Ever since my lovely librarian/blogger cousin Kathy posted a list of books that would be made into movies in 2014 and I first read the description of The Hundred Foot Journey, I was hooked.
Then, when I read the book, I fell in love. (In fact, I was all ready to link up to the review here…and I discovered to my horror that I haven’t left a review of Richard C. Morais’ book which inspired the DreamWorks film.) The book was so brimming with luscious descriptions of foods, so I can only imagine how gorgeous it will all be on the big screen. Likewise, Hassan’s family was so colorful, I can’t wait to see them brought to life in living color. I’m really excited to be seeing an advance screening of The Hundred Foot Journey tonight while I’m at BlogHer in San Jose – the movie will be in theaters on August 8th!
In a nutshell, The Hundred Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji. Born in Bombay and raised in his grandfather’s (and then his father’s) humble kitchen, conflict forces them out of India and he escapes to France with his colorful, boisterous family. They settle in the French village of Lumiere and open an Indian restaurant – 100 feet across the street from the prestigious, Michelin-starred restaurant owned my Madame Mallory. Despite her horror at the affront on her senses that the Haji’s restaurant offers, and in spite of her efforts to make their life hell (so they leave her to her quiet French alpine village), she discovers the raw talent in Hassan. The 100 foot distance between the restaurants represents the distance to be bridged between the two cultures.
Within the distance between the two cultures, one idea remains the same for both: that a taste or even a smell – of a food can whisk you to another time and place, to childhood, to a favorite memory, to home.
And that brings me (the long way around) to my question: what “bite” takes you home?
For me, it is and always will be the “ravs and sauce” from the local Italian restaurants where I grew up in central Illinois. Irrespective of where you go in the Illinois valley, if you order “ravioli with sauce” (which the rest of the world will call, more pretentiously, tortelini in Bolognese sauce), one bite of that meat sauce takes me back to 8-years-old, sitting in a booth at Len-Rico’s restaurant, with one of the brothers (Len or Rico) popping out from the kitchen to throw pickles at my dad (they were characters) as we drank real milkshakes from shiny, sweating silver milkshake cups.
I’ve never had sauce that tastes quite like that…until I went to Italy. And Spain. And to my delight, discovered that the bolognese sauces there tasted exactly like the sauces made by the Italian cooks living in the little village of Naplate, a little place grown of (mostly northern) Italian glass workers.
Lucky for me, when Len-Rico’s closed, a local deli bought the recipe and so when I go “home” for a visit I can stock up on containers of sauce and freeze them for future yummy dinners.
And now all this talk of food makes me hungry.
It’s funny: my 10-year-old was telling me earlier this week how much he missed the lovely Indian restaurant in the little Welsh village where we used to live. Later that day I received some recipes (courtesy of DreamWorks) that were created by Chef Bal Arneson after seeing a preview of The Hundred Food Journey.
I bet a bite of this curry would remind him of our little village in Wales, where his first school meal was a curry (if you can believe it).
So you tell me: what bite takes you home to your childhood?