I love a foodie read. I enjoy cooking and there is something quite delectable about reading novels that feature food. This week, I already explored the Catalan region of Spain when I read the novel Vanilla Salt and went on to try my hand at Catalan cooking.
In The Hundred Foot Journey, I was not bound to one area, but propelled from India to London, through Europe and into France in a spell of tasty reading goodness!
This story tells of the Hassan Haji and his family who have a successful restaurant in their native India. When tragedy befalls them, the family uproots itself and begins a journey of self-discovery, eating their way across Europe until in a twist of fate, they settle in France.
In an old mansion in a remote, picturesque village is where they not only decide to make their home, but also start an Indian restaurant. They do not bet on incurring the wrath of eminent chef Madame Mallory who is has her prestigious dining establishment just over the road from the where the Hajis are building their mini Indian empire.
The Hajis and Madame Mallory go head to head, before another twist of fate sees budding chef Hassan crossing the hundred foot divide into her employ. Worlds away from his own culture, Hassan learns a new style of cooking and this is his story from young naive kitchen hand, to renowned chef and restaurateur.
I loved the clash of cultures in this tale. The Hajis are a loud and proud family and they seem to attract attention, both good and bad wherever they go. There are tons of colourful characters and interweaving storylines that encompasses many themes including family, ambition, business, politics and of course food!
The first half of the story is so descriptive in food terms, you could almost eat the book! I loved the contrast between colourful, spicy Indian, and the more chilled, refined palates of France. The descriptions of the food and settings are gloriously rich and make the story beautiful.
I found when I first read a Richard C. Morais novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn, the story was also very descriptive, the prose was calming and the story life affirming and philosophical. The Hundred Foot Journey is life affirming and philosophical but in a riot of colours and cultures and vivid food imagery!
A fantastic journey for any reader to be a part of, and with the movie adaptation starring Dame Helen Mirren out this month, it’s easy to see why this novel is set to be a big hit.