TITLE: The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais
LENGTH: 242 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2008
GENRE: fiction (India, France, cooking, haute cuisine, restaurants)
REASON FOR READING: local library book club pick
SUMMARY (from Goodreads):
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.
MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t care much for this book. I found it to be pretty boring, actually, which surprises me because it mostly takes place in India and the French countryside, two settings I would otherwise love to experience through reading. Perhaps it was because the focus was on food, “haute cuisine” mostly, which all sounds rather disgusting to me (though it was only uninteresting, and not boring talk of food a la Under the Tuscan Sun). Most of the story, I felt, didn’t seem precursory to anything important. I mean, the story followed Hassan from lowly, prepubescent kitchen boy in India to a 3-Michelin-star classic French chef/restauranteur. But at no point did Hassan seem vehement to get anything accomplished. I think the character, at one point, even said that Madame Mallory seemed to always be arranging his next step for him, before he even knew it was his next step. Hassan’s journey was pretty uneventful–nothing too spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary happened to him. Essentially, Hassan’s life was too life-like in that, if it’s pretty rudimentary, why would I read the story of his life? I’m sorry, but if there’s nothing very interesting or a twist in the story somewhere, a really life-like character is just boring. I mean, I write in a diary, I have for close to 20 years now. Would I expect anyone to find anything I’ve written about my life interesting? Not really. A trip to Edinburgh for a week over 10 years ago, and the birth of my daughter last summer–those are pretty much the highlights. (Obviously my husband is a highlight, too, but we’ve been together for 12 years now, so there’s not a whole lot of interesting stuff I’ve journaled about him recently haha.) Anyways, I give this a 2/5–which would be classified as “slightly a waste of my time”.