I suspect my destiny was written from the very start, for my first sensation of life was the smell of machli ka salan, a spicy fish curry, rising through the floorboards to the cot in my parent's room above the restaurant. (1.1)
Hassan basically tells us here that he was born to be a chef. This guy is born smelling food, so it's kind of like he's never known anything different; learning to cook is as natural to him as learning to breathe.
The entire experience of leaving Bombay rather resembled a certain technique for catching octopus found in the Portuguese villages living off the rough waters of the Atlantic. (3.1)
Hassan describes his family moving from Bombay to the spearing of an octopus. It's a graphic description, and we wouldn't want to be the octopus. The Hajis unfortunately are the octopus in this deal, being speared by unfortunate changes off the cold Atlantic.
When we got home that day, Umar told my sister Mehtab that I was in love, and then added unkindly, "Hot body, but face… face like an onion bhaji." (3.11)
Hassan thinks this is mean, though he also agrees with his brother's opinion of his first love. Ouch. But we've noticed that he seems to use appealing and gross food references together without necessarily implying positive or negative connotations.
Her dark eyes were deep set in pale skin, like pearls inside oyster-sized cheeks red from both the sharp wind and the sturdy Jura stock that was her genetic makeup. (5.21)
He first describes his love Margaret Bonnier's eyes as pearls in oysters. This is fitting because, well, she kind of ends up being his pearl in the end. As we'll notice about Margaret, she's calm and bright regardless of the "sharp winds" that come her way.
"Because, my friends, the young, I find their flesh so tasty to eat. Don't you agree?" (8.146)
Mallory defies hunter-code by killing a young boar, arguing that they taste better. But we also know it's a sick metaphor for her appetite for preying on the weak and helpless. Mallory finds that the young and helpless make better victims. Fair fights aren't exactly her thing, it seems.
The joy I felt, like that incredible explosion of cream when you bite into a religieuse pastry. (11.149)
Hassan's immediate reaction to his father letting him go work for Mallory is like eating a mouthful of sugar—it's an incredible explosion of happiness and sugar. Even if we don't quite feel joy while eating like Hassan, we can understand what he's getting at.
He threw open the refrigerator door and stuck his head inside; according to the medical examiner, he was gobbling the leftovers so fast that a chunk of chicken leg got lodged in his throat. (13.109)
Poor Papa meets his death while he is eating. This is an important event in Hassan's life, though sad, and it happens because of food. This isn't something that he adds to the story for drama either, like his food analogies. It kind of tells us that food happens to play a role that he doesn't even have control of.
The smell of searing lamb's flesh and cumin and bubbling fat came to us in the wind, and the simplicity of it all—the roasting meat, the mint tea, the cheerful familiar chatter—it took my breath away. (15.74)
Hassan starts to realize the key to his happiness and success when he sees this simple meal prepared by a family on the side of the road. He is struck by the convergence of simplicity and happiness, and recognizes that elaborate meals aren't necessarily superior.
For this vision of the chickens headed to slaughter reminded me that there are many points in life when we cannot see what awaits us around the corner, and it is precisely at such times, when our path forward is unclear, that we must bravely keep our nerve, resolutely putting one foot before the other as we march blindly into the dark. (17.48)
Here's another inspirational analogy that Hassan finds, though oddly he gets his inspiration from chickens being killed. Here's a guy who has probably been the butcher before and handled meat thousands of times, but he finds comfort in the helplessness of those chickens, dutifully playing their part.
And it was on these seats that I had my first taste of England: a chilled and soggy egg-salad sandwich wrapped in a triangle of plastic. It is the bread, in particular, that I remember, the way it dissolved on my tongue.
Never before had I experienced anything so determinedly tasteless, wet, and white. (2.105-106)
Hassan's first experience with Western civilization is a nasty tasteless piece of white bread. It's kind of the worst example of Western food, but it embodies the way he first feels about leaving the culture he knows.
Southall was the unofficial headquarters of Britain's Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi community, a flatland in the armpit of Heathrow Airport, its Broadway High Street a glittering string of Bombay jewelers, Calcutta cash-and-carries, and Balti curry houses. It was terribly disorienting, this familiar noise under the gray skies of England. (3.10)
Each of thee cultures may be beautiful on their own, but when you squish them together its unnatural and ugly. Or so it seems here. This is interesting when we consider the fact that ultimately Hassan figures out how to navigate a blended cultural existence.
I can still recall that wondrous first glimpse of Le Saule Pleureur. It was, to me, more stunning than the Taj in Bombay. [Everything fit perfectly, the very essence of understated European elegance that was so completely foreign to my own upbringing]. (4.125)
Hassan is mesmerized by this new world. He compares it to the splendor of India because that's all that he knows, even though France is totally different. In his eyes, it's the grandest thing he's ever laid eyes on.
Maison Mumbai, written in massive gold letters on an Islamic green background, filled the entire billboard. (6.30)
Papa chooses a name for his new restaurant that blends both worlds seamlessly. "Maison" is French for house, and "Mumbai" is their home in India. It's a perfect merging of two cultures, and lays claim to both as homes. Go, Papa.
It was a look I would see many times again as I made my way through France in the coming years—a uniquely Gallic look of nuclear contempt for one's inferiors (6.7)
Hassan experiences European prejudice toward his people for the first time when Mallory looks across the street and glares at her new neighbors. He doesn't often mention it as seriously as he does here, but he's telling us that it's something that he sees many times afterwards.
How could I tell him, moreover, how could I tell him that I found myself secretly and passionately wanting to be a part of this pig-butchering underworld? (6.153)
Hassan is fascinated by the butchery ceremony he sees at Mallory's, complete with the priest blessing the animal being slaughtered. He's not thinking of turning from his Islamic roots, but he's fascinated by the world outside of it.
I was—I don't mind admitting it—completely rattled by the austere room, so Catholic and foreign to my upbringing, and a voice in my head, half-hysterical, urged me to dash back to the safety and comfort of my cheerful bedroom in Maison Mumbai. (12.4)
The culture clash is really scary for Hassan when he goes to live in Mallory's European home. It seems dark ands morbid compared to the bright colorful world he's used to. In other words, this Western Christianity comes from a totally different mold than what he's used to.
The side dishes I prepared were a mint-infused couscous, rather than the traditional butter noodles, and a cucumber-and-sour-cream salad dashed with a handful of lingonberries. I thought together they would make soothing and light counterpoints to the heavy mustard tang of the stewed hare. Of course, now, looking back, I realize the cucumber and cream was, conscious or not, inspired by raita, the yogurt-and-cucumber condiment of my homeland. (12.176)
At his first chance to prepare a dish in Mallory's kitchen, Hassan is subconsciously inspired by both cultures, creating his own unique fusion of flavors. Early on, Hassan is using the two cultures he hangs out in to create his own new style.
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. (14.13)
Hassan's diverse background has made him open to new ideas in his field. He is able to recognize the creative elements of Chef Mafitte's style, even if he doesn't agree with his full approach in the end.
Could it be? But there it was, the unmistakable aroma of my youth, joyously coming down a cobblestone side passage to greet me, the smell of machli ka salan, the fish curry of home, from so long ago. (19.26)
As Hassan is returning home after winning his third star, he finds himself drawn to the smell of a tiny Indian restaurant. It brings back memories of India from long ago, and after all these years he still finds it the most comforting smell in the world. We've said it once, but we'll say it again: You can take the boy out of India but you can't take the India out of the boy.
My life in the kitchen, in short, starts way back with my grandfather's great hunger. (1.3)
Right away, Hassan positions his story within the context of his family. Food is in his blood, and he puts himself in the Haji legacy right away so that we know that whatever happens to him, we can thank Grandpa and his appetite.
But one thing stuck without doubt—my father stuck to the promise he had made Mummy at her graveside, and in a stroke we wound up losing not only our beloved mother but also all that was home. (2.104)
Papa swears on Mama's grave that he will take his family away from the evil that ended in her death. In doing so, he kind of swears to protect the family and honor her memory in one. They just can't stay in a place that killed Mama.
Our Period of Mourning was officially over. It was time for the Haji family to get on with life, to start a new chapter, to finally put behind us our lost years. (4.121)
They're all moving on together. The Haji family survived England as a unit, they travelled through Europe crammed in cars, and now they'll survive France and start being happy together. Talk about a team effort.
"Hassan. Don't worry. We are Hajis."
He placed his immense hand on my knee and squeezed it until I yelped.
"This time we don't run." (8.29-31)
Papa's all about sticking together and finding strength in family connectedness. Because they are Hajis, and because they are family, they're going to bring Mallory down. That mean old lady across the street doesn't stand a chance.
And as I passed Papa at the iron gates, as each new generation is meant to do, he wept unabashedly and wiped his grief-stricken face with a white handkerchief. And I remember, as if it were yesterday, his words as I passed.
"Remember, sweet boy, you are a Haji." (11.153-154)
This is it: Hassan is leaving his family behind and starting his new life. When he goes, Papa asks him to stay true to his family roots and always remember where he came from. When all is said and done, Hassan does just this very thing.
She was like Mother. Didn't say a lot, but when she did, my heavens, it would hit you harder than any of Papa's tirades. (12.137)
Hassan is attracted to Margaret partly because she reminds him of his mother. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that reminds him of all the best qualities of the woman he loved most as a kid.
It came to me then: it was not my family that was having trouble letting me go to Paris, it was me not wanting to let go of them. This, I would say, was the moment when I finally grew up, because it was in that wet forest that I was able to say to myself, Good-bye, Papa! I am off to see the world! (12.227)
Hassan resists growing up because he doesn't want to lose that close family connection that's been so much a part of his life for so long. From now on, he's going to have to honor the Haji legacy on his own, and understandably, that kind of scares him. When he's able to walk away with confidence, he officially becomes an adult in his family.
"So I think you should consider taking her in as a partner in your fancy Parisian restaurant. Nah? She will be a great help to you, Hassan, and of course, she brings her own share of the capital to invest. It will also be a great relief to me, to know you are looking after her." (13.22)
Always there to remind him of his family, Papa takes care of Hassan and makes sure that his daughter is taken care of in one package deal. This is a good move for both of Papa's children, and Mehtab ends up being really useful to Hassan.
And I was filled with an ache that hurt, almost to breaking. 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 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. (19.30)
Not only is Hassan missing all of his family on the night of his biggest success, but also he's including those people who aren't technically related to him but who he counts as part of his family. Plus, he's regretting that he chose a career over a family of his own. It all comes out here: All those years of Hassan making it in the big world without his family by his side is catching up to him at last.
It came to me, then. At my desk, with great purpose, I picked up a pair of scissors and neatly trimmed the page-three article. I slipped the cutting into a wooden frame, leaned over, and hung the announcement of my third star on the wall.
In that hungry space.
Of generations ago. (20.78-80)
In the last couple of sentences in the book, Hassan attributes all his success to that "great hunger" that started back with his grandfather in Chapter 1. By doing this, he officially stamps his story with the theme of family from beginning to end.
Ammi was quite remarkable and I cannot give her enough credit for what became of me. (1.17)
Hassan credits his success to his grandmother, whom he remembers being sharp and vivacious when he is a very small child. This shows that he's always been a person who learns from looking up to other people.
But you had to admire Papa, the charisma and determination behind his immense drive. (1.37)
Hassan gets his business streak from Papa, who singlehandedly runs the family restaurant in Mumbai, as well as supports the whole family. Although Hassan doesn't have quite the same charisma and personality as Papa, his dad gives him a great example to live by.
Mummy sat on the blanket, curled into herself like a pink pomegranate. She turned gaily, her teeth white, her hands stretched out to help my sister. That is how I like to remember Mummy. (2.82)
This is a pattern that Hassan has throughout the story. He likes to remember everyone at their absolute best, and so he takes a pretty picture to think of them by. This natural goodwill makes it easy for Hassan to admire people.
"No? Hmm. Not very impressive. Perhaps she is not as good as we think."
"No, Papa. She is a great chef." (12.36)
In his first few months at Le Saule Pleureur, Hassan works super hard doing lots of boring work. The thing that gets him by and makes him keep working is that he looks up to Madame Mallory as an example of what he wants to become. His respect for her inspires him to work without giving up.
I was very happy working alongside white-haired Marc Rossier, an elderly chef who had his own ways. […] This rewarding work at La Belle Cluny whet my appetite, and at the age of thirty I returned to Lumière to have an earnest talk with Papa. (13.9-13.11)
Hassan's admiration for his boss and enthusiasm to learn from him is what inspires him to want to open a restaurant of his own. As far as Hassan's concerned, every person is someone to learn from in order to make himself better.
But over the following years, Verdun and I definitely established a deep and abiding professional respect for each other, even, I would say, one of real affection. (13.83)
Hassan and Verdun's friendship is admiration to the max in both directions. What starts as a business connection turns into an inspirational friendship that benefits both men. Hassan doesn't even think to see Paul as a threat or competition, but is instead just excited to meet someone more experienced than himself.
Economists have had their own explanation as to what happened during this dark period, but I like to think the universe at large was itself reacting to the news that Abbas Haji and Gertrude Mallory were no more a part of this life, but had finally been summoned to the abattoir. (13.116)
Hassan's two greatest heroes die, and he's left incredibly depressed and discouraged. Poetically, he states that everything around him—even the crash of the economy—is due to the absence of these two awesome people in his life.
"Paul really had affection only for you, Hassan. He once told me that you and he were 'made from the same ingredients.'" (15.45)
Paul's widow tells Hassan that her late husband had great admiration for him. He considered his friend like-minded and in possession of the same understanding of their shared art form. Paul and Hassan were never competition for each other because they had a healthy way of looking up to each other and both enjoying the same things.
And I tell you, as I looked out at all those good people—red-faced and stuffed with my food—I suddenly felt my father's mountainous presence at my side, beaming with pride. (19.19)
This is the biggest moment in Hassan's life. As everyone is applauding and admiring him, he imagines that his father, whom he always admired more than anybody else, is there with him. It's kind of like Hassan is admiring the memory of Papa, who is admiring him back.
"You have made me understand that 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." (19.35)
After his big success, Hassan remembers Mallory stating the importance of looking up to others. Mallory has learned, or remembered, that you have to learn from others to grow. And it's probably a good guess that Hassan was a good example to her of this. A little admiration goes a long way.
But you must know: Madame Mallory, across the street from the Dufour estate, was an innkeeper from a long line of distinguished hoteliers, originally from the Loire. (5.2)
Mallory is the epitome of tradition—not only in her beliefs about French cooking, but in her blood. Just like Hassan is a descendant of his grandfather's "great hunger," Mallory is a descendant of a family that is old, successful, and traditional.
Well, that was the kind of chef Mallory was. Classical, but challenging, always challenging. (5.7)
Although Mallory's a master of tradition, Hassan tells us that she's also a fierce worker within her genre, always raising the bar. She may not be trying totally new things, but she works to be perfect at what she does.
Chef Verdun was a master of that lard-heavy school of French cuisine that was just starting, at that time, to fall from favor, overtaken by that molecular cooking established by the fast-rising Chef Mafitte down in Aix-en-Provence. (13.78)
When Hassan meats Paul, he's honored by the famous chef's visit since he's pretty much a celebrity of traditional French cuisine. Dude's a living legend… but then again, legends usually refer to the past.
Chez Pierre was old school, dressed simply with sturdy tables under white tablecloths and heavy silver flatware. (13.88)
Hassan describes a restaurant where he and Paul enjoy one of the most memorable nights of his life. Paul has flown them there in his private jet to enjoy this incredible traditional meal in this "old school" place.
Charles Mafitte was at the time emerging clearly as the artistic leader of the postmodern movement deconstructing food. [His] technique involved the total reduction of ingredients, almost to a molecular level, before reassembling an odd mixture of fused foodstuffs. (13.95)
This guy, who's heading the movement away from tradition, basically massacres ingredients to make new things. Yum?
I worked hard but made no headway, as the freshness and zeal with which I'd started my work at Le Chien Méchant was institutionalized through constant repetition. (13.106)
Hassan's gotten his second star but runs into the culinary version of writer's block—he's stuck in the old way and doesn't know how to switch things up. It seems that he's gotten so carried away with doing things just so within the traditional ways that he doesn't know how to be creative.
It was logical, with my heritage, that I would be drawn to Chef Mafitte's "world cuisine" […] but I could not help coming to the conclusion his culinary contrivances were, in the end, a triumph of style over substance. (14.13)
The traditions that Hassan was taught were rich with flavor and meaning and carried down from ages past. Good things can't just happen overnight, and here we see the conundrum of whether it's better to focus on flavor or appearance when it comes to food. The new way is very focused on looks, but Hassan seems concerned about the impact this has on the actual experience of, you know, eating.
"We will draw on the old recipes for inspiration, yes, but we will renew them by stripping them back to their core, removing all the period embellishments and convolutions that have been added to them over time." (16.29)
Hassan gives Le Chien Méchant a makeover, not by throwing out the old way of doing things, but by simplifying the process. This is the perfect way to get out of his slump but not give into the weird new fads. It's like he de-clutters tradition, if you will.
"I do think you have to change with the times in a way that renews your core essence, not abandons it. To change for the sake of change—without an anchor—that is mere faddishness. It will only lead you further astray." (16.71)
One of the guests at Paul's memorial dinner contributes the idea that change can be a way to honor tradition. Change can happen but it needs to reference what's already established, to renew instead of abandon.
He noticed, for example, the labor-intensive haute couture, at the top of the fashion pyramid, built world-class reputations on their innovative designs, but few women in the modern age could actually afford or bought these costly creations. (17.33)
Haute couture is compared to haute cuisine. One of the problems with both of these great traditions is that people can't afford the labor that it takes to produce. Sure it's all beautiful and fancy, but when it comes down to it, no one has enough money to keep it going.
These days in India many up-and-coming families have miraculously discovered noble backgrounds—famous relatives who worked with Mahatma Gandhi in the early days of South Africa—but I have no such genteel heritage. We were poor Muslims. (1.2)
The family's destiny is defined by race from the get-go. They don't have the advantage of having the right kind of blood to have automatic success, so they have to work really hard.
We were not of the shantytown, or of the upper class of Malabar Hill, but instead lived on the exposed fault line between the two worlds. (2.75)
For the Hajis in Mumbai, it's a dangerous thing to not belong to either side. The family has worked itself into a nice position, but Papa is kind of playing with fire by not belonging to either the upper or lower class. Because he tries to breach the gap and please both worlds, the family ends up with tragedy.
When we arrived, a few streets of Southall were also in the throes of gentrification, worked over by ambitious second-generation immigrants. Papa called them the "Anglo-Peacocks". (3.11)
Papa refers to people of their race who have acclimated to Western life "Anglo Peacocks." It's a negative name for those who he sees as having abandoned their old way of life and adopted a new culture.
It was a look that I would see many times again as I made my way through France in the coming years—a uniquely Gallic look of nuclear contempt for one's inferiors. (6.7)
Hassan remembers the first time that Mallory looks down on his family by glaring at them from across the street. The basis for her initial dislike of them is based on racial prejudice. She assumes certain things about them, and also assumes that she's better. Not okay.
"Christians," Uncle Mayur snorted contemptuously. "Come, let us go." (6.150)
Hassan's uncle looks across the street at the pig-slaying ceremony and does not find it interesting. He writes it off because it is a practice that's not allowed in their culture (as Muslims, they can't eat pork).
Madame Mallory had never before been called "uncivilized." […] So to be called a barbarian, and by this Indian, to boot, was just too much for her and she smashed Papa on the chest with her fist. (9.40)
Mallory associates her French breeding with automatic good behavior. Not only is it wrong to make such an assumption, but her behavior is generally so terrible that she's, like, extra wrong. She is outraged when Papa calls her out on this—and even her outrage has racist tones to it.
I heard a male voice asking what had happened to her "negre blanc", followed by all the other men laughing. I remember pausing—listening intently—but I never heard Margaret challenge the remark. She just ignored it. (12.206)
While on a date, Margaret runs into a few old friends, who make a backhand comment about Hassan's race. It's a little moment in the story and Margaret chooses to pretend it didn't happen rather than make it an issue. But it still happens.
The woman's curse—"You dirty Arab"—brought me abruptly back to the Rue des Carmes, and for the first time I really looked around at the Parisian indifference surrounding me in the market, so typically offhand, as if nothing of true significance had actually occurred. (14.11)
Even though he is now successful and established in Paris, Hassan still encounters racial discrimination. Chances are, this lady does not know that he's a hugely successful chef that probably makes way more money than her. Even if he didn't, though, she's still be way out of line.
Madame Verdun's old-fashioned way of talking always sounded to me like a deliberate attempt to let Paul's friends know that she was of "better" stock than her self-made husband. (15.10)
Paul Verdun's aristocratic wife shows prejudice toward those who aren't of the same high blood and upbringing as she is. This prejudice is less based on race or talent, and more about the fact that she inherited her money rather than having had to earn it. We shudder to imagine what she thinks of people who don't have much money at all.
When I was twelve, however, Papa decided to move upmarket, closer to Joshi's Hyderabad Restaurant, and he turned our old restaurant compound into the 365-seat Bollywood Nights. (2.55)
Papa feels competitive against Uday Joshi, who owns restaurants on the ritzy side of town. This competition against the wealthier class places the Haji family in a dangerous place, so right from the beginning we get the message that competition isn't good.
Madame Mallory did not do the decent thing. She did not cross the street and talk directly with Papa, try to reason with him. She never tried in any way to make us feel welcome. No, her first impulse was to crush us under her heels. Like we were bugs. (6.34)
Mallory is wired to be competitive. Her immediate reaction when she sees the sign for the Maison Mumbai is not to shake hands and wish her neighbors luck, it's to squash them like a bug.
I never say Papa so brilliant an operator—so charming, so ruthlessly determined to bend the will of others, and yet so generous in making them feel they had won. (8.35)
Papa is competitive to the bone, and he pours every ounce of his energy into retaliating against Mallory. It's practically an art form to him.
If I am honest, my rise to Paris over the next twenty years, it was not as difficult as one would suspect. It was as if some unseen spirit were clearing obstacles and helping me take the path that I believe was always destined for me. (13.1)
Hassan admits that he really doesn't have to fight to get where he's going, since he doesn't face any competition. It's like he's riding one heck of a wave of luck.
I worked hard but made no headway, as the freshness and zeal with which I'd started my work at Le Chien Méchant was institutionalized through constant repetition (13.106)
Hassan's not competitive toward other people, he's competitive toward himself. He wants to be better than he was before and starts to die when he can't one-up his former self.
Just weeks before, Gault Millau had demoted Paul from nineteen to fifteen points out of a possible twenty, a brutal reminder that today's critics and customers were obsessed with the culinary cubism of Chef Charles Mafitte. (14.12)
Paul's death coincides with the fact that he's slowly being run out of town by Chef Mafitte's innovative and flashy new trends. His death is directly related to the fact that competition is a serious part of his job.
"Well, apparently he thought that was you. I am, if I may be frank, not quite sure why he was so taken by you—you have only two stars, no? (15.37)
Paul's widow doesn't understand why someone as successful as her husband would make a friend who wasn't as renowned. Their friendship, though, is proof that Paul didn't value competition more than he valued the art form itself.
"No copying the heavy old brassiere dishes, no emulating the deconstructionalists and the minimalists, but our own unique house built on the simplest of French truths." (16.29)
Hassan's revelation, which becomes the key to his success, is tuning out all the corrupt nonsense that has come with everyone trying to out-do each other. He isn't going to play the game, instead he's going to ignore it… and win by doing so.
No doubt about it. The loss of a Michelin star would have brought the whole thing down. I shudder even to think about it." (16.48)
At Paul's memorial dinner, a guest comments that the right people saying the wrong things about him would have destroyed Paul's entire empire. Just like that. Talk about stiff competition.
"So, yes, he was running both the creative side and the business side, very admirable, but in reality, each had only his superficial attention. He was running and running but had no focus. Any businessman will tell you that is a recipe for disaster." (16.66).
Paul's biggest mistake was not that he didn't keep up with outside competition, it's that he lost the focus to compete with himself. He was running on empty, and because he couldn't challenge himself to be better, he failed.
I grew up watching her tiny figure darting barefoot across the earthen kitchen floor, quickly dipping eggplant slices in chickpea flour and frying them in the kadai, cuffing a cook, passing me an almond wafer, screeching her disapproval at my aunt. (1.17)
Hassan reminisces about his first days in a kitchen, watching his grandmother bustling about and eagerly taking in her every move.
One of my favorite vacation pastimes, however, was accompanying Bappu on his morning trips to Bombay's Crawford Market. […] I wound up, without trying, picking up a most valuable skill for a chef, the art of selecting fresh produce. (2.4)
While Hassan's growing up, he accompanies his family's cook, Bappu, to market where, because of his curiosity about food, he learns a valuable skill pretty much by accident.
Well, Bappu did follow my suggesting after Papa had finished his verbal battering, and it was the only hint of what would become of me, because the chicken dish established itself as one of our bestsellers, renamed, by my father, Hassan's Dry Chicken. (2.42)
This is a landmark moment, the time when Hassan makes his first "professional" decision. It immediately becomes a big hit.
But Mummy smiled kindly and said, "Never be afraid of trying something new, Hassan. Very important. It is the spice of life." (2.61)
This experience with Mama is the main one that we hear about, which tells us it's important. She gives Hassan super important advice, especially since this 'something new' is French food, which becomes kind of his thing later on.
And so that was how I found my first love, Abhidha, among the shawls, when I was seventeen. (3.10)
What would a coming-of-age story be without a first love? Although this isn't exactly the most life-changing experience, and it brings him no closer to being a chef, it's an important part of Hassan's growing up process.
And I will always be grateful to England for this, for helping me realize that my place in the world was nowhere else but standing before a vat of boiling oil, my feet wide apart. (3.50).
As much as Hassan hates living in England, he finds it a valuable experience because it gives him a big step to growing up. It's the place where he gets his first experience working with food.
It was a revelation. Never before had I seen a chef take such meticulous artistic care, particularly not with something as ugly as this vegetable. (6.17)
Hassan becomes enamored with the French ways of cooking as he watches Mallory prepare an artichoke. He watches with total excitement and it inspires him to want to learn how to do it himself.
And I, at the age of eighteen, finally took up my calling. It was Papa's idea, ordering me into the kitchen. […] But I choked, suddenly afraid of my destiny. "I am a boy," I yelled. "Make Mehtab do it." (6.136)
Even in the moment, Hassan realizes that what's about to happen will change the course of his future. As a kid, the reality of how serious this is scares him a little.
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. (11.155)
This sentence gives the book its name. Hassan says that this little journey across the street marks his big move from being a kid to everything that lies beyond, so it tells us that the whole book's a kind of coming of age story.
This, I would say, was the moment when I finally grew up, because it was in that wet forest that I was able to say to myself, Good-bye, Papa! I am off to see the world! (12.227)
Just before he moves to Paris to start his career, he realizes that he's still really attached to his family. Leaving his family means growing up for good, and he doesn't want to let go of that bit of childhood. When he finally does, though, he makes the final step to being an adult.