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Like Water for Chocolate | Chapter 3 : March | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3, March, introduces the recipe for quail in rose petal sauce, a dish enhanced when the rose petals are red. The recipe reader is cautioned to be careful to avoid thorns when removing the petals since blood in the sauce could cause an unusual chemical reaction.

As the chapter begins, Tita is still grieving the death of Nacha, but she is excited she has been made chief cook in Nacha's place. Tita is also ecstatic that Pedro has sent her a dozen roses to congratulate her. Unfortunately Rosaura, pregnant with her first child, sees the roses and becomes upset. Elena, who has been doing everything she can to keep Pedro and Tita apart, sends Pedro off to make amends with his wife.

Tita, who has been clutching the roses tightly to her breast, realizes the flowers are now red with her blood. Unwilling to throw them out because they are from Pedro, she suddenly hears Nacha's voice providing her with a recipe for pheasant in rose petal sauce. Tita then substitutes the more plentiful quail for the pheasant and uses Pedro's roses to make the dish.

Tita prepares the meal, feeling as though Nacha is inside her controlling her body. The combination of Tita's blood and the roses from Pedro proves to be "quite an explosive combination." The dish is exquisite. Neither Elena nor Rosaura will admit how good it is, but Pedro proclaims it a dish for the gods. As for Gertrudis, the meal acts on her like an aphrodisiac. She feels an intense heat in her body and begins to imagine herself on horseback with one of Pancho Villa's soldiers, whom she had seen in the village. She remembers him smelling "of sweat and mud, of dawns that bring uncertainty and danger, smelling of life and of death."

She turns to Tita but finds her sister in something like a trance. The food is serving as a type of communication. Tita is the transmitter, Pedro the receiver, and Gertrudis the hot-blooded medium through which the sexual message is being passed. In this way Tita "penetrates" Pedro, her spirit "hot, voluptuous, perfumed, totally sensuous." The heat from Gertrudis's body becomes so extreme that when she tries to take a shower the water evaporates and the wooden stall bursts into flames. Gertrudis runs from the stall naked, and the heat and the scent of roses from her body travel to the town and reach her soldier, who sets off on a gallop to Mama Elena's ranch. He finds the woman who "desperately needed a man to quench the red-hot fire that was raging inside her." The soldier sees the naked Gertrudis, scoops her up, and they make love on the horse as it gallops away from the ranch.

Mama Elena demands an explanation of what happened to her middle daughter, and Tita settles on a version in which federal troops set fire to the ranch and kidnapped Gertrudis. Gertrudis does not return, but the image of her riding away with her soldier remains with Tita, who religiously prepares the quail recipe each year "in tribute to her sister's liberation." That night she looks up at the stars, hoping her sister is looking up as well and the heat from their bodies will be absorbed and reflected back to her by the blazing stars. Instead she feels a chill and goes to bed, covering herself with the ever-growing wedding bedspread she has never stopped working on.

Analysis

Chapter 3 continues to show how Tita's emotions are magically captured in and communicated through the food she prepares. In this case the meal of the quail in rose petal sauce not only allows a mystical sexual connection between Tita and Pedro but also catches Gertrudis in its spell. Again heat is used as a sign of passion. Gertrudis's lust for the soldier she had seen builds to such a fiery pitch she literally burns down the shower stall, and the intensity of her desire pulls her soldier to her from the town.

The image of Gertrudis running naked through the field, caught up by her solder and making love on the back of his stallion, provides a stark contrast to the picture of Pedro's unenthusiastic coupling with Rosaura through the nuptial sheet. The two women represent two extremes of a female spectrum: Gertrudis freely gives in to her sexual urges and lust for life while Rosaura does no more than her duty in the marriage bed with a man she knows loves another woman.

Tita, meanwhile, is caught in a sort of limbo, feeling the power of her own sexual urges but unable to act on them, thanks to Mama Elena. She sees Gertrudis's escape as a "liberation" and obviously hopes she will be free one day as well. It is also interesting to note neither Rosaura nor Mama Elena, both of whom succumbed to the magic at the wedding feast, has a reaction to the quail. It may be their emotions and sexual urges are so firmly repressed they cannot be touched. Or one or both of them may simply be refusing to give in to them.

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