“That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist.”
And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.
Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan 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.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I got the hard copy of this book through my library, and then saw that it was available as an e-audiobook through Overdrive/Libby and decided to listen to it instead, through my app. The narrator had an easy to follow Indian accent, performed different voices for different characters, and made this book an overall joy to listen to.
I loved how much of the book is devoted to Hassan’s family history, not to mention how richly descriptive the writing was; whether detailing food, recipes, or family characteristics, the writing was so immersive. Hassan’s father was one of my favorite characters even though he is so stubborn and quite a pain!
Even if you don’t have an extensive palate when it comes to international foods, you will still get the sense that you are right there in the restaurant experiencing the food along with Hassan. This book actually reminded me a lot of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, so if you are a fan of hers you might enjoy this, too.
I’m really glad that I chose to read the book before watching the movie. There are some differences between both but nothing too outrageous. I think if you chose to watch the movie rather than read the book, you would still get the full effect of the story and characters.
I loved being able to actually see the foods being cooked. You can really only rely on imagination so much when reading, especially if you haven’t heard of some of the dishes or ingredients being mentioned. The movie does an excellent job of conveying just what a meditative experience cooking can be. In that sense, the movie is a good companion to the book because it brings so much of the narrative to life.
I would highly recommend both the book and the movie version of The Hundred Foot Journey if you are looking for a story about family history and food!