- When tradition prevents her from marrying the man she loves, a young woman discovers she has a unique talent for cooking.
- In a forgotten Mexico village Tita and Pedro fall in love, but their marriage is forbidden as to traditions. Mother Elena sees Tita's role as her caretaker for life - no youngest daughter has ever married and her daughter will not be the first to break tradition. Tita's heart breaks when her mother offers Pedro her sister instead of her, and he accepted it just to live near Tita- he says. Now they live in the same house, and mother Elena cannot forbid their love as she did their marriage.—Anonymous
- Tita and Pedro want to get married, but Tita has to take care of her ageing mother and is not allowed to marry. Pedro ends up marrying Tita's sister, but lets Tita know he only married her sister to be closer to her. When Tita is forced to make the wedding cake, the guests at the wedding are overcome with sadness... Tita has discovered she can do strange things with her cooking.—Colin Tinto <email@example.com>
- Set in Mexico in 1910.
Tita (Lumi Cavazos) and Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi) live with their mother, Mamá Elena (Regina Torné). The mother has decided that Tita must stay single to take care of her when she becomes an old woman. Tita accepts her fate, although she's in love with Pedro (Marco Leonardi). Pedro and his father try to convince Elena, but she refuses. Pedro asks Elena permission to marry Rosaura instead. He intends to live as close to Tita as possible. Moreover, Tita is the main cook which prepares all the menu to be eaten at their wedding. When she is preparing the wedding cake, she cries in silence; when the guests eat that cake, they all feel nostalgic about their past lives. Eventually, Tita discovers that she can do a certain kind of magic with the dishes she prepares, and each one will be a love song for Pedro from that moment on.
Tita is kept as a servant in Elena's house, where Pedro and Rosaura stay to live after the honeymoon. Rosaura and Tita don't get on too well, but Rosaura is happy because she'll be the master of the hacienda as soon as Elena dies. Rosaura gives birth to a son by Pedro. Tita ends up nursing the child and grows very fond of him. Dr. John Brown (Mario Iván Martínez) meets Tita and is obviously smitten with her. Mamá Elena soon decides that the child is bringing Tita and Pedro even closer together and decides to send Rosaura's family away. Pedro, Rosaura and the baby go to San Antonio where the baby dies because the food doesn't agree with him.
Tita and Elena get into an argument and Elena hits Tita in the face with a wooden spoon. Tita flees to the dovecote where she has a breakdown. Dr. John Brown comes and takes her away to his clinic for treatment and falls deeply in love with her. He's very patient, although he knows that Tita is in love with another man. Dr. Brown tells a story of how each person has a book of matches inside them and that true love provides the oxygen for the fire but then each of us must find the thing that will ignite the first match. He also warns that we should not light all the matches at once or we will return to where we came from when we were born.
María Elena is killed by rebels who one day attack the ranch. Shortly after, her ghost apparently begins to appear. It seems to pester Tita with special attention.
Tita becomes engaged to John, so Rosaura doesn't feel jealous anymore. When Rosaura gives birth to her second child, she's happy because it's a girl. Rosaura talks of naming the baby after Tita and says her daughter will never marry but, in the family tradition, will stay single and take care of her, just as Mamá Elena forced Tita to do. Tita objects angrily and suggest that her sister name the baby Esperanza. An argument ensues and Tita says that eventually Rosaura will die, leaving her daughter free to do as she pleases when she becomes older.
Tita talks to John and tells him she made love to Pedro and cannot marry him. John says that it doesn't matter, that he will have her if she wants him and that he'll also stand up for her if she wants Pedro. Time passes and it is now 1934 and Esperanza has grown up and is marrying Dr. Brown's son. Tita and Pedro dance together and he talks of them having a child together now that everyone is gone and his daughter is grown. A dish is served at the wedding meal that makes everyone lusty and most of the guests leave in pairs, clutching each other. The last to go is Dr. Brown.
Shortly thereafter, we see Pedro and Tita at an outbuilding on the ranch. Pedro picks Tita up and carries her over the threshold like a bride. Tita and Pedro make love in a romantic atmosphere: at night, in a room full of silk-white linen and hundreds of burning candles. Pedro suddenly dies after experiencing passionate sex, presumably because he lit all the matches at once. When Tita sees what has happened, she immolates herself by swallowing matches one after the other until she too burst into flames and the two lovers are consumed by the fire.
An offscreen narrator tells the audience that the whole ranch burned except for Tita's cookbook. The narrator turns out to be Esperanza's daughter and she says that Tita will always live as long as someone is cooking her recipes.
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