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The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C.…

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2008)

by Richard C. Morais

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Get ready to crave Indian food, and French cooking - this novel is as much a paean to wonderful recipes and the sensory pleasures of preparing/eating delicious meals, as it is the story of Hassan Haji. Hassan is born into a hard-working, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of Muslim Indian family who do accumulate the trappings of economic success, until the troubles begin between the competing religious groups. His family is driven out -after a tragic attack and house fire- and go for a brief sojourn to London, living close by relatives and trying to make sense of their drastically changed world. When relations sour between the extended family, Hassan's larger than life father, Abbas, insists on packing everyone up and doing a restaurant/food tour of Europe. One exhausting day, their car breaks down in the beautiful little French town of Lumiere, and as fate would have it, in front of a dilapidated estate. Of course Hassan's father, persuaded by his travel weary children, purchases the estate and their Lumiere years begin -the longest section of the book. And as the Haji family settle into small town French life, they do battle with their proud, completely French neighbor, Madame Gertrude Mallory, a renowned chef of a beautiful restaurant: Le Saule Pleureur, in the bottom floor of her estate. The author's descriptions of her ferocious anger against the noise, the effrontery of the Haji family,not only for imposing themselves on her neighborhood, but opening an Indian restaurant right across from hers! Quel scandale! Yet the plot's threads continues to weave a very different story than readers might expect. Told with humor, and the unmistakably sincere voice of Hassan, we readers fall under the Haji spell: wandering grandma Ammi, grumbling Auntie, loud and impetuous Abbas, and Haji's siblings. But it is Haji's journey - his love interests, his decision to leave his family, and his desire to become a world famous chef- that captivate until the very last page. A book for adults - sexual encounters are described, adult struggles are the focus of the last section, "Paris", but a treat for anyone ready for a multi-cultural bildungsroman of the 21st century. ( )
  BDartnall | Oct 27, 2014 |
Nicely written, but after awhile I got tired of the culinary talk and I feel like the story could have ended 3/4 of the way through. The last bit just didn't seem to flow as well with the rest of it. ( )
  klarsenmd | Oct 2, 2014 |
A great read that makes one want to run out and eat delicious food in a restaurant with some ambience. Can't wait to see the movie. ( )
  sriemann | Aug 20, 2014 |
This book was such a delight to read, or rather listen to! If you're looking for a feel good book that makes you laugh and your tummy rumble, then this might be the book for you. I am by no means a gourmand, but I love reading about food adventures, and especially about how food unites peoples and cultures.

The strange events that lead Hassan Haji from his family owned restaurant on the Mumbai coast to the French Alps is the backdrop of this quaint novel. Tutored at a young age in the art of cooking by his grandmother, Hassan inherits an artist's eye for flavoring and exotic food combinations. Before he knows it, he's on his way to becoming one of the most sought after chefs in Paris! While magical realism plays a key role in foodie fiction favorites like Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, the plausible storyline of this novel made it more of an original little treat. Moreover, the marriage of two completely different cultures put me in mind of how well done The Elegance of the Hedgehog was, and also why the French are so stinking cool! I cannot wait to watch this film. I am a die hard Helen Mirren fan! ( )
  dreamydress48 | Aug 7, 2014 |
I chose to read this book solely on the fact that members of my book club suggested we read it "on the side" of our current selection so as to see the movie together. I think thus far I'm the only one who has read it.

Beginning in Mumbai this is far more than a hundred foot journey. After the Haji family experience a tragic event they decide to move to London first to start over but end up settling in the small village of Lumiere nestled in the French Alps where they open an Indian restaurant. Across the street is long time resident and favorite local chef Madame Mallory and her beautifully esteemed hotel and restaurant. Not welcoming the competition nor flamboyant style of these foreigners she sets out to ruin them in what becomes a battle of wills between she and the Haji's. After some clashing Madame Mallory agrees to mentor Hassan, the son of Haji who she suspects holds great potential as a future chef.

Richard Morias is skilled in his description from the picturesque countryside to the mouth-watering creations the chefs in this story create. I truly appreciate the details an author uses to paint a scene where the result is my wanting to visit a place I've never been, taste a food I've never tried or make a dish I've never cooked. This was a most pleasant read and would definitely one I recommend. Any foodie would adore this novel. I expect it will be a great movie.

How I acquired this book: Sent my son on an errand to purchase for me.
Shelf life: None, read immediately ( )
  missjomarch | Aug 3, 2014 |
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I, Hassan Haji, was born, the second of six children, above my grandfather's restaurant on the Napan Sea Road in what was then called West Bombay, two decades before the great city was renamed Mumbai.
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Book description
Abbas Haji is the proud owner of a modest family restaurant in Mumbai. But when tragedy strikes, Abbas propels his boisterous family into a picaresque journey across Europe, finally settling in the remote French village of Lumiere, where he establishes an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai.Much to the horror of their neighbour, a famous chef named Madame Mallory, the Indian establishment opposite her own begins to garner a following. Little does she know that the young Hassan, son of Abbas, has discovered French cuisine and has vowed to become a great French chef. Hassan is a natural whose talents far outweigh Mme. Mallory, but the tough old Frenchwoman will not brook defeat.Thus ensues an entertaining culinary war pitting Hassan's Mumbai-toughened father against the imperious Mme. Mallory, leading the young Hassan to greatness and his true destiny.
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"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 this novel. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, it 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 Lumiere, a small village in the French Alps. The boisterous Haji family takes Lumiere 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. This story 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. It is a fable that is a testament to the inevitability of destiny.… (more)

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