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Amore, cucina e curry

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Hassan Haji, secondogenito di sei figli, è nato sopra il ristorante di suo nonno, in Napean Sea Road a Bombay, vent’anni prima che fosse ribattezzata Mumbai. Ed è cresciuto guardando la figura esile di sua nonna che sfrecciava a piedi nudi sul pavimento di terra battuta della cucina, passava svelta le fettine di melanzana nella farina di ceci, dava uno scappellotto al cuoc Hassan Haji, secondogenito di sei figli, è nato sopra il ristorante di suo nonno, in Napean Sea Road a Bombay, vent’anni prima che fosse ribattezzata Mumbai. Ed è cresciuto guardando la figura esile di sua nonna che sfrecciava a piedi nudi sul pavimento di terra battuta della cucina, passava svelta le fettine di melanzana nella farina di ceci, dava uno scappellotto al cuoco, gli allungava un croccante di mandorle e rimproverava a gran voce la zia. Tutto nel giro di pochi secondi. E ha capito infine come va il mondo osservando suo padre, il grande Abbas, girare tutto il giorno per il suo locale a Bombay come un produttore di Bollywood, gridando ordini, mollando sberle sulla testa degli sciatti camerieri e accogliendo col sorriso sulle labbra gli ospiti. Naturale che quando l’intera famiglia Haji, i sei figli di età compresa tra i cinque e i diciannove anni, il grande Abbas, la nonna vedova, la zia e suo marito, lo zio Mayur, si trasferisce, dopo la tragica scomparsa della madre di Hassan, prima a Londra e poi a Lumière, nel cuore della Francia, sia proprio lui, Hassan, a prendere il posto della nonna Ammi ai fornelli della Maison Mumbai, il ristorante aperto a Villa Dufour dal grande Abbas. Un locale magnifico per gli Haji, con un’imponente insegna a grandi lettere dorate su uno sfondo verde Islam, e la musica tradizionale indostana che riecheggia dagli altoparlanti di fortuna che zio Mayur ha montato in giardino. Peccato che abbia di fronte, dall’altra parte della strada, un albergo a diverse stelle, Le Saule Pleureur, il salice piangente, con un’insegna che si muove impercettibilmente con il vento, il giardino roccioso coperto di muschio, le vecchie stalle dalle finestre con i vetri a piombo. Peccato poi che la proprietaria del locale, una dal sindaco, sostenendo che un albergo come Le Saule Pleureur, che vede ai fornelli lei, la vestale dell’arte culinaria francese, la chef degli chef apprezzata da gente come Valéry Giscard d’Estaing e il Barone de Rothschild, la gloria dell’establishment gastronomico francese proveniente da una delle più illustri e antiche famiglie di grandi hôteliers della Loira, premiata con ben due stelle dalla guida Michelin, non può avere dall’altro lato della via un bistrò indiano che spande la puzza di cibi unti per tutto il vicinato! Popolato di personaggi eccentrici, ricco di divertenti disavventure culturali, ambientazioni vivaci e squisite ricette, descritte con dovizia di particolari, Amore, cucina e curry svela le trame interne all’esclusivo mondo dell’haute cuisine francese e narra la storia toccante di un ragazzo indiano che si conquista il proprio posto nel mondo. Precedentemente apparso col titolo Madame Mallory e il piccolo chef indiano, il romanzo viene ora riproposto in una nuova edizione, in contemporanea con l'uscita del film omonimo diretto dal Premio Oscar di Chocolat.


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Hassan Haji, secondogenito di sei figli, è nato sopra il ristorante di suo nonno, in Napean Sea Road a Bombay, vent’anni prima che fosse ribattezzata Mumbai. Ed è cresciuto guardando la figura esile di sua nonna che sfrecciava a piedi nudi sul pavimento di terra battuta della cucina, passava svelta le fettine di melanzana nella farina di ceci, dava uno scappellotto al cuoc Hassan Haji, secondogenito di sei figli, è nato sopra il ristorante di suo nonno, in Napean Sea Road a Bombay, vent’anni prima che fosse ribattezzata Mumbai. Ed è cresciuto guardando la figura esile di sua nonna che sfrecciava a piedi nudi sul pavimento di terra battuta della cucina, passava svelta le fettine di melanzana nella farina di ceci, dava uno scappellotto al cuoco, gli allungava un croccante di mandorle e rimproverava a gran voce la zia. Tutto nel giro di pochi secondi. E ha capito infine come va il mondo osservando suo padre, il grande Abbas, girare tutto il giorno per il suo locale a Bombay come un produttore di Bollywood, gridando ordini, mollando sberle sulla testa degli sciatti camerieri e accogliendo col sorriso sulle labbra gli ospiti. Naturale che quando l’intera famiglia Haji, i sei figli di età compresa tra i cinque e i diciannove anni, il grande Abbas, la nonna vedova, la zia e suo marito, lo zio Mayur, si trasferisce, dopo la tragica scomparsa della madre di Hassan, prima a Londra e poi a Lumière, nel cuore della Francia, sia proprio lui, Hassan, a prendere il posto della nonna Ammi ai fornelli della Maison Mumbai, il ristorante aperto a Villa Dufour dal grande Abbas. Un locale magnifico per gli Haji, con un’imponente insegna a grandi lettere dorate su uno sfondo verde Islam, e la musica tradizionale indostana che riecheggia dagli altoparlanti di fortuna che zio Mayur ha montato in giardino. Peccato che abbia di fronte, dall’altra parte della strada, un albergo a diverse stelle, Le Saule Pleureur, il salice piangente, con un’insegna che si muove impercettibilmente con il vento, il giardino roccioso coperto di muschio, le vecchie stalle dalle finestre con i vetri a piombo. Peccato poi che la proprietaria del locale, una dal sindaco, sostenendo che un albergo come Le Saule Pleureur, che vede ai fornelli lei, la vestale dell’arte culinaria francese, la chef degli chef apprezzata da gente come Valéry Giscard d’Estaing e il Barone de Rothschild, la gloria dell’establishment gastronomico francese proveniente da una delle più illustri e antiche famiglie di grandi hôteliers della Loira, premiata con ben due stelle dalla guida Michelin, non può avere dall’altro lato della via un bistrò indiano che spande la puzza di cibi unti per tutto il vicinato! Popolato di personaggi eccentrici, ricco di divertenti disavventure culturali, ambientazioni vivaci e squisite ricette, descritte con dovizia di particolari, Amore, cucina e curry svela le trame interne all’esclusivo mondo dell’haute cuisine francese e narra la storia toccante di un ragazzo indiano che si conquista il proprio posto nel mondo. Precedentemente apparso col titolo Madame Mallory e il piccolo chef indiano, il romanzo viene ora riproposto in una nuova edizione, in contemporanea con l'uscita del film omonimo diretto dal Premio Oscar di Chocolat.

30 review for Amore, cucina e curry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Eng

    I wanted to love this book. After all, food and stories are two of my favorite things. Yet it seemed written by an amateur's hand. It's difficult to explain, but while the descriptions of Indian cuisine in the first few chapters were impressive, the Indian essence lacked authenticity. That is, it was somehow clear that the story was written by someone non-Indian. Perhaps this was because of the overdone broken English. Perhaps there were not enough cultural references. Halfway through the story, I wanted to love this book. After all, food and stories are two of my favorite things. Yet it seemed written by an amateur's hand. It's difficult to explain, but while the descriptions of Indian cuisine in the first few chapters were impressive, the Indian essence lacked authenticity. That is, it was somehow clear that the story was written by someone non-Indian. Perhaps this was because of the overdone broken English. Perhaps there were not enough cultural references. Halfway through the story, with the focus on Paris and French cuisine, you forget that the main character is even Indian. I also didn't like that the author skipped through large chunks of time. What obstacles did Hassan face while working at each restaurant, and how did he overcome them? Simply put, the plot lacked action. Who would have thought that a book about an Indian chef cooking French food would lack flavor?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I giggled when I read a review that called this book a cross between "Ratatouille and Slumdog Millionaire", but after finishing this excellent summer read I must agree that's pretty spot on! This book is such a joy to read. It's one of those books where you keep flipping back to the author's bio because you can't imagine how someone wrote this book from their imagination. The scenes were so rich and full of life I wanted it to be a memoir, not a work of fiction! The larger than life characters su I giggled when I read a review that called this book a cross between "Ratatouille and Slumdog Millionaire", but after finishing this excellent summer read I must agree that's pretty spot on! This book is such a joy to read. It's one of those books where you keep flipping back to the author's bio because you can't imagine how someone wrote this book from their imagination. The scenes were so rich and full of life I wanted it to be a memoir, not a work of fiction! The larger than life characters surrounding Hassan Haji - Indian street cook turned famous Parisian chef - are so well written. You will fall in love with his brash father and lively mentor - especially during their years of warring. The scenes describing cuisine and cooking were so vibrant it compelled me to try for the first time making curries of my own - I'm telling you, this book gets under your skin! The imagery of this whole book was so rich I am sure I will re-read it again at some point. My only wish was that it was longer! I highly recommend this book to foodies of all types and anyone who loves a vibrant read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris Coleman

    Working on a book committee for our Library, I was encouraged to read this for our program this year. The colorful programming possibilities covering four cultures, a variety of foods, music and tastes was intriguing. Unfortunately the book falls short on several points and we probably will not be using it. This is a very easy read, with good character development, easy to follow story and simple relationships. The author uses excellent descriptive language to draw you into the story, and it's n Working on a book committee for our Library, I was encouraged to read this for our program this year. The colorful programming possibilities covering four cultures, a variety of foods, music and tastes was intriguing. Unfortunately the book falls short on several points and we probably will not be using it. This is a very easy read, with good character development, easy to follow story and simple relationships. The author uses excellent descriptive language to draw you into the story, and it's not hard to place yourself in the various colorful locales he uses in the story. Without completely giving the ending away, I will say that while Hassan has his ups and downs during his coming of age period and while establishing his career, it finishes on a very high note. For those who like happy endings, this is a very good thing. Now for the not so good... The author attempts to use an Indian/Arabic accent for the characters which seems contrived and forced. It doesn't sound accurate and in fact makes the characters a little less believable. He starts out with the narrator and main character in the book (Hassan Haji) describing intricate details about his grandfather in the food business in the 1950's including his cooking, ingredients, every smell, color, etc... And yet Hassan is born in 1975 and he is speaking in the first person. Ooops... Next, Hassan's mother suffers a terrible tragedy and yet the author only spends about 1-1/2 pages covering that and moves on. For a child, this realistically should've been covered more thoroughly. Then as Hassan moves past the age of 18, we see certain milestones in his life go by. His internship under Madame Mallory, his first serious relationship with Margaret, his acceptance as a chef at a prominent restaurant in Paris, the establishment of his own restaurant and reputation. Through this all I keep remembering that he was supposedly born in 1975 and the original copyright for this book was 2008 & 2010. By the end of the story he is 42 years old, which would make the year 2017. The author mentions one recession around 2008, which would be historically correct, but then mentions another one around the time when Hassan is forty, which would be 2015. He also mentions a French war briefly, but adds no details. Is this a future war involving France? He mentions Hassan's hands shaking briefly at the end of one chapter but then goes nowhere with that and it becomes a dead end in the story. Finally the story makes numerous and detailed mention of the selection, hunting, slaughtering, preparation and consumption of numerous animals in almost every chapter. The use of blood for sauces, slit throats, automatic chicken processing, hunting juvenile boar, etc... While I'm not a vegetarian by any means, I can see how this book will clearly NOT appeal to any vegans out there. So in summary, while the basic story is good, it has several problems which perhaps should've been worked out before publication. The contrived accents are unnecessary, the numerous and highly detailed references to slaughtering animals, the dismissal of his mother's death and the timeline problems all make the story less believable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    The initial feeling, when starting out the book, was a lyrical ode to good writing and good food. All the elements were there. Imagine, being born with your first sensation of life being the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, made in a homely restaurant in Mumbai, on the Napean Sea Road, to be exact - Hassan Haji's grandfather's humble food emporium. Not that it was one of the star-rated establishment of Mombai. His homeless grandfather started out as a street vendor and excelled to h The initial feeling, when starting out the book, was a lyrical ode to good writing and good food. All the elements were there. Imagine, being born with your first sensation of life being the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, made in a homely restaurant in Mumbai, on the Napean Sea Road, to be exact - Hassan Haji's grandfather's humble food emporium. Not that it was one of the star-rated establishment of Mombai. His homeless grandfather started out as a street vendor and excelled to his own restaurant where the family served food downstairs and lived up above. It was more a transitional zone between the desperately poor and the upper echelons of Indian society. But Hassan's nose for good food was born the minute he inhaled his first breath in this world. The magic was born right there and then. Due to political unrest, his family decided to leave India and head out for Britain and France. It is here where Hassan's life would change to become one of the top chefs in the country. It would take many years to reach his ambition. The first half of the book was pure joy. Fun, family and food feast. Warring neighbors added spice, a lot of it, to the settling of the Haji's family in the small town in the mountains. There was love and laughter on the menu of life in this quaint village, called Lumière, in the Alpine region of France. The second half of the book became a memoir in fictional form of the politics and challenges of the French food industry. From the slaughtering of all available animals, to the mechanisms in the market, to the pretentious Maitre Ds adorning the entrances to restaurants - a blend of barbarous operations to the snobbery and superficiality of modern French cuisine. The initial characters boiled away, evaporating into the ether of obscurity. They were dropped like dull-eyed fish on the farmer's market of Lumière. Madame Mallory warned Hassan: " Never forget a snob is a person utterly lacking in good taste. Good taste is not the birthright of snobs, but a gift from God sometimes found in the most unlikely of places and in the unlikeliest of people.” "Madame Mallory had spent the first part of the morning tour making me smell and taste various cabbages—the savoy, chubby little cancan dancers luridly fanning their ruffled green petticoats so we could get a sneak peek at their delicately pale and parting leaves inside, and the giant red cabbage, deep in color, like a bon vivant soused in a ruby red port wine before showing up merrily on the stall’s counter. “The thing you need to understand, Hassan, is that kohlrabi is the bridge between the cabbage and the turnip, and it melds the flavors of both vegetables. Remember that. It’s a subtle but important distinction that will help you decide when one vegetable is an ideal side dish, but not the other.” The prose in the first half of the book was simply scrumptious. Sadly, soon after, Paris would happen to Hassan. Where loneliness, hard work and prestige became his menu de jour, and the warmth of the mountain community became a forgotten after taste. The Parisian hoi polloi of culinary couture took something fundamental and changed it into a festival of fake food fur. Hassan: "It was logical, with my heritage, that I would be drawn to Chef Mafitte’s “world cuisine,” which seemed to revel in combining the most bizarre ingredients from the most exotic corners of the earth, but if I leaned in any direction, it was toward Paul’s French classicism. Charles Mafitte’s “laboratory” creations were highly original, creative, and even at times breathtaking, but I could not help coming to the conclusion his culinary contrivances were, in the end, a triumph of style over substance. And yet it was undeniably his “chemical” cooking that had struck a chord with the critics and public alike these last several years, and, like it or not, Paul’s classically ornate fare was passé and seemed, in comparison, hopelessly outdated. But Paul was all honest blood and bones and meaty substance, and I, for one, was going to miss him deeply." In a full-circle moment, after climbing the ladder of success to the very top, Hassan finally realized that 'pheasant food' - like his grandmother taught him to make, like the ordinary people of France prepare in their kitchens, was the language of love, family, real friends. The real language of real food. A sense of loss and longing, for Mummy and India. For lovable, noisy Papa. For Madame Mallory, my teacher, and for the family I never had, sacrificed on the altar of my ambition. For my late friend Paul Verdun. For my beloved grandmother, Ammi, and her delicious pearlspot, all of which I missed, on this day, of all days." It was his good friend, Paul, who tried to tell him something, while they were both bowing to the accolades of fame: “Never, in all the three-star restaurants of France, will you taste anything finer,” he said. “We toil and toil, until we are exhausted, and nothing we do, if we are honest, will ever be as good as this, a simple bowl of tripe." The movie, produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah, centered around the first half of the book with its strong story of family, love and hilarious cultural complexities. The ending was rewritten completely. It was by far the best version of the story. They zoned in on what should have been the main focus of the book. A highly internationally acclaimed chef once, many years ago, told me that the best food on earth are made by the mothers of this world. I googled him this morning. After cooking for the presidents of the world, and acting as executive chef for international five-star hotel chains, winning numerous prestigious international awards, he has gone back to his roots, opening up his own café and bakery in Georgia, serving his mother's recipes to a raving crowd. This is basically the message in this book as well. The ending did not reflect it and it should have. There wasn't a real ending. The story just stopped. Period. No closure of anything. A quick, hasty mention of family who did not feature strongly in the beginning half the book, created more confusion than anything else. In retrospect it is clear that the book should actually not be compared to the movie at all, since the endings are so vastly different and the heart of both stories are totally the opposite of each other. The second half of the book is about food and a lackluster cast of characters thrown in as back drop. The movie, on the other hand, was about love and family, with the magic of food as a strong focus binding them all together. The book focus on a young talented chef who, while still mastering the art of traditional cooking, was invited to learn the more sophisticated art of a new culture and culinary world. He was taken from one world to another. All it took was a hundred-foot journey across a street. From a warm, loving, supportive richly flavored environment, he stepped into the world of a cold calculating, competitive, snobbish and pretentious world of circus clowns who high-jacked a truck full of vegetables and did not quite know how to hide the vegetables' earthly origins. The magic was gone. Hassan: "And so, next day, Auntie and Mehtab helped me pack my bag and I crossed the street. A lot of emotion went into that hundred-foot journey, cardboard suitcase in hand, from one side of Lumière’s boulevard to the other. Before me the sugar-dusted willow tree, the leaded windows and the lace curtains, the elegant inn where even the warped wooden steps were soaked in great French traditions. And there, standing on Le Saule Pleureur’s stone steps, in white aprons, the taciturn Madame Mallory and kind Monsieur Leblanc, an elderly couple waiting with outstretched hands for their newly adopted son." "It was such a small journey, in feet, but it felt as if I were striding from one end of the universe to the other, the light of the Alps illuminating my way." Nevertheless, it is still a good read, very informative, although the souffle fell flat, when the novel ended and a memoir began, and when the oven door closed on Hassan's life in Lumière . May you, when times are hard, always find a moment for a restorative meal in the company of true friends and a loving family. - Richard C. Morais

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darcy

    I enjoyed the first part of this story. Morais deftly captured the colorful and spicy flavor that is India. There were some lovely descriptions of Italy and the alpine region in France, where the Haji family finally settles, but like a poorly prepared soufflé, the whole thing collapsed halfway through. A book about food, especially French food, should make your mouth water. As I began reading I remembered my experience with Chocolat, and I expected culinary magic. Instead, I mostly encountered c I enjoyed the first part of this story. Morais deftly captured the colorful and spicy flavor that is India. There were some lovely descriptions of Italy and the alpine region in France, where the Haji family finally settles, but like a poorly prepared soufflé, the whole thing collapsed halfway through. A book about food, especially French food, should make your mouth water. As I began reading I remembered my experience with Chocolat, and I expected culinary magic. Instead, I mostly encountered culinary carnage - this book was like a manual for how to kill and eat anything in the animal kingdom. It was like touring a slaughterhouse. The carnage that begins with the pig butchering, which I suppose was symbolic of Hassan’s lifelong obsession with French food, is almost disgustingly detailed. You probably wouldn’t eat a hamburger while watching a cow get butchered, so I can’t understand why Morais went to the trouble to include so many grisly details. This book was like The Jungle, slathered in Garam Masala and sprinkled with Herbes de Provence. More disappointing than the food, was the character of Hassan, who though he may be gifted in the kitchen, turns out to have no depth as a character. Where does his special gift come from? From what inner source does he pull this one in a million ability? I have no idea. Betty Crocker has more pizazz. Part of the problem is that Morais discarded Madame Mallory and Hassan’s Papa halfway through the narrative. In order for Hassan to be interesting, we needed these two other characters, which were so overdone at times that they seemed almost caricatures, to balance Hassan out. Without Madame Mallory and Papa, Hassan is about as flat and interesting as a two-day-old piece of naan. Overall, this novel disappointed me. I actually think it will make a much better movie, which is apparently what the author wanted all along (see Acknowledgements).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sawsan

    Lovely novel written by the novelist and journalist Richard C. Morais delicious read concerning food and spices a novel about passion and persistence which lead us to what we really love and appreciate in life Hassan the indian narrator and his family from Mumbai to Paris ,and the hundred foot Journey that he had to take between the Indian kitchen and a traditional French one, to become a well known chef with distinctive talant a journey between different cultures, traditions and cooking

  7. 4 out of 5

    Idarah

    This book was such a delight to read, or rather listen to! If you're looking for a feel good book that makes you laugh and your tummy rumble, then this might be the book for you. I am by no means a gourmand, but I love reading about food adventures, and especially about how food unites peoples and cultures. The strange events that lead Hassan Haji from his family owned restaurant on the Mumbai coast to the French Alps is the backdrop of this quaint novel. Tutored at a young age in the art of coo This book was such a delight to read, or rather listen to! If you're looking for a feel good book that makes you laugh and your tummy rumble, then this might be the book for you. I am by no means a gourmand, but I love reading about food adventures, and especially about how food unites peoples and cultures. The strange events that lead Hassan Haji from his family owned restaurant on the Mumbai coast to the French Alps is the backdrop of this quaint novel. Tutored at a young age in the art of cooking by his grandmother, Hassan inherits an artist's eye for flavoring and exotic food combinations. (view spoiler)[Before he knows it, he's on his way to becoming one of the most sought after chefs in Paris! (hide spoiler)] While magical realism plays a key role in foodie fiction favorites like Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, the plausible storyline of this novel made it more of an original little treat. Moreover, the marriage of two completely different cultures put me in mind of how well done The Elegance of the Hedgehog was, and also why the French are so stinking cool! I cannot wait to watch this film. I am a die hard Helen Mirren fan!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    Read as part of the ABN Summer Reading Challenge recommended by Joyce I remember sitting down to watch the film adaptation of this some time ago and getting distracted rather quickly and never completing the film... Perhaps that should have been an omen. This book started off so well with its intoxicating descriptions of food and smells... But then it quickly grew tiresome and dissolved into a poorly plotted book about an Indian man who becomes a Parisian restaurateur and Michelin starred chef. C Read as part of the ABN Summer Reading Challenge recommended by Joyce I remember sitting down to watch the film adaptation of this some time ago and getting distracted rather quickly and never completing the film... Perhaps that should have been an omen. This book started off so well with its intoxicating descriptions of food and smells... But then it quickly grew tiresome and dissolved into a poorly plotted book about an Indian man who becomes a Parisian restaurateur and Michelin starred chef. Characters lacked any memorably defining personalities instead feeling rather flat and contrived. The plot... Well there really was none. It was just a succession of memories and events that felt more like a stilted memoir. Sadly this wasn't for me. If the book had perhaps ended after Hassan's time in Lumière rather than follow his story to Paris then this would have had more heart. But it didn't. And any good feeling I had about the book to that point disappeared in the mundanities of restaurant life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    3.5-4 stars The mouths of foodies will be watering as they read this novel about the fictional Hassan Haji's life. After his family's restaurant was destroyed in Mumbai, his father took the family to Europe to distance himself from the tragedy. A few years later, their car breaks down in the French village of Lumiere, a beautiful setting near the Alps, and they decide to stay. Hassan's bearlike, boisterous father opens a casual Indian restaurant across the street from the award-winning Le Saule Pl 3.5-4 stars The mouths of foodies will be watering as they read this novel about the fictional Hassan Haji's life. After his family's restaurant was destroyed in Mumbai, his father took the family to Europe to distance himself from the tragedy. A few years later, their car breaks down in the French village of Lumiere, a beautiful setting near the Alps, and they decide to stay. Hassan's bearlike, boisterous father opens a casual Indian restaurant across the street from the award-winning Le Saule Pleureur, owned by Madame Mallory. The two colorful restaurant owners wage war until an accident lands Hassan in the hospital. Madame Mallory regrets her attitude, and takes Hassan on as an apprentice in her elegant French restaurant. Hassan crosses the road in a "hundred-foot journey" from Indian to fine French cuisine. This is the beginning of an exciting career for Hassan who was born with an exceptional culinary gift. The story was infused with the smells and sights of both the Indian and French kitchens. Temperamental chefs are a source of humor in the story. Food critics and the Michelin star system add immense pressure to the job of a chef. Although I would love to fly to Paris for a restaurant tour, I think I will have to settle for seeing the movie based on this charming book. The movie, starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, and Manish Dayal, will be opening in August 2014.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    (WARNING: SPOILERS) I blame Helen Mirren. Her participation in the film (haven't seen it) made me think this would be something I'd want to read. I wasn't a huge fan of this book. After the main character goes to Paris, I found myself thinking, why am I still here? I had no idea what sort of character arc/conclusion/goal we were still reaching for, as I think the author set a few up (the can't commit to a girl thing) and then failed to deliver in a satisfying way (his romantic development being (WARNING: SPOILERS) I blame Helen Mirren. Her participation in the film (haven't seen it) made me think this would be something I'd want to read. I wasn't a huge fan of this book. After the main character goes to Paris, I found myself thinking, why am I still here? I had no idea what sort of character arc/conclusion/goal we were still reaching for, as I think the author set a few up (the can't commit to a girl thing) and then failed to deliver in a satisfying way (his romantic development being abandoned with the move to Paris). While Margaret's appearance near the book's end suggests they might pick things back up, their involvement is an afterthought. The third star comes about as a half-assed surprise, but felt more like a success for ol Gertie than it did for Hassan. I felt way too much importance was placed on the death of Paul, a character we hardly know, while so little was placed on Hassan's father's death. I like talking/reading about food probably more than the average person, but it felt like more attention was paid to nailing the food aspect than character/story development. Ironically, all the fancy pants food references, to me, came off as snobby, which is something (we learn at the end) Gertie was trying to steer him away from by keeping an open mind. I liked the rivalry early on, the lively characters of his family, the psuedo-romance, the Madame's transformation, but just about everything after the move to Paris was boring as hell.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    What a disappointment! The book seemed like it would have so much promise. So much life and vigor and interest! Not the case. The book starts off in India and is depressing and sad. I can understand and respect that. What I did not care for was the graphic comparison of squid to a penis, the image of a girl defecating on the road side and "fingering" her excrement, etc. When the family moves to London, the crass tone of the novel gets worse with intimate descriptions of foreplay and arousal and What a disappointment! The book seemed like it would have so much promise. So much life and vigor and interest! Not the case. The book starts off in India and is depressing and sad. I can understand and respect that. What I did not care for was the graphic comparison of squid to a penis, the image of a girl defecating on the road side and "fingering" her excrement, etc. When the family moves to London, the crass tone of the novel gets worse with intimate descriptions of foreplay and arousal and lewd behavior as well as heavy drug use. A demented family member who should be respected in her old age is "managed" as she behaves inappropriately and then soils herself. I was hoping that the book would improve when they moved to France. And it does. But it does not abandon the foul descriptions and language. This may be a book about food and blending of cultures but it is modern, crass, depressing and poorly written. The shock value wears thin and demonstrates that the author really does not know how to write. I typically avoid recommendations from Oprah and should have kept to my rule. I stopped just before half way through and could care less if the second half is the most brilliant story ever because the first half is a waste of paper.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kiran Afzal

    I had heard a lot about this book, and considering its about food and focuses on an Indian boy's journey into French cuisine, I thought it would be interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn't relate to it at all. The initial few chapters started off nicely, but after that the author just jumped from one point to another abruptly. Even though the title character was Indian belonging to a Muslim family, there was nothing that I felt I could relate - neither in terms of culture or food or traditions. Had I had heard a lot about this book, and considering its about food and focuses on an Indian boy's journey into French cuisine, I thought it would be interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn't relate to it at all. The initial few chapters started off nicely, but after that the author just jumped from one point to another abruptly. Even though the title character was Indian belonging to a Muslim family, there was nothing that I felt I could relate - neither in terms of culture or food or traditions. Had this been a book on French cuisine, I probably might have different expectations but right now I am just trying to understand the point of the novel. At the same time, I do think that the movie adaption of this novel has potential. Julia & Julia is one of my favourite movies, and I couldn't even finish 50% of the novel it was based on.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    This novel is a prime example of a "Kevin White's Description of How A Five-Year-Old Writes" story. This thing happened. And then this next thing happened. And then, and then! A thing happened. Another thing happened. Things things things. I had to constantly remind myself that this was a work of fiction and not an autobiography written by someone who doesn't know how to write. A lot of tedious descriptions and little character development. I bet the movie will actually be better than the novel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Gillett

    This book fell way short of my expectations. It started out a nice character story (though it did not grasp Indian life as I'd hoped), and it ended up a documentary of the Paris food community. The character of Mme Mallory seemed to be well thought through at the start, and then just dumped. Same with the father and the whole Indian family. This book could have been any number of great things but somehow chose not to be anything great at all when it was done. Major disappointment.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This book was an absolute feast, no pun intended. Yes, I'm a foodie, and yes, I love wonderful books with great characters and story line. Put those two things together with charming dialogue, warmth, humor, lives well lived and lessons well learned, and you have this book. I added a star to this review simply because it was such a joy to read, from start to finish.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I really wanted to love this book but I just couldn't pull it off. For the first third, I was hooked but somewhere around the middle I just stopped caring about the characters - fatal! There are some wonderful descriptive passages early in the story as the reader is introduced to chaotic Mumbai and its residents, the drab way-station of London and the calm respite of the French Jura. I built a clear picture in my mind of the narrator's father and of Madame Mallory, the quintessential French chef I really wanted to love this book but I just couldn't pull it off. For the first third, I was hooked but somewhere around the middle I just stopped caring about the characters - fatal! There are some wonderful descriptive passages early in the story as the reader is introduced to chaotic Mumbai and its residents, the drab way-station of London and the calm respite of the French Jura. I built a clear picture in my mind of the narrator's father and of Madame Mallory, the quintessential French chef and the surrounds that best represent them - their respective restaurants, homes and staff/family. The narrator and intended main character (Hassan) remains underdeveloped and that is where this book doesn't succeed for me. I have no sense of what he sounds or looks like, his narrative voice is almost monotone and I still don't know what motivates him. Strangely, I have a feeling that Helen Mirren will make this story a much better movie than it was a book - and we all know that readers rarely say that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The movie was better. I never really thought I'd say that, I used to be one of the firm and radical believers that the 'book is always better'. Only recently as I've started reading more books of movies I've seen or found out how most movies are based off books have I changed my mind on this subject and in the case of 'The Hundred Foot Journey' the movie was most definitely better. What startled me the most about the book was how different the story was from the movie. While the movie was funny a The movie was better. I never really thought I'd say that, I used to be one of the firm and radical believers that the 'book is always better'. Only recently as I've started reading more books of movies I've seen or found out how most movies are based off books have I changed my mind on this subject and in the case of 'The Hundred Foot Journey' the movie was most definitely better. What startled me the most about the book was how different the story was from the movie. While the movie was funny and uplifting and had a cheerful ending the book had a 'gray' feeling hanging over it and although funny in parts it was far from as uplifting and cheerful as the movie and made the characters that I liked in the movie much more unlikeable. Much more disgusting and dark in some cases. It was very well written and the descriptions of food and the surroundings were very vivid and detailed but the lack of morality in the characters and the general 'dark' feeling just left me not liking it as much as I enjoyed the movie. Also where the movie was a more family oriented film rated PG the book had I would say more of a PG-13 rating and I was greatly disappointed by Hassan's sinful character and his affairs with women from a very young age. Overall a interesting read but as I said: the movie was better.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji, a young Indian boy who grows up above his grandfather's restaurant in Mumbai. A tragic incident prompts his family to flee to France were Hassan shows an unexpected talent and taste for haute cuisine. The novel follows his ensuing career as a chef and the fate of his family in France. The first part of the book centers on Hassan's family, his history and the importance of food in his life. The writing is lush, very descriptive of the tastes, s The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji, a young Indian boy who grows up above his grandfather's restaurant in Mumbai. A tragic incident prompts his family to flee to France were Hassan shows an unexpected talent and taste for haute cuisine. The novel follows his ensuing career as a chef and the fate of his family in France. The first part of the book centers on Hassan's family, his history and the importance of food in his life. The writing is lush, very descriptive of the tastes, smells, and sights. The characters are interesting and the plot is fast-paced. However, after Hassan becomes a chef the thread of the story changes. The second half of the book is mostly about the politics of the restaurant world in France. The star system of ranking, the changes in haute cuisine, and the hierarchy among chefs. I didn't like this part nearly as well and I felt like Hassan's progress was stagnant. He seems to stop developing much as a person after a certain point. Still, a pleasant, easy read and not bad at all for a first novel. I'll be interested to see what Richard Morais writes next.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Mr. Morais's first novel follows a familiar, even Seussian, formula, but it paints the sights, smells, and tastes of its protagonist's adventure so vividly that I needed to stop for a snack. Its prose addresses the upper crust society of Paris without falling prey to pretension, though as a foodie, I might have had a bit of an advantage in comprehension. The characters are easy to love, and that attachment left me deeply moved by the final pages. It's a quick read; you have no excuse!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Renita D'Silva

    Wonderful! A fabulous book! A feast for all the senses! Loved it SO much.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Chapters 1 & 2. Curry practically wafts from the pages as this sensory exploration carries you though Hassan's childhood in Mumbai India. Feel the heat, hear the hum of mosquito wings, see the vibrantly colored saris worn by his mother. But most of all the delicious tastes and smells that are Hassan's first memories growing up in the apartment above his grandparent's restaurant on the Napean Sea Road. "Never forget, a snob is a person utterly lacking in good taste." Following a tragedy, Hassan's Chapters 1 & 2. Curry practically wafts from the pages as this sensory exploration carries you though Hassan's childhood in Mumbai India. Feel the heat, hear the hum of mosquito wings, see the vibrantly colored saris worn by his mother. But most of all the delicious tastes and smells that are Hassan's first memories growing up in the apartment above his grandparent's restaurant on the Napean Sea Road. "Never forget, a snob is a person utterly lacking in good taste." Following a tragedy, Hassan's family immigrates to England, and spends a miserable year there. Eventually the family lands in Lumiere, France. It is there where Hassan meets and becomes the protege of Madam Mallory, a chef who owns a two star restaurant right across the street from the Haji's new home and Indian style restaurant. The food figures prominently in the story, but it isn't just about the food, for this is truly the story of a journey. No one takes this journey alone, for better or worse. Family, friends, colliegues, they all have a part to play our journey of life. Madam Mallory recognizes Hassan's gift for blending favors and cooking, though it is crude and undeveloped, but she takes him under her wing and teaches him all she can. Later, Hassan recognizes her un-admitted roll in his journey to owning his own restaurant in Paris, and rising to the pinnacle of his profession. There are a couple of interesting looking recipes at the end of the book. Onion Bhaji, a type of Indian snack food made with onions,, graham flour, spices, and herbs, and fried golden brown. The other recipe is much more complicated, it is called Trotters Soup, made from lambs' or sheeps' feet. This was an interesting "journey" into a couple of different cultures and the food that defines them and gives them life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diane Wiesenborn

    Now here is a case where the movie was waaaaayyy better than the book. Having loved the movie, I found the book quite disappointing. The time span covered in the book is too great to give the story depth. The leap ahead in time (20 years) in Paris is jarring. Hassan's father and the pivotal character of Madame Mallory both die before Hassan really reaches a mature understanding of his life's journey, which is unsatisfying. At around the same time in the book, the author introduces a new characte Now here is a case where the movie was waaaaayyy better than the book. Having loved the movie, I found the book quite disappointing. The time span covered in the book is too great to give the story depth. The leap ahead in time (20 years) in Paris is jarring. Hassan's father and the pivotal character of Madame Mallory both die before Hassan really reaches a mature understanding of his life's journey, which is unsatisfying. At around the same time in the book, the author introduces a new character, Chef Paul Verdun, who becomes a huge part of the last third of the book. But we don't really feel the authenticity of this relationship or why it is suddenly so much more important than the lifelong relationships to Hassan's father and first mentor, Madame Mallory. The lack of romance in the book is just sad. Then the author adds in a theme about the politics and economics of the restaurant business in France which simply splits the focus of the book into too many directions. Skip the read; watch the movie!!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Book on CD performed by Neil Shah Hassan Haji was born into a restaurant family. Starting with his grandfather’s restaurant in Mumbai, the family has made food their passion and careers. But after a tragic fire, they pull up stakes and set out across continents, ultimately settling in the small mountain village of Lumiere France. The village has never seen anything like the noisy extended family with their exotic Indian cuisine. And across the street from their Maison Mumbai is the venerated Le Book on CD performed by Neil Shah Hassan Haji was born into a restaurant family. Starting with his grandfather’s restaurant in Mumbai, the family has made food their passion and careers. But after a tragic fire, they pull up stakes and set out across continents, ultimately settling in the small mountain village of Lumiere France. The village has never seen anything like the noisy extended family with their exotic Indian cuisine. And across the street from their Maison Mumbai is the venerated Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin 2-star establishment run by the formidable Madame Mallory. The book focuses on Hassan and his decades-long career as a chef. The clash of cultures is a major element in this novel that reminds me of and old-fashioned fable. I liked the way he and Madame Mallory slowly developed their relationship, and how he continues to grow as a chef when he moves to Paris. I would have liked a little more attention paid to the family relationships; they seemed to be an afterthought rather than an integral part of Hassan’s life. I loved the food descriptions: Champagne: It made me want to sing, dance, fall in love. Rather dangerous, I thought. A memorable meal: …a teacup of Marseille fish soup, before moving on to a delicate dish of tiny clams, no bigger than babies’ fingernails,…” A special dish created for a memorial to a fellow restaurateur: I stuffed the birds with glazed apricots…and then so blackened the fowl with black truffle slices inserted in their skin that they looked like birds dressed for a Victorian funeral. Neil Shah does a reasonably good job of voicing the audio version. His pace is good and he was able to clearly differentiate the many characters. I loved his Madame Mallory! I don’t speak French but his pronunciation of various French phrases and names of various restaurant offerings seemed authentic; ditto for the Indian phrases.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    I really wanted to love this book but it just wasn't possible for me. The first seventy-five pages were promising, however after that I just stopped caring. I read through to the end as the story became more and more cliché and the characters one dimensional. The author spent a lot of the time telling the reader lots of things while not showing us these things through his writing. Could this be because he is a journalist? Don't know. Another problem was the drastic shift in ambience from one par I really wanted to love this book but it just wasn't possible for me. The first seventy-five pages were promising, however after that I just stopped caring. I read through to the end as the story became more and more cliché and the characters one dimensional. The author spent a lot of the time telling the reader lots of things while not showing us these things through his writing. Could this be because he is a journalist? Don't know. Another problem was the drastic shift in ambience from one part to the other. It was if we were reading a completely different story. I haven't yet seen the movie but I suspect he knew it was going to be adapted to film and that also greatly effected the book. In the end my rating reflects a story that is uninteresting and that I will probably forget next week. It wasn't great and it wasn't awful. It was just ok. Meh!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mél ☽

    To cook is to kill.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    It has been a while since my taste buds have been tempted by a good foodie story but the starvation diet is officially over with the consumption of this delicious read. Hassan Haji, the second of a a family of six from Mumbai, knows from an early age that his destiny lies in the realm of food. In this simultaneously comic and poignant tale, we trace Hasssan's culinary development from the tiffin business established by his grandparents, their roadside restaurant for servicemen to the present day It has been a while since my taste buds have been tempted by a good foodie story but the starvation diet is officially over with the consumption of this delicious read. Hassan Haji, the second of a a family of six from Mumbai, knows from an early age that his destiny lies in the realm of food. In this simultaneously comic and poignant tale, we trace Hasssan's culinary development from the tiffin business established by his grandparents, their roadside restaurant for servicemen to the present day prestige of the world of haute cuisine and much sought after Michelin stars. After a winding trek across Europe in a caravan of 3 old Mercedes cars, the Hajis eventually settle in the isolated French village of Lumiere. It's a case of Bollywood versus Cordon Bleu as Hassan's father competes with Madame Mallory, an acclaimed French chef whose refined restaurant is situated opposite their ever so slightly more lurid establishment. This is a delightful tale peopled with a medley of vivid characters, from Hassan's larger than life, outspoken father who contrasts sharply with the polished, elegant Madame Mallory, defender of classic haute cuisine. You can hear, smell and taste the ambiance of the Indian and French kitchens - it's probably advisable to eat before reading! It's fascinating to read about French cuisine's own internal rival factions - "Chef Verdun was a master of that lard-heavy school of French cuisine that was just starting, at that time, to fall from favour, overtaken by the molecular cooking established by the fast-rising Chef Matiffe down in Aix-en-Provence." As Hassan scales the echelons of French Haute Cuisine, battling the inherent racism and snobbery en route, he also has to figure out a way to steer his enterprise through the impending recession and tax hikes which are decimating so many successful French restaurants. Thus, the author manages to creates a story which draws on both olde worlde charm and the harsh reality of modern economics. I would be surprised if we didn't soon see this story being adapted for the movie screen (perhaps with "odorama"??) - highly recommended for all foodies who enjoy good storytelling and multi-cultural settings.

  27. 4 out of 5

    May-Ling

    this novel was truly magnificent. for some reason i've been on a food novels kick, so i expected another light book, but this one has it all. the setting starts in india where hassan haji grows up in a volatile area of india, in his parents' restaurant. as the book progresses, we follow hassan as he enters the cooking world himself. the title refers to this moment after the hajis have landed in france, when hassan walks a hundred yards to their neighbor to enter the world of french cooking. the this novel was truly magnificent. for some reason i've been on a food novels kick, so i expected another light book, but this one has it all. the setting starts in india where hassan haji grows up in a volatile area of india, in his parents' restaurant. as the book progresses, we follow hassan as he enters the cooking world himself. the title refers to this moment after the hajis have landed in france, when hassan walks a hundred yards to their neighbor to enter the world of french cooking. the writing is simply beautiful and when i say this book has it all, i'm talking about excellent writing, rich characters, dialect, an enchanting story and even wonderfully captured moments about class and racial disparities. it's truly a gem - i might have to re-read this next year for the journey. i found it interested in the acknowledgments at the end that the author intended/hoped for this novel to be adapted to a film one day. i don't think that's a stretch because i felt like i could hear, see, smell and taste this whole book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sanda

    A disappointment. Oh, you shouldn't have done, You couldn't have done, You wouldn't have done the things you did then. - The Cranberries Yes, those lyrics were the first thing to pop in my mind when I finished reading the book. It was just one of those tragic cases of incompatibility. And it started off so promising. I got a copy of the book ages ago, way before all the buzz. I mean it's a book about food. (and I love food) And cooking. (also love cooking) And foreign cultures. (and I know so little A disappointment. Oh, you shouldn't have done, You couldn't have done, You wouldn't have done the things you did then. - The Cranberries Yes, those lyrics were the first thing to pop in my mind when I finished reading the book. It was just one of those tragic cases of incompatibility. And it started off so promising. I got a copy of the book ages ago, way before all the buzz. I mean it's a book about food. (and I love food) And cooking. (also love cooking) And foreign cultures. (and I know so little about Indian cuisine, this felt like the perfect opportunity to learn) At first glance, a match made in heaven. At least that's how I felt when I first read the book description. I bought it, put it on the shelf and it sat there waiting - for the right moment. (or in my case, right mood) This time around the movie industry made me tip my hand. I started reading the book right before the film's release date. And so the struggle began. I just couldn't connect to the story. And one thing in particularly irritated me to no end - Indian characters' dialogue (even while they were in India, so I would assume that they wouldn't be communicating with each other in English) was happening in a very very bad English. I know, it seems like such a minor point but it played a huge part in my inability to make that emotional connection to any of the characters or story itself. I was soldering through, even contemplating giving up (which is something I simply don't do, I finish the book whether I like it or not, out of respect for the author) and then I ended up watching the movie half way through my (painful) journey through the book. And a rare thing happened - I liked the film much more than the book. For once the plotline and character changes did not bother me - they actually made me like the characters more. Helen Mirren was fantastic as chef Madame Mallory. And Madame Mallory was a more interesting character in the film than in the book. The food in the film, and its preparation was making my mouth water. It did everything the book didn't do for me - it made me want to try so many new dishes. The relationship between Hassan and Marguerite was more complex and more engaging than in the book. Overall I found the movie Hassan much more sympathetic than the book one. After watching the movie, I went back and finished the book hoping that somewhere along the way I'll find a thread to hang on to. It simply did not happen. I am not claiming that the book is bad, far from it. It just somehow missed the mark with me. Judging by its popularity there are many readers out there who don't share my experience. Sometimes it's just not meant to be....

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    My family is all about food and cooking. From my Seattle grandmother's elegant party fare to my father's amazing sauces and my own one-pot soups and stews, we have cooked and eaten our way through many cuisines. I grew up in various kitchens and some of my fondest memories are food-related - watching Julia Child with my grandmother, sneaking fried pies out of my other grandmother's kitchen, eating barbecued shrimp in New Orleans with the whole family - the list goes on and on. In my family we're My family is all about food and cooking. From my Seattle grandmother's elegant party fare to my father's amazing sauces and my own one-pot soups and stews, we have cooked and eaten our way through many cuisines. I grew up in various kitchens and some of my fondest memories are food-related - watching Julia Child with my grandmother, sneaking fried pies out of my other grandmother's kitchen, eating barbecued shrimp in New Orleans with the whole family - the list goes on and on. In my family we're typically eating and talking about what we're going to eat next. We also read. A lot. Every one of us is an inveterate library goer and reader of all kinds of things. Naturally, food porn is an important category and this book fits that need. The story of a young chef and his journey from India to Paris with stops in London and the French Alps, The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about food and the ways eating and cooking it inform and define us. Hassan Haji grows up in the kitchen of his family restaurant in Mumbai, flees with them to London when riots irrevocably change their lives, and finally lands in the French Alps where he meets Madame Mallory who will change his life much as he changes hers. I loved this story's simplicity and joie de vivre and the descriptions of food are among the very best food porn I've read in ages. Whether writing about Indian food or classical French cuisine, Morais demonstrates an understanding of the pleasures of food and of its ability to connect us to each other and to remind us of who we are.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Very delightful book. The main character however lacked depth and I was hoping for more development in his character. The other 'minor' characters were very good. I loved reading about the father, the aunt and the crazy woman chef from across the way in Marseille. Also I wished that the author wouldn't have introduced some characters so late in the book. One of Hassan's chef friends was introduced so late in the book that there really was no time to give him much depth and development and was ha Very delightful book. The main character however lacked depth and I was hoping for more development in his character. The other 'minor' characters were very good. I loved reading about the father, the aunt and the crazy woman chef from across the way in Marseille. Also I wished that the author wouldn't have introduced some characters so late in the book. One of Hassan's chef friends was introduced so late in the book that there really was no time to give him much depth and development and was hard to really feel anything for him. Over all, a very good book especially for people who love food and love to read about the preparation of meals. The author does a good job of painting a picture of scenes in the kitchen. I only wish Hassan was more passionate about how he got into cooking and how he prepared the meals.

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