The chapter begins with a recipe for turkey molé with almonds and sesame seeds, which Tita is preparing to celebrate the baptism of her new nephew, Roberto. Tita’s immense love for Pedro and Rosaura’s baby surprises her. When Pedro hears the sounds and smells the aroma of Tita’s cooking from the other room, he feels an anticipation resembling sexual arousal. The narrator explains that for Pedro, eating Tita’s food has become a ritual act of intimacy with her. Pedro comes into the kitchen and finds Tita grinding almonds, the heat causing sweat to drip down her shirt between her breasts. They share a sexually charged gaze so powerful that Tita feels as if her untouched breasts have become “experienced” by his gaze.
Tita consistently awakens sexual feelings in Pedro through her cooking, creating a ritual that acts as a metaphor for making love. This provides a testimony to the strength of female desire and to the idea that sexuality only grows more powerful (and dangerous) the more it is repressed. Because it is repressed, female sexuality must be subversive. Even cooking, a part of traditional women’s roles, can become an act of erotic rebellion. This passage speaks to the novel’s focus on true love, which is so powerful it can make even a gaze into a physical, sexual act.
Tita barely listens when Chencha comes in from town with a vivid story about a bloody battle between the federal and rebel troops in the village. Tita usually listens eagerly to Chencha’s stories, which often exaggerate the brutality of both sides. One story Tita had particularly enjoyed involved Pancho Villa (a revolutionary general) ripping out his enemy’s hearts to eat them. Now, however, Tita’s mind is fully occupied with her thoughts of Pedro. Unaware that Mama Elena had forbidden Pedro from complimenting her cooking, Tita had begun to worry that he’d stopped loving her during Rosaura’s pregnancy. Without Nacha or Gertrudis, Tita had become very lonely. Pedro’s pleasure at her food was her only source of joy, until her nephew Roberto had been born and her heart reopened.
As women who must stay at home, the characters acknowledge the violence of the Revolution, but their lives still go on as if everything were normal. This survival despite instability parallels Tita’s own survival despite her mother’s violence, as well as the premise of magical realism. Magical events in Tita’s life absorb into the fabric of her reality, indistinguishable from normal life. By exaggerating the violence, Chencha tries to control the narrative of something beyond her control, and to create distance from the actual threats of war.
The novel goes back in time to the birth of Roberto. It is early one morning in March, and Tita is packing a suitcase of Gertrudis’ clothes and things to be sent to her through Nicolas, the ranch manager, without Mama Elena’s knowledge. Tita packs the objects that carry their memories together, but sadly laments that she is unable to send Gertrudis the smells, tastes and laughter of their childhood.
Tita’s strong attachment to the past contrasts with how her future has been paused by Mama Elena. Unlike Mama Elena, who buries the past, Tita tries to keep it alive. Tita’s frustration that she can’t send tastes and smells to Gertrudis highlights the power Tita attributes to these senses and to cooking.
Rosaura goes into labor, and Pedro goes to get Dr. Brown. Mama Elena and Chencha travel to get supplies they will need for the baby, which they haven’t been able to do yet because federal troops have been holding a violent siege over the town. On his way to get the doctor, federal troops capture Pedro. A shootout in the town forces Mama Elena and Chencha to hide with their neighbors. Throughout Rosaura’s pregnancy, Tita has had no interest in the child, but now she must deliver it. With no education about delivering babies, Tita asks for help from Nacha’s spirit. Rosaura pushes the baby out, and Tita catches him. They hold Roberto and cry together, and Tita is overcome with love for him and even for Rosaura. Tita hears Nacha’s ghost giving her instructions for cleaning and wrapping the baby. Everyone returns, amazed that Tita delivered Roberto.
The Revolution intensifies, reaching a critical impact on the character’s lives. A baby’s birth – the sign of life continuing and the creation of something new – is threatened by the federal troops’ increasingly violent control. Only Tita can deliver the baby, just as only Tita can deliver herself from her family’s cruel tradition and Mama Elena’s rule. Roberto’s birth offers the chance of new love despite old rivalries and conflict. Tita’s love for Roberto creates a sense of redemption and hope for their futures. Nacha’s ghost continues to aid Tita in dire moments, showing how love is strong enough to survive death and defy reality.
Dr. John Brown arrives the next day and examines Rosaura, revealing that Roberto’s birth was very high risk and Rosaura and Roberto could have died. Stunned by Tita’s beauty and skill, Dr. Brown agrees to return daily to check on Rosaura. Rosaura produces no milk, so the family finds a wet nurse. The wet nurse is accidentally killed in crossfire between the troops, however, and the job of feeding Roberto falls to Tita. Refusing to eat anything, Roberto reaches for Tita’s breast—and to her surprise, she begins to produce milk. Pedro walks in and sees her. He isn’t surprised at all, but is filled with tenderness, desire, and shame. Tita continues to nurse Roberto in secret, in conspiracy with Pedro. The secret intensifies their love, making them both feel like Tita is the baby’s true mother. Rosaura is still sickly, and mostly stays in bed.
Tita’s love for Roberto gives her the magical ability to nurse Roberto and transforms her into a more mother-like figure (or even a Virgin-Mary-like figure) than Rosaura. It may be that love and nourishment is what makes a mother, the novel suggests. Tita’s abundance of love allows her to mother Roberto, just as Nacha’s love for Tita allowed her to fill the maternal role in place of Mama Elena. Another interpretation is that the true love that exists between Pedro and Tita transforms Tita into the “real” mother of his children. Unloved by Pedro, Rosaura’s lack of love reflects in her sickly state and in her inability to nourish her child.
At Roberto’s baptism, Dr. Brown compliments Tita on how beautiful she looks holding the baby. Tita is unbothered by his pity when he finds out she isn’t allowed to marry or have her own children, as she feels like she already has her own family in Pedro and Roberto. Everyone at the baptism feels strangely hopeful and cheerful after eating Tita’s turkey molé, despite the impending threat of famine and death from the war. Mama Elena catches Pedro and Tita’s fiery glances, and determines to interfere. Tita hears Mama Elena tell the priest, Father Ignacio, that after Rosaura recovers, she will send her and Pedro to live with a cousin in San Antonio. Tita is devastated by the threat of losing Pedro and the baby, and determined not to let Mama Elena succeed.
Tita’s longing is satisfied with having the mother/wife place in Pedro and Roberto’s hearts, usurping Rosaura in their love. In this passage, it is clear that both sisters have been shortchanged. Rosaura’s life appears perfect but has no substance, and Tita’s happiness rests in her illusion that what she has is enough and that she can hold on to it. What they forget is that Mama Elena maintains control over both of their futures. Tita’s molé magically infuses her hope into the guests, as she had her romantic gaze with Pedro while preparing it.