Sometimes you happen to find that book which keeps it’s hold to the very end, and still make you longing for more – a quality which is very rare but in The Hundred Foot Journey. Brace yourself with seat belt and a bib because not only will you be taken for a ride but also tempted to cook. Hell yes!! There are delicious recipes in the back of the book.
From roadside outdoor cooking in India to the tawny upscale bistros of Paris, this is the story of one chef’s personal and gastronomical growth. His mentor comes from a most unexpected place, initially in an adversarial role and ultimately as the orchestrator of his huge success. The story covers many miles and many years – a culinary journey in which I was transported around the world with the Haji family – from India, to London, to Paris and France.
The first half of the story centers on Hassan and his life experiences that taught him about trust, relationships, loyalty and of course, cooking. The second half of the story (which sort-a drags a little at times) introduce the character Madame Mallory and discloses the process by which Hassan finds himself on the cusp of attaining his lifelong dreams. Their ambition to rise above one’s circumstances, an expression through fine cuisine, and a warmth and humor in the telling.
“A lot of emotion went into that hundred-foot journey, cardboard suitcase in hand, from one side of Lumière’s boulevard to the other.”
Yes, there area few situations where things happen out of the blue, thus making you wonder of its possibility. For example, having ended up (somehow) in a mansion in the French Jura, which the family has converted into a restaurant, the young hero of the story, having no experience as a chef, is pressed into service as head chef for the Grand Opening lunch for a hundred people (Really??). His father tells him that because he was always hanging around the kitchen in India as a boy, he will be able to handle it. And, no guesses there – he was able to.
“But even in hell there are moments when the light reaches you.”
The author, Richard C. Morais, allows the reader to know the characters, and seamlessly weaves their life stories into one. The richness of cultures speaks volumes and it makes you believe that it indeed is possible to both devour and savor something you love. Morais’ ability to capture the essence of places and peoples is absolutely transfixing with such visual and descriptions that I was able to picture it more of a movie than a book. Well, this book was destined to be a movie!!
I have never read cook books but Morais’ description of aromas, textures and tastes of the many ingredients and dishes was more than convincing – it was like I-was-there kinda moment. Its preparation, its subtleties and nuances, will make a foodie long to taste a few of the dishes that are prepared.
My Two Cents: If you love to travel, cook, and explore new cuisines then you would loved every page and every minute of it while I chose to skip ahead to the descriptions of food. Morais’ writing is so colorful, alive and beautifully crafted that I was able to both characterize the differences between the two cultures. The description of a small village in France made to want to buy a plane ticket right away. I can’t wait to watch how the director will develop it into a movie and weave us through the narrative experiences, rich and deeply drawn characters.
Movie releases on August 8, 2014, which is produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Juliet Blake.
**Spoiler Alert** if you happen to read:
- NYTimes Book Review who calls it a Slumdog Cuisinier by clicking here.
- The synopsis as told by Richard by clicking here.