Saturday, September 6, 2014

The 100 Foot Journey

I'm taking a little break from book blogging to write about a movie that I saw recently-The Hundred Foot Journey.  I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it.  Oh!  And there's a book by the same name on which the movie was based, so I'm excited to look for that book.  As a basic summary, The Hundred Foot Journey is about an Indian family who runs a restaurant in Mumbai.  After a group storms through their village and sets fire to their restaurant, killing their mother, the 4 children and their father flee to Europe.  They end up in a small French village, where a young sous-chef takes them under her wing.  However, things become slightly tense when the family decides to buy a restaurant just 100 feet across the street from a Michelin-star-winning French restaurant run by the town matriarch, Madame Mallory.  Things become even more complicated when it turns out that Marguerite, the sous-chef, works at this restaurant.  Meanwhile, after much conflict, the Indian restaurant begins to draw people and it becomes apparent that the one son, Hassan, is a very gifted chef.  Of course, there is the requisite romance between Hassan and Marguerite, which I quite enjoyed, but the real focus of the movie was food.

As many of you know, I quite love food and I love cooking.  I am by no means at a chef-level of cooking, but I think I am fairly skilled in the kitchen.  When I saw this movie, I was completely inspired by the gorgeous scenes of knives flying across cutting boards full of onions, spices spread liberally, and perfect omelets concocted. There was also the side-interest of the gorgeous clothes and the beautiful French countryside was, of course, perfectly gorgeous.   Marguerite wore lovely dresses that I coveted and had a bob that I am seriously considering.  However, the main interest of the movie was the food.

Now here are the things that I scoffed at:


  • The produce-There are so many scenes where markets and people's tables are shown and they are, of course, beautiful.  But the produce obviously came from a California greenhouse and were shipped to some supermarket in a Sysco truck.  Since the feeling of the movie is supposed to be one of farm-to-table eating and uber localness, this was not a good move on the filmmakers' part.  The tomatoes were the fakest looking things and the peppers were all these huge, flawless, bright red bell peppers.  No heirloom produce there.
  • There was this side-story about this chest of Indian spices that were bequeathed to Hassan.  Now this is nit-picky, but spices that are at least 20 years old should not be put into a curry.  Actually, those spices shouldn't go anywhere.  Not even a very mild dish.  I'm sorry, Hassan, they may be Mama's old spices, but they need to be lovingly put in a trunk somewhere and then you can go out and get some new spices.  Trust me, your food's going to be soooo much more flavorful.
  • They could have talked more about food.  No, I think for the average viewer, the food focus was just about at capacity.  But I want to know more!  I want to know just exactly how he was making that gorgeous looking vegetable jalfrezzi.  Heck, I want that guy to come give me some cooking lessons.  
But, really, I was able to overlook these picky things.  The movie was beautiful and the filmmakers did a wonderful job.  The movie was one of those where you feel like you've been in a different place when you emerge blinking from the theater.  I was also inspired by a great many cooking details from the movie.  After seeing Madame Mallory make the world's most perfect omelet, I am determined to master that skill.  Also, in every cooking scene, there was a cup that was full of spoons.  The cooks all pulled out a clean spoon to taste at every step.  I'm going to look for some spoons at the thrift store and do this.  I think it's a great idea!  But the thing that most inspired me the fact that nobody cooked with a cookbook.  Now, I understand that these are chefs, not lay-cooks, but I was still impressed.  

After the movie, as we drove home, I contemplated food and realized that nothing else would please me except a big bowl of curry.  When I got home, I instinctively reached for a cookbook and then pulled back my hand.  No, I was going to make curry by taste.  I've always been too afraid of a complete cooking failure if I don't follow a recipe, but I finally did it!  And it was wonderful to smell the heavenly scent of curry and see the piles of steam and feel the ingredients in my hands after seeing all those things in a movie.  Here's the rough recipe of what I did:

Lamb Curry

I pulled out a 1 lb. packet of lamb cubes (we raise sheep and therefore always have a good supply of lamb in the freezer) and set that to defrost while I chopped onions and garlic and sauteed them in olive oil.  Then I added the lamb, cooked until brown, and then began to add the most important thing- the spices.  I found a little jar of curry paste at the back of the pantry and then I added garam masala, coriander, and I can't remember what else, just adding by taste and smell.  Next, I added a quart of tomatoes, half a can of coconut milk, about half of a container of yogurt, and cooked until thick.  I served it with yogurt swirled at the top and sprigs of cilantro on top of the whole thing.  And you know what?  It turned out fantastically!  I will definitely be cooking curry without a book again!  And I've become inspired to try more non-cookbook cooking, using smells and tastes to cook.  

So anyway, this is definitely a must-see if you like pretty movies or good food.  I really loved it and it was a huge inspiration.  

5 comments:

  1. Hi
    I've read about this film and look forward to seeing it - if only because it involves Helen Mirren!
    But I would argue with one of your 'scoffs' - the produce.
    Having visited many towns and villages in northern France not only do the markets have such quality produce but the supermarkets too!
    Living in the UK on the eastern coast it was a shock some years ago to see staff in French supermarket throw away produce that in a supermarket in a local town would be sold as 'the best'!
    Similarly, in Paris most side streets have small shops run by immigrants that seem to be open all day and night, and most of them have produce displays that would put our local supermarkets to shame.
    You also comment on the chefs having a pot of spoons for tasting on their bench, in restaurants of any quality surely this is standard practice?
    Sound a good film though!

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    1. No, I wasn't saying that French produce is actually like that. I was arguing that somebody shooting this film was buying some California produce :)

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    2. Sorry, I think we have our wires crossed here!
      My point was that in French markets and supermarkets (compared to those outside city centres in the UK) produce does look like it just came from Californian greenhouses but it is actually LOCAL!

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    3. Oh! Oh! I see what you mean. I was confused.

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  2. A second thought - there was a TV series here (factual) in 2002 about an Indian who opened an Indian restaurant in a French village - 'A Place in France' - and of course the locals are very suspicious to begin with.

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