The “Hundred Foot Journey”
It was only one hundred feet. But it might as well have been a thousand miles. The Hundred-foot Journey is a recent movie, based on the book of the same name by Richard C. Morais. It takes place first in a family. The young boy Hassan Haji grows up in Mumbai, India learning the art, the beauty, even the poetry of the spices and cuisine of India.
But tragedy strikes, born of ignorance, prejudice and violence of angry Hindus against Muslims in their neighborhood. Hassan’s mother is killed in the violence and fire that follows. Their property and family restaurant are destroyed and young Hassan is left to journey with his family, first to England (which they all agree was too rainy and cold) and then to France.
Hoping to start a new life, they find themselves suddenly stranded in a little French village near the French Alps. Plans are made, change, fail and then, hope. It appears the Indian restaurant the family begins will succeed – and then, not. Quickly, stiff competition between Hassan’s exotic cooking confronts the traditional and prize-winning leadership of the stiff and angry Chef Madame Mallory.
Only one hundred feet separate the two restaurants on the outskirts of the little French village of Lumiere. But culture, suspicion, prejudice and rising emotions color blind the logic – and the connections. But life is filled with surprises. And if willing to learn, if open to new options and better wisdom, we occasionally stumble in new and better ways of living together. And so it is with these who were divided widely by only one hundred feet.
It comes first with the food. Seductive scenes of spices and marinades, arduous preparation, painstaking planning, tension-filled cooking, and artful presentations, and faces transformed in wonder as mingled flavors awaken even the dreariest patrons.
We awaken, too, opened to a world of cuisine few of us knew existed. And in the process, we discover an accessible land far more united and alike than we imagined when the tension first began.
The Indian and French cuisines retain their own respective flare, yet nuanced, infused with an almost spiritual quality. The simple task of eating to live rises to an art form. Finally there emerges growth, openness, respect, appreciation, and celebration, each for the other. There are smiles, tears, laughter, discovery, pleasure. There is expanded family and surprising friendship. What had been ruthless competition between enemies evolves, moving beyond small-minded jabs and racist threats to a new and surprising world of partnership, mutual appreciation and even – redemption.
They – and we – are invited to liberation. Whether bound by stereotypes, or grief, or loneliness, or fear, or competition, or pettiness like those separated by only one hundred feet, God invites liberation us all to new and better visions for what can be. Like the Hebrew people trapped in bondage, God stands ready to liberate us from our constricted understanding of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us. As with Moses, God calls us, each in our own way, to discover the broader perspective for broader flexibility and wider openness – to friendships and taste sensations that cross boundaries we thought were fixed.
The hundred feet appeared a vast chasm; the Red Sea appeared unbridgeable; the cross and crucifixion seemed insurmountable. But from the very beginning, God has been in the liberation business, freeing captives from our respective prisons.
And we celebrate with food, with the Lord’s supper – a feast for the soul, with flair, artful, shocking, unifying – liberating – our own hundred-foot journey that changes everything.