Monday, March 16, 2015

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I read this because I was out of town and it was available on my iPad.  It was reasonably entertaining but I wouldn't go out of my way to read it unless you really enjoy long descriptive passages about French or Indian food (which I know some people do).

The story starts in Mumbai - it is told from the perspective of Hassan who is born into a poor but rising Muslim family in Mumbai.  Hassan's grandfather started out delivering tiffin lunches, moved on to lunch carts and eventually opened a restaurant on the border between a slum and Mumbai's wealthy Malabar Hill area.  Hassan's father improves upon the restaurant and his wife, sister and brother in law, parents and all five children are involved in the business.  But when tragedy strikes as a result of religious tensions in India, Hassan and his family sell their property to a developer for millions of dollars.  They first emigrate to England and live with relatives in a heavily east Indian neighbourhood near Heathrow.

In London Hassan discovers girls and his father languishes, depressed.  Getting involved with the wrong girl gets Hassan into trouble so the family picks up and leaves.  They wander Europe in an old Mercedes, sampling all the foods Hassan's father wishes to try and finally ending up in a small town near the French alps.  Here the family opens another successful Indian restaurant, much to the chagrin of their neighbour, an elderly classical French chef.

The French chef eventually takes Hassan under her wing and trains him to become a Michelin star worthy French chef in his own right.  The rest of the story follows Hassan's successes in the Paris restaurant business.

There are some interesting characters - Hassan's father, the elderly French woman, another French chef who becomes Hassan's friend and mentor in Paris.  But the real focus of this book is on the food - there are seemingly endless descriptions of shopping, choosing fresh meat, seafood or produce, and of course cooking and serving meals.

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