Study Guide

The Hundred-Foot Journey Coming of Age

By Richard C. Morais

Coming of Age

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.