Study Guide

The Hundred-Foot Journey Cooking

By Richard C. Morais

Cooking

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.