Tita de la Garza
Tita de la Garza (TEE-tah), the youngest daughter in a ranch-owning family. The rules of her tradition-bound family dictate that the youngest daughter remain single and care for her mother until the latter dies; therefore, Tita grows up in the kitchen, learning about life and cooking from the ranch’s Indian cook, Nacha. Her childhood sweetheart marries her older sister Rosaura so that he can be near Tita, but Tita’s vengeful mother regularly punishes the lovers for their clandestine meetings. Tita rebels against her fate through the marvelous recipes she prepares, which provoke magical reactions. After the deaths of her mother and her sister, Tita and her lover, Pedro, are united in a passion so intense that they perish in its blaze. Tita is immortalized in her diary and recipe book, in which she had written all of her recipes and the events surrounding their preparation.
Mamá Elena (mah-MAH eh-LEH-nah), Tita’s tyrannical mother, widowed with three daughters. Her attempts to prevent an adulterous relationship between Tita and Pedro occupy much of Mamá Elena’s destructive attention. Fearless in her cruelty, she even intimidates the captain of a marauding band of revolutionary soldiers, thus preserving the ranch’s inhabitants and livestock from attack. Later, she becomes paralyzed from a spinal injury she suffers when a group of bandits try unsuccessfully to rape her. She is then forced to rely on Tita to cook for her. Needlessly suspicious that Tita is poisoning her food, Mamá Elena soon dies from an overdose of the emetic she takes to counteract the food’s supposed noxious effects. She continues to plague Tita and Pedro from beyond the grave. After Mamá Elena’s death, Tita discovers her secret past: Her mother had enjoyed an affair with a mulatto man who fathered Tita’s sister Gertrudis. When her family discovered Mamá Elena’s relationship, they forced her into marriage with a white man and had the mulatto murdered when the affair continued.
Rosaura de la Garza
Rosaura de la Garza (rroh-SOW-rah), Tita’s older sister, who marries Pedro Muzquiz at Mamá Elena’s suggestion. Rosaura lives her life according to her mother’s dictates, attempting to maintain the respect and admiration of the cream of society. Jealous of his love for Tita, Rosaura tries unsuccessfully to impress Pedro with her cooking. Rosaura cannot even produce milk to nurse her son and daughter. Her attitude toward cooking and her knowledge of Pedro’s undying love for Tita are manifested in Rosaura’s obesity and flatulence.
Gertrudis de la Garza
Gertrudis de la Garza (hehr-TREW-dees), Tita’s rebellious older sister, fathered by Mamá Elena’s mulatto lover. Loyal and sympathetic to her sister Tita and a great fan of her sister’s culinary talents, Gertrudis is so overwhelmed by passion after eating one of Tita’s special dishes that she abandons her family and rides off on horseback with a revolutionary soldier. Unable to satisfy her lust with him, she tames her sexual appetite as a prostitute until the soldier returns and marries her. She lives happily, eventually becomes a general in the revolutionary army, and visits the ranch with her soldiers after Mamá Elena’s death.
Pedro Muzquiz (mews-KEES), Tita’s childhood sweetheart, who marries her sister Rosaura to remain near Tita. After her death, Mamá Elena whirls into him in the form of a firecracker, nearly burning him to death, but he recovers under Tita’s care. When Rosaura dies, he is finally freely united with Tita, and his ecstasy is so overwhelming that it proves fatal.
John Brown, the de la Garzas’ family doctor from Texas. A widower with a young son, he visits the de la Garza ranch when Rosaura gives birth. He admires Tita. When she suffers a nervous breakdown, he rescues her and cares for her in his home and later proposes marriage. They become engaged, but when Tita breaks off the relationship, he bows out amicably. He later returns to the ranch happily to celebrate his son Alex’s marriage to Rosaura’s daughter Esperanza.
Nacha (NAH-chah), the de la Garzas’ Indian cook. One of a long line of expert cooks, she rears Tita from childhood in the kitchen and teaches her secrets to Tita, even whispering recipes to her from beyond the grave. On the day of Rosaura’s wedding, after tasting the wedding cake icing in which Tita has shed tears, Nacha dies, overcome with grief and loneliness for the fiancé whom Mamá Elena had forbidden her to marry.