Perhaps the most important tradition in the novel is the one in which the youngest daughter must stay home, unmarried, to take care of her parents. This shapes the main plot trajectory of the story, in which Tita de la Garza is unable to marry Pedro. Instead, Pedro marries the middle sister, Rosaura. This marriage is unhappy as Pedro and Tita still love each other. The efforts of Esquivel to separate Pedro and Tita lead to Tita's temporary insanity, causing Dr. Brown to be called in to help her recover her health. Rosaura's efforts to replicate this tradition in forbidding her daughter to marry Alex also cause suffering.
A second area in which tradition impacts the novel is through the magical effect of Tita's cooking. That skill was learned from Nacha, the family’s indigenous cook, and includes the ability to infuse food with the power to evoke emotions, part of a native Mexican as opposed to colonial Spanish tradition.