The death of Mama Elena frees Tita from her mother's wretched sentence, and her excitement about marrying John Brown is diverted only by the birth of Rosaura's second child, a girl, whom Tita names Esperanza. Tita chooses this name after refusing to let Pedro name the child Josefita (Tita's real name). Tita chooses the name Esperanza, which means "hope," because she wants her niece, who is by default Rosaura's youngest daughter, to escape the familial tradition that prevented Tita from marrying.
Tita is intimately involved in raising her niece, as Rosaura is bedridden due to a complicated delivery and unable to nurse. Esperanza is reared in the kitchen, just as Tita was, and fed with the same teas and gruels with which Nacha nurtured Tita. Rosaura is quite jealous at the closeness between Tita and the infant. One day she confirms Tita's fears: She announces her intention to follow family doctrine and prohibit Esperanza from marrying. This announcement, combined with Pedro's confrontational efforts to dissuade Tita from marrying John Brown, inspires a terrible rage in Tita. It is with this rage that Tita prepares a meal called champandongo, to be served during John's visit to ask for her hand in marriage.
While cooking, Tita experiences a sensation of tremendous heat that compounds the heat of the kitchen to create an intense steam. Anger permeates her body, and everything surrounding her aggravates her. Tita's feeling is said to be "like water for chocolate," referring to the preparation of chocolate, during which water is brought just short of boiling several times before use in the recipe. The heat of Tita's anger rises until she is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Chencha, who has returned to the ranch happily married and ready to begin a new life.
Chencha's return lets Tita take a break from cooking to prepare for John's arrival. She takes a shower in the outdoor bathroom (a new one built on the same spot where Gertrudis's shower episode occurred). In the shower, Tita's rage subsides, and the heat slowly dissipates. However, the water suddenly becomes so hot that it burns Tita's skin. Fearing that the bathroom is once again on fire, Tita opens her eyes and sees that Pedro has been standing outside of the shower watching her intently, his eyes radiating lust. Tita flees the shower when Pedro approaches her.
John arrives during this commotion. Before dinner, John and Pedro argue about politics, adding to the tension. When John formally petitions Pedro, now head of the household, for Tita's hand in marriage, Pedro agrees begrudgingly. John presents Tita with a beautiful diamond ring, making the engagement official. John leaves that night for America to bring back his only living aunt for the wedding.
After dinner, Tita is left to clean the kitchen. In a small room off the kitchen in which Mama Elena used to bathe, Pedro once again confronts Tita. Without any words, he takes her to a bed in the room and makes love to her, taking her virginity. Though Rosaura and Chencha see the "phosphorescent plumes" and strange glow coming from the room, they refuse to go near, fearing that the commotion is the ghost of Mama Elena, bringing fury from the other side.