Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey,
by Richard C. Morais

I found this at the library and thought I'd read it before seeing the movie, as is my habit! Turns out that Richard C. Morais wanted to make a film even before and while he was writing the book.

I loved the first half of the book...the colorful depiction of Indian cooking, Hassan's relationship with his family and then Madame Mallory, and the process of running a restaurant in India and then France.

But AD (after the deaths of both Hassan's feisty father and the equally feisty Madame Mallory), the book slumps. It takes us, very quickly, through Hassan's trajectory of becoming one of Paris' top chefs. Much of the fancy French cuisine, heavily butchery and innards-focused, does not sound very appealing to me. The second half of the book focuses on the Paris restaurant scene and the process and snobby politics of earning Michelin stars.

Hassan seems more devastated by the death of another character than his own father or most significant mentor. Morais also confesses that he didn't go to India until after he'd begun writing the novel, and then only for 10 days. This is evident to me, not in the way he describes Indian cooking but rather how he describes (or fails to) the culture. After Hassan moves to Paris, he's hardly even Indian any more. This doesn't seem realistic to me. I was hoping to have the author touch on the perspective of an Indian chef learning and practicing French cooking, and that just doesn't happen.

I've heard great things about the movie, so I'm looking forward to seeing that. I understand from friends that Madame Mallory does not die in the movie, and Hassan's also more in touch with his Indian roots.

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