The chapter begins with a recipe for Champandongo, a layered meat dish in molé. Tita prepares it in a hurry because she spilled her first batch while bringing it upstairs for her baby niece to smell. Esperanza was born three months before, premature from Rosaura’s grief. John performed the dangerous delivery, which required an operation removing Rosaura’s uterus. Pedro wanted to name the baby after Tita, but Tita feared the baby would inherit her fate as the youngest daughter, and insisted they name her Esperanza. With Rosaura sick, Tita feeds Esperanza. She gives her gruels instead of nursing her, afraid of getting attached again after losing Roberto. Rosaura is insecure and makes Tita bring Esperanza to her room after she feeds her. Esperanza cries when taken away from Tita, so Tita brings her cooking to Rosaura’s room to make the baby think she is still in the kitchen.
Mama Elena’s death has very different meanings for Tita and Rosaura. For Tita, it liberates her from Mama Elena’s abuse and the obligations she imposed on Tita. Rosaura’s grief, however, implies a true emotional attachment to Mama Elena. This highlights the difference in Mama Elena’s treatment of her two daughters, as well as Rosaura’s attachment to the structure of family relationships. Tita believes that names have the power to divine one’s destiny. The name “Esperanza” means “hope,” which represents Tita’s desire to put tradition and the past behind them and focus on the future and on creating a better life for Esperanza.
The narrator explains that Tita is in a bad mood, even though she should feel happy because John is coming over to officially propose marriage. Tita has been fighting with Pedro, who has been storming around, begging her not to marry John. Tita is annoyed at Pedro’s audacity, calling him a coward for having agreed to marry Rosaura in the first place. She is also angry because on a recent visit from John, his young son Alex declared that when he grew up, he would marry baby Esperanza. Rosaura replied by revealing to everyone that she planned to continue the family tradition and that as the youngest child, Esperanza would be forbidden to marry. Tita’s fury makes her feel “like water for chocolate,” meaning she is at the final boiling point water reaches when it is ready to be mixed to make hot chocolate.
Tita has often struggled with the conflict between the way she is supposed to feel and the way she actually feels. Tita knows she should feel excited in response to John’s proposal, but she can’t create positive feelings any more than she can stop her negative ones. Rosaura’s choice to continue her family tradition shows that she hasn’t learned anything from Tita’s suffering. Rosaura’s grief over her mother and continued adherence to tradition contrasts with Tita’s focus on the future and on change. Suffering propels Tita to question and deviate, whereas Rosaura seeks the security of the familiar.
Chencha arrives at the ranch with her quiet, gentle new husband, Jesús. Tita is overjoyed to see Chencha, who “as usual, had dropped out of the sky just when she needed her most.” Looking healthy and cheerful, Chencha tells Tita that Jesús was her first love when she was young. Separated by Chencha’s parents, they didn’t know how to find each other until meeting again in the village. Jesús didn’t care that Chencha wasn’t a virgin, and they married right away. Tita says they should return to work at the ranch together. Chencha sends Tita away to bathe, offering to finish the Champandango.
Chencha’s love replaces the sisterly love that Tita misses without Rosaura and Gertrudis. Chencha, like Tita, has suffered greatly and believed she had no chance at love. The reversal of Chencha’s fate reinforces the novel’s tone of hope. Jesús accepts Chencha without hesitation, providing a counter narrative to the predominant view that men always reject women who have lost their virginity.
While taking a shower, Tita feels the water get magically hot, and realizes that Pedro is watching her between the shower boards. She runs to her room. While getting dressed, she hears John arrive, and then hears him and Pedro arguing about politics (though no details are given). When Tita emerges, John asks for her hand in marriage. As her nearest male relative, Pedro agrees. The glimmer from the engagement ring reminds Tita of Pedro’s eyes, and she cries. Rosaura mistakes Tita’s tears for joy, and she feels happy, the burden of her own guilt toward Tita lifted. They raise a toast, but Pedro clinks his glass with so much aggression that it shatters. Chencha diffuses the ensuing confusion by calling everyone into dinner. John explains he must travel to the U.S. to bring back his elderly aunt for the ceremony, upsetting Tita, who is secretly eager to get things going and to get away from Pedro.
Because Pedro’s love is illicit and John doesn’t seem to know about it, there is no space for their rivalry to play out directly. Their argument about politics thus serves as a ruse for them to express the aggression and potential suspicion that are boiling under the surface. The reason for Pedro’s aggression should be obvious to Rosaura, but she chooses to ignore it. She lets herself believe that Tita is happy and that their rivalry is ending, providing a testimony to the strength of her delusions. This is the first instance in which the novel reveals that Rosaura has felt guilty toward Tita for marrying Pedro, a fact that partly redeems her otherwise selfish character.
Tita is awake putting away pots and pans, stewing in her mixed emotions. In the storage room that used to be Mama Elena’s bathing room, she feels Pedro sneak up on her. Locking the door, he pushes her on the bed, “causing her to lose her virginity and learn of true love.” Rosaura, in her room trying to put Esperanza to sleep, sees an explosion of colors coming from the storage room. She calls for Tita, but Chencha comes instead. They mistake the phenomenon for Mama Elena’s ghost, and Chencha prays for Mama Elena’s soul.
While their interactions are always consensual, the intimate scenes between Pedro and Tita continue to portray Pedro as aggressive and forceful. Just as when he agreed to marry Rosaura to be closer to Tita, Pedro’s desire for Tita causes him to act without a fear of consequences. The more repressed his desire for her, the greater risks he takes in pursuing her, and seemingly the more “magical” the times when the two lovers give in to their desires for each other.