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Padma Lakshmi had a powerful response to a recent Washington Post column titled, "You can't make me eat these foods," in which humor columnist Gene Weingarten wrote Indian food is "the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice," and he doesn't "get it, as a culinary principle."
"My issue is not this person’s performative contrarianism (although it is tedious) or that he didn’t enjoy the Indian cuisines he’s tasted," she continued. "My problem is in this attempt at a comedic piece he’s actually just regurgitating old colonizer tropes, gleefully reducing the culture and country of 1.3 billion people to a (frankly) weak punchline- and that the [Washington Post] published it."
In her own column for the Washington Post's food section, Padma declared that the column "is unintentional anti-humor, regurgitating an unimaginative, racist joke with no punchline."
"For generations, people have slung racist insults about the 'stinky' foods of immigrants: Italians with garlic, Irish with cabbage, Koreans with kimchi and, yes, South Asians with curry. It was never funny," she wrote. "On the heels of a pandemic that particularly devastated India and a cultural reckoning with racist structures in the United States, mischaracterizing and denigrating the food of 1.3 billion Indians is not a good look."
Noting "India is a vast country, with distinct geographic, cultural and linguistic zones, and clear culinary regions," she added, "Bengali food is heavy on seafood, mustard seeds and coconut; southerners serve mountains of rice topped with sambar laced with tamarind; Kashmiri food focuses on meat, especially lamb; and my favorite North Indian snack food, chaat, is defined by its thrilling mixture of temperatures, textures (crunchy, crispy and soft) and flavors (hot, sweet, tart and tangy)."
The Washington Post has since added a correction to the top of the column and removed the inaccuracies, and Weingarten has issued an apology.
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