supposed to produce breast milk.
    • Despite the yummy drink, Rosaura remains dry and Tita takes over the feeding (sans mentioning the taboo source of the milk).
    • Suddenly, it's baptism day and Tita assumes Rosaura's role because her sister is still sick.
    • Good old Dr. Brown chats with Tita and tells her that shell look fab with a child of her own someday.
    • Awkward…Tita sadly informs him that she can never marry or have children.
    • The doc, a modern man, is shocked and says that "it's absurd" (4,276).
    • Tita moves away from John and doesn't realize her mother is watching her, convinced that there is something going on between Pedro and Tita.
    • On the flipside, the guests are in a "euphoric mood" after eating the mole; "But for those few moments they all seemed determined to forget the bullets flying in the village" (4,280).
    • Mama E confides to Father Ignacio that Pedro, Rosaura and the baby should go to live in San Antonio, USA.
    • Heartbroken, Tita hears everything and the party is ruined for her.
    • "TO BE CONTINUED…"
  • Chapter 5

    MAY, Northern-Style Chorizo

    • It's sad times for Tita; ever since Pedro and company left for San Antonio, she only cares about feeding a helpless pigeon.
    • The ranch is still reeling from a visit from the revolutionary army, which is told in a flashback.
    • Only Mama E, Tita, Chencha, Rosaura, and Guadalupe (the two farmhands) are present; Nicholas had left to buy cattle and Felipe, his son, is in San Antonio to get news of Pedro and his family.
    • Mama E grabs her shotgun and Tita, Chencha, and the pig rush to the cellar to hide.
    • Women, unite. They meet the revolutionaries at the entrance of the house.
    • The captain asks for food and Mama E offers up whatever they like from the corn crib and the stable but she "won't allow [the captain] to touch anything inside [her] house" (5, 298).
    • A frustrated sergeant declares that he'll go search the house anyway.
    • Mama E doesn't mess around. She raises her shotgun and shoots the chickens the sergeant has in his hands, then threatens to kill the captain if they disobey her.
    • "[The soldiers] fell prisoner to a childlike fear of maternal authority" (5,309). Yeah, Mama E is THAT scary.
    • With their tales between their legs, the troop leaves peacefully.
    • Mama E is surprised that they are not the "ruffians" she expected—little does she know that the captain is the same Juan Alejandrez who carried off Gertrudis.
    • Tita comes out of hiding and immediately misses the cooing of the pigeons.
    • Up in the dovecote, she finds a tiny newborn pigeon.
    • Tita secretly wishes that the soldiers had killed her mother…talk about mommy-daughter issues.
    • Back in the present, Tita looks for worms and thinks about Roberto, her nephew.
    • Chencha joins her and forces her to come help with the sausages.
    • Mid-sausage grinding, Mama E comes in, demanding her bath.
    • Like everything with Mama E, nothing is easy. Bath time is a real ordeal and only Tita can perform the "ritual." She's also the only one to see her mom in the nude…what would Freud say, we wonder?
    • This day in particular Tita does everything wrong and is sent away.
    • Tita stuffs the sausages and has a flashback to a hot summer night…
    • Because of the heat, the family sleeps on the patio and they eat cold watermelon to stay cool.
    • Tita gets up to go to the bathroom and Pedro follows her.
    • Finally. Pedro pulls Tita to him and they get into some heavy petting. Rawr.
    • Just as Tita feels Pedro's "red-hot coal that throbbed through his clothes" (5,341), Mama E cries out for Tita.
    • As usual, she suspects something and speeds up the departure of Pedro and his family to San Antonio.
    • Tita's flashback is interrupted by Mama E coming into kitchen, followed by a sobbing Chencha.
    • Chencha tells them that Roberto has died from eating something bad.
    • Tita feels "the household crashing down around her head" (5,351) and stands up.
    • Mama E orders her to keep working.
    • No longer able to take any more abuse, Tita starts screaming and ripping sausages apart.
    • Enraged, Mama E smashes Tita's face with a wooden spoon.
    • Tita blames Mama E for killing Roberto and hides in the dovecote. Mama E removes the ladder so that Tita can't climb down.
    • Desperate to control the situation, Mama E asks Dr. Brown to take Tita to an insane asylum.
    • Dr. B finds Tita with a broken nose, covered in pigeon droppings and naked.
    • Like a knight in shining armor, he takes her away in his carriage.
    • Chencha runs alongside the carriage and tosses Tita's bedspread to her.
    • Goodbye, cruel world. They ride off with the bedspread flapping behind, so long that it stretched for a kilometer.
    • "TO BE CONTINUED…"
  • Chapter 6

    JUNE, A Recipe for Making Matches

    • Wait, what? Since when do people eat matches? Color us curious…
    • This chapter is different from the rest not only because we're not given a recipe for food but because it's prepared by Dr. Brown, not Tita.
    • Tita gets better, but has no desire to speak and oftentimes she doesn't taste her food (a big deal).
    • It's flashback time. One day, Tita sees smoke coming out of a window of a room at the far end of the patio; she smells a familiar aroma and thinks of Nacha.
    • Curious (and hungry) Tita goes to investigate and meets an Indigenous woman making tea in earthenware pan.
    • The mysterious woman offers her some and they hang out in silence.
    • Tita continues her visits until one day Dr. Brown appears instead of the woman.
    • With the appearance of Brown (and the disappearance of the woman) the room's furnishings change (huh?) from minimalist to modern lab.
    • While Dr. B works, he tells her about Morning Light, his grandmother, a Kikapu Indian.
    • Morning Light was not treated well by the Browns—first off, she was "captured" by his grandfather, and the rest of the clan made fun of for being an Indian.
    • Not surprisingly, she took refuge in the lab to work on her plant remedies.
    • Separated from the judgy gringos (the Browns are from the USA), Morning Light lives alone until the day Peter (Dr. B's great-grandfather) gets sick.
    • Mary, his wife, tries to cure him with leeches (yikes).
    • Turns out, leeches aren't that effective and Peter gets worse.
    • Morning Light to the rescue. She places one of her hands on his wounds and the bleeding magically stops. Dang, she's good.
    • Blinded by the Light, the Browns finally see value in her medicine and her race and she becomes the official family doctor.
    • As a kid Dr. B spends much of his childhood with Morning Light in the lab.
    • However, when he goes to the university, he takes the standard and modern route.
    • But now, after many years he's back in her lab intent on scientifically proving her natural remedies
    • Whew. Long flashback finished, we're back to John making matches.
    • Dr. B launches into a biiiiiig match metaphor; by the end of it Tita realizes that she had been hanging out drinking tea with his dead grandmother all along.
    • In a clever, slightly tricky manner, Dr. B gives Tita a rag with phosphorus on it and tells her to write why she won't talk on the wall.
    • Her response? "Because I don't want to."
    • As the chapter winds down, Tita wonders if she will ever love Dr. B.
    • "TO BE CONTINUED…"
  • Chapter 7

    JULY, Ox-Tail Soup

    • And we're back to food recipes.
    • "Soups can cure any illness, whether physical or mental" (7,416); with that logic, Chencha brings a steaming bowl of ox-tail soup to Tita.
    • When Chencha arrived at Dr. B's house, Tita was sitting at the window, watching Alex (John's son).
    • Soup. Tita smells it before Dr. B and Chencha enter her room.
    • Reunited and it feels so good. The women eat, they cry, they share memories.
    • Tita cries so much a stream of tears runs down the stairs.
    • Dr. B, alarmed, makes like he's going to leave and Tita speaks for the first time in months:
    • "John. Please don't leave" (7,425).
    • Tita and Chencha gossip and some interesting things are revealed: Mama E had forbidden visits to Tita; Mama E would never forgive Tita for blaming Roberto's death on her; Gertrudis was working in a brothel and she sent a letter to Tita.
    • Tita tells Chencha that she will never go back to the ranch.
    • Chencha leaves; as she crosses the border between the U.S. and Mexico, she wonders what to tell Mama E.
    • Chencha thinks Tita will be sad and "tortured" all alone with John, but not so: Tita is happy and John proposes.
    • Unfortunately, Chencha never gets to tell her story; a group of bandits attacks the ranch the night she arrives—she's raped and Mama E's beaten and left paralyzed from the waist down. (Talk about a horrible homecoming.)
    • Tita returns to the ranch after hearing about the incident.
    • Tita makes her mom some soup and when she tries it she immediately spits it out.
    • Tita can't believe it (really?) and wishes she was back with John.
    • Sometimes wishes do come true—just as Tita runs out of the room, John arrives.
    • Paranoid much? When John asks Mama E why she won't eat, she claims Tita is trying to poison her.
    • John tries the soup but she still refuses to eat it and demands a "good cook."
    • John says Tita is the best and one day he'll ask for her hand in marriage.
    • Oops. Somebody forgot that Mama E gets pissed when there's the threat of Tita leaving her.
    • After John's comment, Mama E realizes that there's something between them and that Tita is determined to kill her—and never again will she eat her daughter's food.
    • Big whoop. Tita doesn't care; now she has more time to work on her trousseau.
    • Poor Chencha has to take over the cooking and serving for Mama E.
    • The day Chencha gets her stitches removed from the rape Tita has no choice but to cook for Mama E.
    • But she can't be fooled. She kicks Chencha out for trying to trick her.
    • Referring to her rape, Chencha tells Tita that no man will "eat off a plate that isn't clean" (7,473).
    • It's hiring time at the ranch and Tita searches in vain for a cook—they all quit. What a surprise.
    • In the end, there's nothing and Mama E must eat Tita's food.
    • After a long fight, Mama E dies; she was secretly taking syrup of ipecac. Why, we're not sure. Unhappy? Knew she'd die anyway? Had nothing else to live for?
    • While dressing Mama E for the wake, Tita finds a heart-shaped locket around her neck with a tiny key inside.
    • In a flashback to childhood, Tita finds a box in her mom's closet that can only be opened with a key.
    • Turns out the tiny key opens the box and inside there is a diary and love letters.
    • Hard to believe but it's true—they're from a Mr. Jose Trevino, a mulatto (oh, the intrigue).
    • When her parents discovered their love, they forced her to marry Juan De la Garza, Tita's father.
    • Scandalous. Mama E and Jose kept seeing each other and have a baby…Gertrudis.
    • Mama E planned to run away with Jose after she found out she was preggers with Gertrudis but while waiting for him, he was killed.
    • Talk about emo; Mama E resigns herself to her unhappy life.
    • When Juan finds out he'll be a father again, he went to a bar to celebrate.
    • Mid-drink, someone spilled the beans about his unfaithful wife and he has a heart attack and dies on the spot. The truth kills, apparently.
    • Back in the present, Tita cries for her mom for the first time ever.
    • At the funeral, Tita sees and embraces Rosaura, who is pregnant again, and Pedro.
    • John and Tita hold hands on the way back to the ranch and Pedro watches jealously; apparently, Tita "belonged" to him. Machismo, anyone? Anyone?
  • Chapter 8

    AUGUST, Champandongo

    • Cursed onions. Not only do they always make Tita cry, they cause her to accidentally cut her finger.
    • Tita is off her cooking-game and running late, thanks to her niece, Esperanza ("hope" in English).
    • In a flashback, we learn that Esperanza was born three months premature, just like Tita.
    • Once again, Tita takes care of the baby in the house— she feeds her "gruels and teas" a la Nacha.
    • Out of necessity, Tita keeps Esperanza in kitchen because Rosaura can't take care of her while recuperating (she had to have an operation which left her sterile). No más babies.
    • Back to the present, Esperanza cries more than usual and causes Tita to drop her pan of mole.
    • Holy mole. Pedro chooses a pretty crappy moment to tell Tita that she shouldn't marry John.
    • Tita (finally) tells him to leave her alone.
    • But the man is persistent—Pedro says he should have run away with her.
    • Tita (again: finally) calls him out for being a wuss.
    • She goes back to cooking, but is super PO'd: "The anger she felt within her acted like yeast on bread dough" (8,507).
    • Adding more fuel to her angry fire, Tita contemplates how Pedro's rage dominates her thoughts and actions; it makes her "like water for chocolate," on the verge of boiling over.
    • Chencha's back. She appears in the house, fully recovered and with an hombre: Jesus Martinez. In no time at all the two got married and want to live on the ranch and have muchos babies.
    • Chencha takes over in kitchen so Tita can shower before John arrives.
    • Tita takes a shower; when she looks up, Pedro's watching her….uh, kind of creepy, P.
    • Not to worry, though; Tita manages to run away before anything scandalous can occur.
    • While setting the table, Tita hears Pedro and John arguing about the current political situation.
    • Since Pedro is the man of the house, John asks him permission to marry Tita.
    • Not really having a choice, Pedro says yes.
    • Bling bling. John gives Tita a diamond ring—no more single ladies on the ranch.
    • In a heated round of cheers, Pedro breaks his glass and splatters champagne on the guests.
    • After supper, John leaves, Tita cleans, and Chencha prepares her and Jesus's bed for the night.
    • Tita stores the kitchen utensils in the "dark room."
    • Pedro slips inside the room (he's good at that, isn't he?), extinguishes Tita's lamp and "caused her to lose her virginity and learn of true love" (8, 538).
    • Meanwhile, Rosaura tries to put Esperanza to sleep; all of a sudden she sees "a strange glow" coming from the dark room.
    • Mama E? Chencha sees the light and says "can't you see it's a ghost of the dead."
    • Oh, the irony. Because nobody wants to be near Mama E's "ghost," Tita and Pedro are free to get it on all they want.
  • Chapter 9

    SEPTEMBER, Chocolate and Three Kings' Day Bread

    • As Tita prepares the chocolate for the bread, she takes a small amount to make a lip ointment.
    • Turns out it's another dramatic day—guests are coming for a Three Kings' party. Oh, and she thinks she's pregnant with Pedro's child.
    • While Tita forms the chocolate into squares, she has a flashback to when she received a "little movie" from Nacha (a zoetrope).
    • Before she begins the bread she wishes she could have Gertrudis back in her life.
    • Out of nowhere, Rosaura comes into the kitchen and asks Tita to help her with a diet.
    • Not only has Rosaura gotten very fat, she has a serious problem with farting and bad breath, driving Pedro farther and farther away. (In other words, there's no love-making going on.)
    • Like a good sister, Tita promises to help her lose weight and smell better.
    • When Rosaura leaves and Tita is alone, Mama E appears.
    • Even in death, Mama E is an ovary-buster: She scolds Tita for being with Pedro and curses Tita and her baby. Harsh.
    • Chencha comes into the kitchen and Mama E disappears.
    • Tita wants to tell Chencha what's bothering her but can't because "she was such a gossip that if Tita told her, the next day the whole village would know" (9, 571).
    • Before putting the porcelain doll in the bread, Tita thinks back on her childhood
    • When the bread is ready Tita asks Pedro for help carrying it to the table.
    • Before she can talk to him about the maybe baby, they're interrupted by Chencha (is it just us or is she really, really good at that?) to inform them that the Loboses have arrived.
    • In the dining room Tita sees Mama E beside the door "throwing her a furious look" (9,583).
    • Pulque (the dog) also sees Mama E and barks crazily, knocking over a spittoon.
    • The dog drama draws the attention of the guests, minus Paquita Lobo; she can tell Tita is close to fainting and gives her some smelling salts.
    • Paquita says to Tita, "If I didn't know perfectly well that you are a decent girl, I would swear that you are pregnant" (9,585).
    • Ask and ye shall receive. Galloping sounds, horses approach and Gertrudis and Juan Alejandrez are outside the ranch with a troop of soldiers.
    • Inside the house, Gertrudis drinks hot chocolate with Tita, and learns about dearly departed Mama E.
    • Gertrudis is genuinely sad; she wanted to show her mom how she'd "triumphed" in life—not only is she married, she's also a general in the revolutionary army.
    • Once supper is finished, the guests move to living room where Juan plays guitar, harmonica, and accordion.
    • Gertrudis regales the guests with tales of her adventures and then proceeds to hitch her skirt "up to her knee," which causes quite the scandal. (Remember that this is early 1900's.)
    • Rosaura whispers to Tita that she doesn't know where Gertrudis gets her sense of rhythm.
    • In a flash-forward, we learn that Gertrudis has a mulatto baby (gasp!) and in order to prove that she was faithful to Juan, Tita must show him their mother's letters explaining her "black past."
    • The chapter ends with a very peeved Chencha who has to prepare chocolate for the troop, instead of enjoying the party like everyone else. LAME.
  • Chapter 10

    OCTOBER, Cream Fritters

    • Mmmm, fritters…Tita is making Gertrudis's favorite dessert because she's leaving the next day.
    • While the custard cools, Tita unloads all of her drama on Gertrudis.
    • Like the badass she is, Gertrudis speaks the truth: Her opinion is that Tita and Pedro have snuck around and lied enough and it's done more harm than good.
    • Speak of the devil. Gertrudis sees Pedro approaching and tells Tita that she should share her baby news with Pedro at the exact moment he's within hearing distance. SLICK.
    • While they go off to talk Gertrude works on the syrup for the fritters.
    • Unfortunately, when it comes to cooking, Gertrudis is hopeless and asks Chencha for help—she refuses.
    • In the garden Pedro asks Tita why she didn't tell him and then says they should run away.
    • But Tita is too good—she can't just abandon Rosaura and Esperanza.
    • Pulque comes up behind them and they decide to postpone the convo (AS ALWAYS).
    • Back in the kitchen, Gertrudis is working with Sergeant Trevino, who is not much better at cooking than she.
    • It's flashback time. Gertrudis recalls when Trevino had to uncover a spy who had infiltrated the troop.
    • When they got to the town of Saltillo he visited every brothel and found the man, beat him to death, and cut off his testicles.
    • When Gertrudis asked why he murdered the spy so brutally he confessed that the same man raped his mother and sister years ago.
    • Flashback finished, Gertrudis tells Trevino that if he doesn't do the syrup right shell have him shot. But, hey, no pressure.
    • Somehow Trevino is able to make the syrup well; he brings a fritter to Tita for her approval; MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
    • Tita is in bed with a swollen belly.
    • Hark, a love song. Tita gets up when she hears Pedro drunkenly singing to her outside the window.
    • She's baaaack. Mama E appears and tells Tita that they are "shameless."
    • An argument ensues, and Tita tells her mother that she hates her.
    • Magically, the figure of her mother starts to shrink into a tiny light and even more astonishing is that Tita gets her period.
    • Even as a light Mama E is frighteningly powerful—she spins out of control, lands on Pedro, and lights the poor guy on fire.
    • Pedro runs across the patio like a "human torch" until Gertrudis tackles and puts him out with her dress.
    • Tita rushes downstairs and holds his hand as several men carry him to his room.
    • Rosaura also goes to help her husband, but Pedro cries out, "Tita, don't go. Don't leave me" (10, 690).
    • The sisters have a stare down and Rosaura finally gives in.
    • Tita nurses Pedro and treats his burns with egg whites and grated raw potatoes.
    • Gertrudis leaves the ranch because she has orders to attack the Zacatecas.
    • Better safe than sorry; before she goes, she shares a contraceptive method learned from prostitutes with Tita.
    • Just like in the movies, Gertrudis and her troop ride away, along with some precious cream fritters in her saddlebag.
    • A cart carrying John and his great aunt appear.
    • Always the smooth operator, John gives Tita a bouquet of roses.
    • But when he kisses her right away, "he knew that something had changed inside of Tita" (10,702). Gulp.
  • Chapter 11

    NOVEMBER, Beans with Chile Tezcucana-Style

    • In honor of John and his Aunt Mary (who came from Pennsylvania to attend their wedding), Tita prepares the yummy bean dish.
    • She also fixes Pedro's breakfast—when he learns of her meal for John he gets pissed.
    • Pedro wants Tita to tell John she's 1) not marrying him and 2) she's preggers with Pedro's lovechild.
    • Tita refuses and Pedro threatens to do it for her.
    • Not so fast, chico. Tita tells P-daddy that she's not pregnant.
    • In a not-so-cute way, Pedro gets sulky and asks if she's having doubts about being with him.
    • Tita is shocked by his attitude and thinks he has turned into a "monster of selfishness and suspicion" (11,721). Agreed.
    • Tita has to eat lunch alone whilst Chencha is off having her first baby (when that happened, we're not exactly sure).
    • Just as Tita digs in Rosaura comes into the kitchen, somehow 65 pounds lighter in 7 days…take that, Jenny Craig.
    • They lock eyes whilst Tita breaks the ends of her tortillas for the chicken.
    • Rosaura breaks the silence and they get into a huge argument about Pedro, family tradition, and Esperanza.
    • Rosaura tells Tita she can sneak around with Pedro and be a "loose woman" but that she intends to be his wife.
    • Esperanza starts to wail and cry.
    • Rosaura leaves and tells Tita that she can never feed Esperanza again.
    • Natch, Tita's hurt and wishes Rosaura would be "swallowed up by the earth" (11,745).
    • Tita feeds the tortilla pieces to the chickens and stares at the handmade diapers she made for Esperanza hanging on the clothesline.
    • Hitchcock would love this scene: the chickens peck at each other for the last scraps of tortilla and one starts pecking out the eyes of every hen.
    • The birds spray Esperanza's white diapers with blood, destroy everything, sweep Tita off her feet, and fling her to the opposite end of the patio.
    • Shaken (we would be more than shaken), Tita goes inside and sees that her beans are undercooked.
    • She remembers that Nacha said when people argue food won't cook well and the only solution is to sing to the food.
    • Tita sings a waltz and thinks of the first meeting with Pedro in the dark room.
    • Eureka. The beans cook to perfection.
    • Upstairs, Tita brushes her teeth with powder and thinks of her childhood teacher, Jovita, who was said to have been a widow and mom at 18 and eventually ended up sweeping the streets.
    • Tita serves John and Aunt Mary the beans and of course, she's impressed.
    • John asks if Tita is okay (in Spanish so the aunt won't understand).
    • Tita says "John, I think we'd better call it off" (11,775).
    • When John asks why Tita confesses she is not a virgin anymore. Snap.
    • Good ol' John tells her that he still loves her and wants to marry her, but that it's her decision.
    • When John and Aunt leave, he says "I don't want to put any pressure on you, I just want to assure you that you would be happy with me" (11,795). Is it just us, or is John too nice?
  • Chapter 12

    DECEMBER, Chiles in Walnut Sauce

    • Tita and Chencha are finishing shelling the nuts; they need to crack 1,000 for the wedding banquet.
    • Meanwhile, back at John's house, he washes up and feels satisfied that he will soon be "closer to Tita" (12, 803).
    • Not so satisfied, Pedro can't sleep because "a terrible jealousy gnawed at his entrails" (12,804).
    • We're not sure why Pedro works himself up so much over John, but he wants to go "smash his face in" (12,805).
    • Luckily, he stops at the door, knowing Tita would never forgive him.
    • As Tita finishes shelling the walnuts, she thinks of Rosaura, who has been DEAD FOR A YEAR. Did we miss something?
    • Ah, thank goodness for the flashback… One night after eating dinner, Pedro hears a lot of noises coming from Rosaura's room, noises that shake the floor and cause the lights to blink on and off. When he goes to check on her he finds her "lips purple, body deflated, eyes wild, with a distant look, sighing out her last flatulent breath" (12,810). What a way to go.
    • To add insult to injury, the burial is poorly attended because Rosaura's smell is so awful.
    • But hey, that's life. Tita and Chencha finish the nuts and fill the chilies.
    • The wedding day arrives and who shows up in a model T Ford coupe? Gertrudis, of course.
    • She and Juan are dressed to the nines, and have with them their oldest child, a "fine figure of a mulatto," and Sergeant Trevino, their personal bodyguard since the end of the revolution.
    • Rosaura and Nicholas greet the guests and take the invitations, which were made by Esperanza and Alex.
    • Pedro requests a waltz, "The Eyes of Youth," and dances with Tita.
    • As they dance, Pedro asks Tita to marry him (wait, it's not their wedding? We don't know about you, dear reader, but we were certainly fooled) and that he'd like to have a child with her.
    • Time for a flashback.
    • Alex tries to court a young Esperanza.
    • Rosaura tried to prevent it but when Alex proposes to Esperanza, Pedro and Tita are fully supportive.
    • Cue the BIG REVEAL in the present day: The wedding is for ALEX AND ESPERANZA.
    • Paquita congratulates Tita on her delicious chilies and she's not the only one who's a fan…
    • The dish ignites passion and heat in everyone and they all end up making love anywhere and everywhere. (Everyone except John. Boo.)
    • Chencha goes to village to see her husband and get it on whilst Pedro and Tita go to the dark room, which has been transformed with candles.
    • Their sex is so intense and the climax so good that Pedro literally dies in a state of ecstasy. Okay, we really didn't see that one coming.
    • After he dies, Tita must reignite her fire and eats the box of matches that John gave her.
    • Post-match-eating Tita sees Pedro in a "tunnel" and they climax together. You know, in the afterlife.
    • Their fiery bodies set off sparks and light the dark room on fire.
    • Everyone in the neighboring towns comes to see the show and soon a thick layer of ash covers the entire ranch.
    • Esperanza returns to the ranch (she was in Boston with Alex who has a scholarship from Harvard) and finds Tita's recipe book.
    • In a flash-forward we learn that when Esperanza died, she gave the book to "me"—the narrator of the story, Esperanza's daughter and Tita's great-niece.
    • Today, the narrator's father, Alex, is coming to her house for her birthday.
    • And what, pray tell, is she preparing? CHRISTMAS ROLLS. Boom. Done. El fin.