A little while ago I went to see The Fault In Our Stars. I read the book months ago, fell in love, and was very pleased by how true the film stayed to the dialogue and characters and how well it captured the book’s raw humor and innocence. The novel made me cry–which is rare, only a few have–so I knew the film would be worse. I warned Justin, but I think he was expecting a few drops or some glistening eye-lids and not the open faucet that was my eyes (and nose, if we’re being honest…I’m not a pretty crier). While some people hate them, I love movie previews. Sometimes they drag on a little too long, but I love the sneak peaks of what is coming soon and always make a mental check-list of upcoming films I want to see. There were several that night that looked interesting, but from the moment this trailer started, I was hooked.
As a general principle I like to read the book before I watch the movie and since I knew I had 8+ hours in the car ahead of me the following weekend…
…I bought it. The prude spender inside my head made me feel guilty about buying ANOTHER book, but my ever rational heart justified the purchase after looking for it in every surrounding library and coming up empty. It is a delicately crafted story about change, food, family, destiny, and how greatness can be both a blessing and a curse. The Haji family–famous in Mumbai for their restaurant–moves from India to a tiny town in the French Alps to escape the ethnic violence. Son Hassan the is the secret behind the family’s culinary success. Even the pure-bred French chef Madame Mallory across the way cannot deny Hassan’s natural gift.
‘Talent,’ she said through the muffled clutch of her napkin. ‘Talent that cannot be learned. That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along in a chef once a generation. Don’t you understand? He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist. A great artist.
Art is the most accurate way to interpret the way the book describes food; from the thin layers and subtle flavors that can transform a pastry and the grander ways time and migration shape culinary trends. Unfortunately the character development that was so rich at the beginning petered off much earlier than it should have and the book made leaps and bounds in time when I feel it should have focused more on the smaller stories, the in-between days and years. But perhaps the speed with which the story moved illustrated the nature of destiny and time. How there are some moments so monumental or fortuitous that time slows down to allow you to appreciate them just as how some obstacles are so daunting and frustrating that overcoming them can seemingly take eons. Then comes the moment when what you have always wanted–always dreamed of–finally happens and it is both everything you imagined it would be and yet disappointing in the sense that life continues to rush by. Like how most of life–even when you are pursuing your passion–can feel like a blur from which you wake up, look around, and wonder how you arrived. Because Hassan’s talent is so innate, I was glad that the book very explicitly emphasized the role that others play in success. Even when something may be your destiny, the role of relationships (whether the influence is direct or indirect, with both friends and mentors) is invaluable. Multiple characters, not just Hassan, are touched in very profound ways by the others in the book.
I am not very good with words, but I would like to tell you that somewhere in life I lost my way, and I believe you were sent to me…so that I could be restored to the world.
Lastly I loved that in so many ways the author described the essence of things–unsurprisingly–with food.
Papa says he first fell in love with her smell. His head was down in a library book when he caught the most intoxicating whiff of chapatis and rose water. That, he said, was my mother.
‘Merci, madame,’ she said, in a voice that, as it wafted down to me with the wind, seemed redolent of fresh red berries and cream.
When we arrived, the sun was setting, like a mango sorbet dripping over the horizon.
The Hundred Foot Journey is both a physical journey across lands and an emotional one, into adulthood and away from family. As someone who is about to bridge a great precipice, I can relate to the momentousness of that first step. Naturally I was in the mood for Indian food after I read it (let’s be honest, I am always excited for Indian food because it is amazing and I can’t wait for India), so Justin and I went to a (free!) cooking class at Whole Foods.
I knew these events existed, but I didn’t know that they were free, nor did I know what the classes were actually like. We didn’t get to try our hands at the cooking, but we did watch as he instructed us–step by step–through the process of how to assemble and prepare the ingredients (with little tips and tidbits along the way). I love hearing chefs talk about food. Normally I–and I feel like most people–don’t think of food as a science and an art form. It is something you study, a skill you hone…but there is also just a feel for food that some people have and others don’t. I certainly don’t have it and envy those that do. Sure I can follow a recipe, but things almost always go wrong (especially when I try and improvise, so I’ve tried to stop doing that).
Along the way we got to sample each dish he made: the carrot and cucumber salad with at least 7 different colors, the juicy mango puree, and the curry chicken wraps that were crunchy and spicy and dripping with gold.
There was one thing he said that resonated with me the most: “In the world of spices, cardamom is the queen.” I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I may have been a little more liberal about the heaping scoop I added to these mango lassi popsicles. Succulent, sweet, and packing a punch. And, yes, they were rocket ship shaped.
I think those are my favorite films–the ones that celebrate ordinary individuals and their relationships. Although, I was completely sold when I saw the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer when there was a gorilla…riding a horse…holding a gun…surrounded by fire. Some things you just can’t beat.