Gene Weingarten is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and is not at all a comedian. Case in point: last week, the Post published Weingarten’s attempt at humor in a piece entitled, “You Can’t Make Me Eat These Foods,” in which Weingarten writes about the kinds of food he will not eat … foot stomp!
These foods include balsamic vinegar, sweet pickles, anchovies, and Indian food. Indian food. ALL Indian food. Weingarten says Indian food is “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based on one spice” [curry]and he doesn’t get it “as a culinary principle.”
Well, Weingarten received all kinds of blowback on social media, including accusations of racism. And even Indian-born Padma Lakshmi, food author and host of my favorite reality show competition, Top Chef, didn’t sit this one out, when she Tweeted:
And why was Padma so incensed? Well, not just because it was an ignorant thing to say, but there were some not-so-subtle racist undertones in what Weingarten said, like:
“Indian food. The Indian subcontinent has vastly enriched the world, giving us chess, buttons, the mathematical concept of zero, shampoo, modern-day nonviolent political resistance, Chutes and Ladders, the Fibonacci sequence, rock candy, cataract surgery, cashmere, USB ports … and the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice. If you like Indian curries, yay, you like Indian food! If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like Indian food. I don’t get it, as a culinary principle. It is as though the French passed a law requiring every dish to be slathered in smashed, pureed snails. (I’d personally have no problem with that, but you might, and I would sympathize.)”
And when Lakshmi, and others, began coming for him, Weingarten Tweeted, then deleted, this:
“Took a lot of blowback for my dislike of Indian food in today’s column so tonight I went to Rasika, DC’s best Indian restaurant. Food was beautifully prepared yet still swimming with the herbs & spices I most despise. I take nothing back.”
That’s when Padma entered the chat, replying to the now-deleted tweet:
The Washington Post proceeded to edit Weingarten’s original piece and added the disclaimer:
“CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Indian cuisine is based on one spice, curry, and that Indian food is made up only of curries, types of stew. In fact, India’s vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes. The article has been corrected.”
But Lakshmi wasn’t done with Weingarten just yet, and posted this to her Instagram:
“There is truly no need for something like this to be published in 2021 (or ever). It’s racist and lazy at best.But the best was one Tweet, not from Padma, that said:
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.
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."
“I pride myself on my Pakistani cooking. I also love South Indian, and fusion dishes. That you got paid to write this tripe, and boldly spew your racism is deplorable. May your rice be clumpy, roti dry, your chilies unforgivable, your chai cold, and your papadams soft.”
PS You also pissed off one Carlos in Smallville who loves Curry perhaps a soupçon more than he loves his husband.
And I’m good with that!