Like Water for Chocolate Summary

In Like Water for Chocolate, Tita de la Garza realizes that she can transfer her emotions into her food. When she's forced to stay home and care for her mother instead of marrying, she becomes a talented chef who can affect people's moods with her cooking. She attempts to keep this power a secret, but is finally forced to reveal it at the end of the novel.

  • Tita's mother prevents her from marrying her love, Pedro. Instead, Mamá Elena marries Tita's sister Rosaura off to Pedro. Rosaura finds that she cannot produce milk for her and Pedro's son. Tita somehow can, but the son dies of starvation after Rosaura and Pedro move to Texas.

  • Meanwhile, Tita develops the power to infuse her food with her emotions. When wedding guests eat the cake she makes for Pedro and Rosaura, they become sad. When her family eats a meal she made while lusting after Pedro, they're overcome with desire.

  • After Rosaura dies, Tita and Pedro finally consummate their love. Pedro dies in the process, and Tita begins eating matches, which are sparked by her thoughts of Pedro, setting her, Pedro's body, and the whole ranch on fire.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The grandniece of Tita de la Garza begins telling Tita’s life story. Tita is the daughter of Elena de la Garza, an authoritarian and inflexible woman who, with an iron fist, rules the lives of her three daughters, Tita, Rosaura, and Gertrudis. Mamá Elena forbids Tita from marrying Pedro Muzquiz, arguing an old family tradition that insists on keeping the youngest female of a family from marrying, so that she can take care of her parents instead.

Pedro asks for Tita’s hand, but Mamá Elena offers her middle daughter, Rosaura, to him instead. Pedro accepts this proposal, realizing it is the only way he can be close to Tita, his real love. Likewise, Rosaura accepts her mother’s proposal of marriage to Pedro, knowing the damage it will cause her. Indeed, she is haunted by jealousy and the fear of losing Pedro.

Tita becomes the caregiver of the couple’s first child, Roberto, when Rosaura is unable to feed him. Miraculously, Tita starts to produce breast milk, and she begins to feed the baby. Mamá Elena worries that Tita and Pedro are getting too close, so she sends Rosaura and Pedro to live in another town with their baby. Tita remains in the house, devastated and worried for the baby’s well-being. Soon, Roberto has died of hunger. Tita, who is unable to cope with the grief, goes crazy. Full of sorrow, she hides in the dovecote, set up in the roof of the home, and remains there until Dr. John Brown, an American, convinces her to come down from the roof. Mamá Elena decides that Tita should be committed to an asylum, but John takes Tita to his home instead. With loving care, John nurses her back to health.

Tita returns to her home after learning that her mother has fallen ill, but not before promising John that she will marry him. Rosaura and Pedro also return to the house. Upon seeing each other, Tita and Pedro realize that their love is as strong as ever. Unable to contain themselves, they consummate their love, before John returns from a short trip. Tita also believes that she is pregnant with Pedro’s baby. Tita does not want to be unfair to John, so she breaks up her engagement, realizing that she loves Pedro more than she loves John. Rosaura finds out about her sister and John’s relationship and agrees to keep the secret as long as Pedro does not divorce her.

Rosaura gives birth to a daughter, named Esperanza (meaning “hope”). Years later, Rosaura tries to maintain family tradition by prohibiting Esperanza’s marriage to Alex, John’s son. Rosaura dies, and with the blessings of Tita and John, Esperanza and Alex get married. Tita and Pedro, on the night of the wedding, consummate their love, and die doing so. The ranch burns to the ground, and the only object that survives is Tita’s cookbook-diary.

Esperanza and Alex’s daughter, who has Tita’s ability and passion for cooking, reads Tita’s cookbook, noting that Tita will live on if somebody prepares her recipes. As the story goes, Tita comes to the world crying so much that her tears become ten pounds of cooking salt. She develops a strong connection to the kitchen, a connection that starts when her mother is unable to feed her as a baby and gives her to Nacha, the family’s indigenous cook, to be cared for. Nacha not only takes care of Tita but also teaches her all the culinary secrets that she learned from her Mexican ancestors. From Nacha, Tita learns that cooking is a reflection of her feelings and, as a result, she has the power to affect the people who consume her meals.

At Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding, Tita’s cake makes everyone feel sad; later, they all vomit. Nacha dies during the wedding, probably sharing the sadness of all the other guests and realizing that she may never find love. (Nacha reappears as a ghostly figure to aid and guide Tita.) Chencha replaces Nacha as the family’s cook. Like all the other women, she suffers the tyranny of Mamá Elena. Her life is difficult, not only for having to serve Mamá Elena; she also is raped by a group of revolutionary men. Still, she finds the love of her life, Jesus Martinez. Chencha becomes Tita’s companion in the kitchen after Nacha dies.

Tita, physically desiring Pedro, prepares a meal for the whole family. After the meal, Tita’s sister Gertrudis, unable to contain herself, rips off her clothes. A soldier, sensing her smell from a distance, rides his horse to her and takes her away. The meal that Tita had prepared was so powerful that Juan Alejandrez, the soldier, is unable to satisfy Gertrudis sexually, so he has to take her to a brothel at the U.S.-Mexico border near Texas. After some time, Gertrudis and Juan get back together and eventually return to the ranch.

Mamá Elena dies, and Tita is forced to keep a secret from Gertrudis, who is actually her half sister. Gertrudis’s father was mulatto, or mixed-race, and was her mother’s only true and impossible love. When Gertrudis has a mulatto child, Tita has to reveal the secret to save her sister’s marriage.

Like Water for Chocolate Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, as its full title suggests, is a hybrid work, combining the elements of a historical novel set during the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution, the mystical and healing art of food that Esquivel learned in her grandmother’s kitchen, and a highly romantic love story. The story unfolds through the twelve divisions of the novel, one chapter for each month of the year, beginning with January and ending with December, with one recipe per chapter, each recipe in some way relevant to the events that will occur in that chapter. After the list of ingredients, the narrative begins with instructions for the preparation of that month’s recipe. The cookbook-style organization of the text blends with a romantic story that many critics consider a clever parody of the typical romance novel.

The heroine of the novel, Tita de la Garza, is born in the kitchen and raised there by the Indian family servant, Nacha. As the youngest of three daughters of the domineering matriarch, Mamá Elena, Tita is required to take care of her mother until her mother’s death, forsaking any life of her own. Tita falls in love with Pedro. Pedro courts Tita in hopes of marrying her, but the tradition of caretaking (a tradition invented by Esquivel for her purposes in the novel) prevents their marriage. Frustrated but determined, Pedro marries Tita’s sister, Rosaura, in order to be close to Tita, but Tita envies Pedro’s intimacy with Rosaura and bemoans his lack of intimacy with her. Though Mamá Elena is aware of Tita’s feelings for Pedro, she forces Tita to prepare the cake that will be served at her sister’s wedding. Tita’s tears season the batter with sorrow and longing and transfer her emotions to the wedding guests, who suffer uncontrollable melancholy and sobbing before forcefully vomiting their meal.

Tita’s most provocative recipe is “Quail in Rose Petal Sauce,” which causes all those who eat it to become consumed with the same passionate desire with which Tita crushes the rose petals. In an attempt to put an end to Pedro and Tita’s love, Mamá Elena sends Rosaura and Pedro, with their son, to the United States to separate the would-be lovers. Away from his beloved Aunt Tita, the child dies, and Tita, who (magically) had nursed him despite having never been pregnant, suffers a nervous breakdown. She spends some time in Texas under the treatment of a kindly but very boring American doctor, John Brown. Dr. Brown asks Tita to marry him, though he senses she has no passion for him. After her mother’s death, Tita accepts his proposal, not out of love but rather as a repayment for his kindness to her.

However, Pedro is profoundly jealous and begs Tita not to marry the good Dr. Brown. The two desperate lovers begin an affair. Rosaura gives birth to a daughter, Esperanza (Hope), and vows to make her daughter follow the same stifling family tradition that has made Tita so unhappy. Tita makes a vow to save her niece. Rosaura becomes mysteriously obese and flatulent, eventually dying of digestive problems, and thus releasing her daughter from the family fate. Now Tita and Pedro can finally be truly together. She and Pedro spend a single glorious night in an embrace so passionate that it spontaneously causes fireworks that ignite a fire, destroying the two lovers and the entire ranch.

In several interviews, Esquivel has commented about the importance of the kitchen in her life, whether it be the kitchen of her childhood, cooking with her mother and grandmother from the age of seven, or her own kitchen. Esquivel believes in the power of food and the power of the emotions with which people create the magic, the alchemy, of the kitchen. In this novel, the so-called feminine arts of healing, caretaking, and cooking assume nearly mythical proportions, as Tita’s culinary creations cause magical reactions. Culinary magic is just one aspect of the Magical Realism in this novel. In addition to elements of Magical Realism already mentioned, Tita’s tears are equally magical. Even before birth, she cries in the womb when onions are cut. At her birth, her dried tears are swept up to be used for salt. While recovering in Texas, her sorrow is so great that her tears run down the stairs of Dr. Brown’s house like a river.

The novel is dominated by female characters. The matriarch of the family, Mamá Elena, runs the family hacienda with an iron will, and though she is a woman, she embodies and perpetuates the traditions of a deeply masculine, patriarchal society. Her three daughters are three completely different types of women. Rosaura is the most traditional, conforming to convention and the role expected of her, and, perhaps literally, repressing her own feelings so much that she becomes inflated with her own repression and dies by poisoning herself. Gertrudis is the most flamboyant of the three. She impetuously runs off with a soldier of the revolution, jumping behind him on his horse and galloping away. She then essentially takes on a male role, becoming a soldier herself, rising to the rank of general, participating actively in the revolution rather than being one of the women who make camp for their men. Tita creates a revolution of a kind as well, refusing to forgo her passion for Pedro, resisting her mother’s will while Mamá Elena lives, and chasing off the ghost of her dead mother when Mamá Elena tries to control her daughter from beyond the grave. By her example and through her stubborn refusal to allow Rosaura to dictate her daughter’s future, Tita most certainly helps to liberate Esperanza from the twin curse of duty and tradition.

The female characters in Like Water for Chocolate are much more powerful than the male characters. Pedro is handsome but weak-willed; Dr. Brown is kind but boring. The women in this novel defy the gender roles of their time. Though Tita is condemned to the kitchen and the traditional role of caretaker, she revolts against those roles, using the ingredients at hand to express her endless love for Pedro.

Like Water for Chocolate Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Like Water for Chocolate combines the story of a forbidden romance between Tita de la Garza and Pedro Muzquiz with a collection of traditional, mouth-watering Mexican recipes. The title, from a Spanish expression meaning “boiling mad,” refers to Tita’s anger that an absurd family tradition prevents her from marrying and dictates that, as the youngest daughter, she remain at home to care for her mother, Mamá Elena. Like the title, all the incidents in the novel are related to cooking.

Organized like a recipe calendar, each chapter corresponds to a month of the year and begins with the name and list of ingredients for one of Tita’s recipes along with the method of preparation. In its form, the book also imitates the romantic novels presented in monthly installments in women’s magazines; each chapter ends with the note “to be continued. . . .” The narrator is Tita’s grandniece, who reconstructs Tita’s recipes and her love story from the diary in which the protagonist recorded her recipes along with the events that occurred when she prepared each of them.

The novel’s plot revolves around the tension between Tita’s love for the kitchen, where she creates magic with food, and her rebellion against the tradition that confines her there. The novel opens with the proper method of chopping onions for the January recipe and connects the tears caused by the onions to the flood of tears that accompanied Tita’s birth on the kitchen table. The narrator explains that Tita cried her way into the world because she somehow knew her fate, and her tears at birth produced ten pounds of salt for cooking. This beginning typifies the relationship between cooking and the events in Tita’s life and introduces into the narrative the recurrent Magical Realism common in modern Latin American fiction.

In the first chapter, Tita’s true love, Pedro Muzquiz, requests her hand in marriage. When Mamá Elena explains that Tita cannot marry and suggests Tita’s sister Rosaura instead, Pedro accepts in order to remain as near to Tita as possible. The rest of the novel recounts Tita and Pedro’s attempts to be together in defiance of authoritarian Mamá Elena and how Tita rebels through her culinary artistry and the unexpected and dramatic reactions her recipes provoke. For example, Tita sheds tears in the batter when forced to prepare Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding cake. Her sadness, baked into the cake, afflicts the wedding guests with desperate nostalgia for lost love that causes a mass eruption of vomiting that spoils the wedding reception. One casualty of this nostalgia is the ranch’s Indian cook, Nacha, who had nourished and entertained Tita in the kitchen and taught her the secrets of cooking. Later, when Pedro presents Tita with roses to celebrate her first anniversary as the ranch’s new cook, the dish Tita prepares with the flowers unleashes such erotic euphoria in Tita’s sister Gertrudis that she abandons her family and rides off on horseback, naked, with a revolutionary soldier.

Gertrudis ultimately satisfies her lust as a prostitute, then marries the soldier and serves with him in the army. Tita’s sister Rosaura, inept and fearful in the kitchen, cannot even produce milk to nurse her first child, Roberto. Tita rescues him from starvation, but Mamá Elena, suspicious of Pedro and Tita’s love, sends Rosaura’s family to Texas. Roberto, deprived of Tita’s milk, soon dies. Tita suffers a nervous breakdown but recovers in the care of the family’s physician, John Brown, who falls in love with and proposes marriage to Tita. Mamá Elena represses Tita until her death from the emetic she uses to counteract poison that she suspects Tita is putting into her food. With Mamá Elena gone, Tita is free to marry John but refuses his offer because of her love for Pedro. Meanwhile, Rosaura attempts to perpetuate the family tradition with her own daughter Esperanza. Tita feeds her from infancy and instills in her an independent spirit. Rosaura eventually suffers a horrid death from intestinal disorders. Esperanza then marries John’s son, and at the sumptuous wedding feast prepared by Tita, Tita and Pedro are at last united. Their flames of passion, fanned by the food Tita serves, engulf the lovers in a fire that destroys the entire ranch. Only Tita’s diary survives intact. The narrator, Esperanza’s daughter, closes the novel with the promise that Tita will live on as long as people continue to prepare her recipes.

Like Water for Chocolate Summary

Like Water for Chocolate Chapters 1-4 Summary

Chapters 1-4: Under Mama Elena's Rule
In Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, the narrator chronicles the life of...

(The entire section is 646 words.)

Like Water for Chocolate Chapters 5-8 Summary

Chapters 5-8: Tita's Rebellion
After they leave, Tita loses "all interest in life," missing the nephew that was almost like her...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Like Water for Chocolate Chapters 9-12 Summary

Chapters 9-12: Tita's Fulfillment
Later, when Tita suspects that she is pregnant, Mama Elena's spirit appears, warning her to...

(The entire section is 499 words.)