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The Hundred-Foot Journey    by Richard C. Morais order for
Hundred-Foot Journey
by Richard C. Morais
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

What a wonderful book is The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, calls it 'A gorgeous novel, vivid and intimate, tracing a journey from kitchen to kitchen, from culture to culture, with a perfect touch.' Generous praise, and well earned.

Hassan Haji starts his culinary career in his Muslim family's restaurant in Mumbai, India. When the family faces racism, they flee to London and then on to Paris, ending their search for the place where they can ply their trade in peace in Lumiere, a remote town in the French Alps.

They face a tough battle as across the road from them is a two star restaurant run by a martinet who is not in the least bit happy to be listening to their music or smelling the various spices and herbs used in Indian cooking.

So starts a culinary war that seems destined for disaster. As tension mounts, an extraordinary happening takes place and Hassan starts his hundred-foot journey from the Haji family's restaurant to the quaint French relais across the road.

The story line is well conceived and flows with no effort, from the daily activity of those involved to the culinary skills practiced by those same people. The telling of the story is poetic in the passion with which Hassan embraces his career, and the delight he takes in the foods with which he concocts new and impressive dishes. One can almost fondle the fresh vegetables he buys at market. And smell the aromas emanating from the delicate cheeses as well as from the spices of the East that figure so prominently in Indian cooking. When Hassan turns to fine French cooking, he never turns his back on his origins.

To read The Hundred-Foot Journey is take the long journey with Hassan from a poor Indian child to a renowned chef; to cross cultures and sample different people's tastes and desires. From a hard-won Michelin star, Hassan takes stock of his life and comes to terms with the fickleness of his customers. Anthony Bourdain says: 'Outstanding! A completely engaging human story heavily larded with the lushest, most high-test food porn since Zola. Easily the best novel set in the world of cooking ever.' I can't say it any better than that. I'll not try. Read this book. Enjoy. Even drool a bit. Bon Appetit.

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