The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais is about a boy’s many journeys, each one marinated in delectable dishes that will have the reader drooling. Hassan Haji’s journey begins in India where his family owns a successful restaurant. After a tragic turn of events the large Haji family moves to an Indian section of London. The journey continues in a culinary awakening, as they eat their way across Europe and finally settle in the French Alps. There they open a loud and lively Indian restaurant to the annoyance of Madame Mallory, the snobbishly stiff and structured expert chef and owner of a highly-rated restaurant right across the street. And so the conflict begins. Madame Mallory has a “nuclear contempt for one’s inferiors” and starts a campaign to regain her rightful control in the little town of Lumière. The war rages on until something happens to change Mallory’s mind, and she eventually takes Hassan under her wing as an apprentice. This hundred-foot journey across the street is the first step in Hassan’s passage to manhood and becoming a renowned French chef.
This book, a soon-to-be movie, made me want to call in sick for work, stay home with a hot tea, and snuggle on the couch getting lost in the French Alps, dreaming of the wonderful scenery and the tempting food they made. I suggest you eat a good meal before you dive into the book. Otherwise get ready to hear your stomach rumble as Morais describes truffle-stuffed chickens packed with julienned leeks and carrots roasting to a perfection as the truffles and fat melt “together, their essences seeping deliciously through the meat and leaving a uniquely earthy flavor.” It made me hungry and want to try Jalebi, a condensed milk and flour concoction fried in boiling oil then dipped in syrup. Heck, I’d even give lumbuli a whirl—young bull testicles stuffed with pine nuts and powdered fennel seeds, seared in olive oil and fish pickle before roasting in the oven.
The movie is set to be released in August, 2014. Consensus has it that a book is usually better than the movie, and while that may be true for the most part, movies do have their value. I love going to the movies. Granted, the words skillfully strung together in books don’t always translate so eloquently on screen, but movies provide us with a different kind of magic—a visual explosion that cannot always be accomplished in books. Sure, authors can give us vivid descriptions that immerse us into their stories, but movies, well, they fill in the gaps. Whereas an author might give exquisite details about a beautiful gown the protagonist is wearing, the costume and set designers on a movie set fill in the rest on-screen. They have to set the background and clothe everyone, not just the main character. Their attention to details bring scenes to life. In The Hundred-Foot Journey, for instance, I tried to imagine the dining extravaganza at the Musée d’Orsay. I’ve never been there and while Morais mentioned three paintings, the movie will, no doubt, give me a glimpse of those paintings as well as a feel of the whole room.
I can’t wait to see this book on the big screen. India, London, the French Alps, Paris, and gourmet restaurants promise to make this a visual feast, all set to music that will subtly or boldly steer the tone. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Helen Mirren is playing Madame Mallory. Of course, I still wholeheartedly recommend reading the book first!
When you’re done with The Hundred-Foot Journey and you’re still craving more mouthwatering, culinary romps, consider the books below that are sure to wake up your palate. Click on the titles to read the reviews.