Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

The One-Hundred Foot Journey
by Richard Morris
272 pages
Published August 2011 by Scribner

Publisher's Summary: 
Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan Haji first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps. 

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages—charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.

My Thoughts: 
Whoops! I was going through some book club stuff when I realized that I'd never recorded nor reviewed this book in 2022. For 2022, my theme was a book somehow related to something to do with each month. Food for November, right? Having seen the movie adaptation of this book, I thought this would make a good choice. And it did; people seemed to enjoy it. More than I did, to be honest. Probably because I'd seen the movie first and was expecting something like that in the book.

In the book, though, the protaganist of the book is not Hassan. Oh, sure, he's the guy the plot circles around. But food...the smell, the taste, the process...is the protagonist of this book. It entirely drives everything that happens here from the Haji family restaurant's humble beginning as a tiffin delivery service to Hassan's world-class restaurant in Paris. As the book progresses, food and the restaurant industry begins to take center stage, leaving the Haji family behind and Lumiere far behind. Sure, those people come up again in the book, but this is a book about how Hassan learns to trust his judgement when it comes to food and launches his career into a whole new stratosphere that is the meat of the second half of this book. 

Certainly in the movie food played a big role, but the relationships played a central role as well and Hassan's ambition was tempered by his realization of the importance of family, relationships, and his roots. I liked that. 

Still, just two months after reading this book, I read this week about the closing of what has been described as the world's best restaurant because of the changing ways of the world. It was exactly as described in this book that was written more than a decade ago. Which just goes to show you that, even in a book you don't love, there is always something to take away from the book...a little gem of writing, a memorable character, or something new to learn. And that's always a good thing in a book. 

1 comment:

  1. Would love to see the movie of this book. Wonder if it has the same name?