Monday, July 22, 2013

Richard C. Morais' The Hundred-Foot Journey

A quick summer reading update:
I suspect that many of you would enjoy Richard C. Morais' The Hundred-Foot Journey which follows a young boy from bustling Mumbai to rural France (with a short stop in London) and thence to Paris. Not only does it offer the delights of armchair travel and entertaining characters, but it folds in the sensory pleasures of the culinary world as we follow the central character's climb to the top of the toughly critiqued Paris restaurant scene. My mouth watered as the pages described the lively, colourful, brilliantly spiced Indian food woven into a compelling multi-generational story of rags, riches, political violence, loss, and survival. And again, as the family adapts to life in rural France, a different set of foods seduced me as I visited the local markets with one or the other partner in a hilarious rivalry between old-school, xenophobic culinary French tradition and an upstart immigrant who hopes to transform the landscape with an injection from another continent.

 Morais also includes some illuminating narrative commentary on the pressures restaurants face in these days of globalized capital, and he clearly reveals his biases against some of the labour code protections that seem to work against restaurant owners. Caught up in the narrative, entertained by its characters, engulfed in its ambiance, I couldn't help but be sympathetic to some of the argument, yet having family in the industry, I'm much more appreciative than Morais seems to be, in these pages, to the value of job protection, a decent wage, etc. In fact, reading this immediately after Eva Hornung's Dog Boy, I wondered how I could reconcile such different worldviews. . .

In the end, I suppose the way I manage is by not so much reconciling these different paradigms, but identifying the elements I'm not comfortable with and enjoying the rest of Morais' book. Is that a copout? Perhaps, but I will readily admit that I enjoyed the novel very much, and I suspect you will too. Let me know, will you?


  1. Appreciating different points of view is not a cop-out. You still have your own from your own values and experience. The wrong thing, I believe, is not to open yourself to other ways of seeing things-- which you do.

  2. Thanks for the supportive feedback, Sue. I think I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Millais' book so much after being immersed in the world Hornung creates in Dog Boy . . .

  3. I just finished the Journey. The descriptions of food and locations made me salivate. I gobbled the book up greedily. Morais' view on job protection and benefits hit close to my home as my daughter has worked in the airline catering business for 15 years only to suffer the threat of yearly layoffs. I agree with Sue that we can see both sides of the issue.

  4. Whoa! You were really hungry (hah!) for something to read, weren't you? You read that quickly! Glad you enjoyed it, despite our shared reservations about the question of job protection. Morais does show the downside, which I respect, but using a bad apple to critique the system seems rather unfair to me.