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.