Hot Topic – The New Indian Express
Express news service
BENGALURU: Indians take their food very seriously. And this war of words on social media going on right now only reinforces the fact. Last week when columnist Gene Weingarten wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post about his picky eating habits in an article titled “You Can’t Make Me Eat These Foods,” he mentioned his aversion to Indian food. , justifying it as “something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon” and something that is “based entirely on spices of spices”.
These comments in the “humor column” were not welcomed by Indians, with many calling them “rude and racist”. Ruth Dsouza Prabhu, freelance journalist and food writer, says: “Racism, bigotry and sheer ignorance often wear the costume of humor. Weingarten’s column presented India’s many cuisines and culinary heritage as being based on a “one spice”. It may have been passed off as humor, but the joke is now on Gene, given the global backlash against such an uninformed and ignorant opinion. It’s good to see the public openly calling it out, ”she said.
Rightly pointed out, several Internet users, including TV host and chef Padma Lakshmi, wrote Weingarten about the immensity of Indian cuisine. However, Lakshmi’s rebuttal faced another backlash as it generalized cooking. “Bengali food is rich in seafood, mustard seeds and coconuts; southerners serve mountains of rice topped with sambar, ”she wrote on social media. Food critic Priya Bala, who works closely with indigenous ingredients, believes Lakshmi should have used the platform to highlight certain aspects, rather than to mislead readers.
“When we talk about Bengali cuisine, we are mainly talking about Kolkata food. There are so many other varieties of dishes, including the way it is used, the types of cuts of fish and the use of seeds, among other things that we can talk about, ”says Bala. As someone who works closely with Mangalurean cuisine, Naren Thimmaiah, Executive Chef of Vivanta Bengaluru Residency Road, points out that there is a better understanding of regional cuisine through social media. “With in each state, the cuisine and the style of cooking change almost every 100 km. We have become possessive about the food that we are openly talking about now, ”says Thimmaiah, adding that the general conception of“ Indian food being spicy ”also remains false. Because spices are not synonymous with peppers.
“There are different types of peppers, some of which are not spicy. These are used depending on the region in which the food is made, ”he adds. Some, like writer and food author Nandita Iyer, who dislikes spicy food, feel that foreigners are free to dislike our food, but that doesn’t exempt the columnist from not knowing his basics on culture. and the kitchen.
As Prabhu points out, however, there are things that remain unknown and will continue to be labeled “exotic.” “Many internationally renowned chefs I have spoken to have said that while Indian cuisine has gone global, it is largely in cosmopolitan cities like New York that one finds an understanding that goes beyond the “Curry” and “hot pepper”. Other than that, the understanding of its nuances remains minimal, ”she says.