The chapter begins with a recipe for the Chabela wedding cake, which Tita and Nacha are baking in preparation for Rosaura and Pedro’s wedding. Tita shakes with nausea, as each of the 170 eggs she breaks and beats looks like the testicles she had to cut off the roosters they ordered to serve as capons. Mama Elena put Tita in charge of the castrations, and all other wedding preparations, as punishment for skipping Rosaura’s engagement party. Tita remembers her horror at castrating the first rooster, thinking to herself that her mother should have castrated her instead. Mama Elena had seen Tita’s face, and slapped her. Now, making the cakes, Tita beats the last eggs, ready to “complete her martyrdom once and for all.” Tita believes she hears a baby chick inside one of them, and panics. When they find no baby chick, Mama Elena yells that she won’t tolerate hysteria.
Mama Elena’s choice to force Tita to perform the castrations and Tita’s sickness at doing so serve as a metaphor for Mama Elena’s abuse. By forcing Tita to make all the wedding preparations, Mama Elena is sadistically making Tita participate in her own metaphorical “castration.” Mama Elena forbids Tita even from showing sadness and excusing herself to feel it privately, leaving her no alternative but to repress her emotions completely. Even the kitchen, which is normally Tita’s refuge, thus becomes a place of torture. Tita searches for any sign of life that could be rescued in the eggs, just as she holds out hope that she may rescue some part of herself.
After days of preparations, Nacha and Tita are exhausted. On the final night before the wedding, Nacha and Tita are finishing the last of the cakes. After Mama Elena goes to bed, Nacha can sense that Tita is in a terrible state. She embraces Tita, telling her to let out her tears, because she won’t be able to cry at the wedding the next day. Nacha is sad for Tita because, as the narrator remarks, she is “on her side.” Nacha doesn’t get along with Rosaura, a “picky eater” who has often secretly fed Nacha’s cooking to the dog. In contrast, Tita has always been willing to try anything. Holding each other, Nacha and Tita cry into the cake batter until Tita’s tears are dry.
Nacha can’t change the course of events for Tita, but she can save Tita from feeling dead inside by giving her a space to feel her sadness. For Nacha, cooking and eating are ways of communicating and accepting love. By refusing to accept Nacha’s food, Rosaura symbolically rejects Nacha’s offer of love. Tita, on the other hand, is open to the love Nacha gives her. Though Tita is forbidden from experiencing many of life’s adventures, her eclectic taste in food reflects her openness to new feelings and experiences.
After finishing the cakes, Tita and Nacha add the marmalade filling they made the month before. Tita remembers the day she carried the apricots in her skirt from the garden. She ran into Pedro, who stared at her exposed legs, and she dropped the fruits. He tried to explain why he was marrying Rosaura, but she refused to listen. She ran away, into the room where Gertrudis and Chencha were embroidering imported wedding sheets with a chastity opening so that the couple could have sex without seeing each other naked. Imports were hard to get during the war, but Mama Elena had bought the sheets from a smuggler. Tita is horrified by the sheets’ whiteness, and is overcome with memories of little girls in white virginal “may-day” dresses, of wedding dresses and white churches where she had dreamed she would one day get married. For several days, everything she sees appears white.
The image of Tita carrying fruit from the garden and inspiring Pedro’s lust evokes the Biblical scene of “original sin” in the Garden of Eden. This passage marks the transition of Pedro and Tita’s story from one of first love to one of forbidden love, or sin. Tita’s future of unmet desire contrasts with Rosaura’s future of sex without love, represented by the rather absurd “chastity opening” in the sheets. Tita is plagued not by images of sin, but by purity and whiteness. Her virginity is a burden she can’t escape. This passage also mentions the war (the Mexican Revolution) for the first time, introducing it initially as an inconvenience the characters must work around, rather than a central focus of their lives.
Remembering the day she saw Rosaura’s sheets, Tita begins to see white everywhere again and her tears return. She is crying into the fondant cake icing when Nacha sends her to bed. Nacha finishes the icing and at the end licks some of it from her finger. She is overcome with a wave of longing, remembering all of the family’s weddings she has helped prepare, each time wishing the next wedding would be hers. She remembers her own fiancé, who Mama Elena’s mother had forced away. Nacha spends all night crying, and the next day she is too ill to go to the wedding.
Here Esquivel introduces Tita’s unintentional magic power to make others feel her emotions through her cooking. Full of longing and sadness, and forced to contain all of her emotion inside herself, Tita has unconsciously found a way to communicate her suffering to others. Nacha’s own tragic love story reveals her own well of repressed desire as well as the history of cruel matriarchs who have run Tita’s family.
At the wedding, Tita hears the guests gossiping about her terrible situation. Determined not to let herself be a spectacle, she focuses on controlling her expression by remembering times in her life when she felt smug. She remembers when she disobeyed her mother as a kid and swam across the Rio Grande with a group of boys, beating them all to the finish. When she was fourteen, she rounded up her family’s horses after a group of boys had scared them loose. The carriage driver and the village men were amazed that she did what they failed to do. In the reception line at the wedding, Tita congratulates Rosaura and Pedro. Pedro pulls her near, telling her he has only married Rosaura so that he could remain close to Tita. Hearing this, Tita’s joy and hope return, and she no longer sees the wedding as a loss.
Though Tita embodies many qualities traditionally valued in women, she also secretly defies many of the limits placed on women’s roles. Tita seems to embody the feminine ideals of warmth and domesticity, but her sense of self-worth actually comes from remembering times when she rivaled men with her bravery and strength. When Tita learns that she still has Pedro’s heart, she retrieves her joy. Rather than serving only as a symbol of her loss, then, the wedding is also a sacrifice on behalf of Pedro’s love for Tita. Tita finds comfort in this realization, even though it means that Rosaura’s future is also part of the sacrifice.
After the guests eat the wedding cake, they all begin to feel a sense of desperate longing and to cry over lost love. Some become nauseous, and vomit all over the floor. Tita, unaware that her tears from the night before are the supernatural cause of the mayhem, continues eating the cake without experiencing any of its effects. Vomit and tears fill the wedding hall floor, covering Rosaura’s wedding dress. Even Rosaura get sick, and that night, she and Pedro agree not to have relations until they both recover. When Tita returns home, she finds Nacha dead in her bed, clutching a photo of her old fiancé. Mama Elena blames Tita for poisoning the cake to ruin Rosaura’s wedding, and beats her so badly that she isn’t able to get out of bed for weeks.
Tita’s power allows her to share all of the emotions she is expected to repress, impacting others with extreme consequences. Though Tita doesn’t ruin Rosaura’s wedding intentionally, her sadness effectively poisons the bride, groom, and everyone else complicit in Tita’s suffering – giving Tita an unintended vengeance. But Tita can’t control her power, and while it grants her retribution, it also comes with a price, taking Nacha’s life and bringing great suffering at the abusive hands of Mama Elena.