Padma Lakshmi Responds to Gene Weingarten (WaPo)

Padma Lakshmi responds to Gene Weingarten’s bone-headed column in which he announces his hatred of Indian food, because he hates ‘curry’ (oy). (A sample: “If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like a lot of Indian food.” Lovely.)

I agree with her thoughtful response, which identifies the problems (cultural and culinary) with making such declarations and I’m glad The Washington Post published it. I’m sure he thought he was being charming in his presentation of self as big baby who doesn’t like food, but sadly, he chose tropes that have been used by racists and xenophobes whilst failing to add anything meaningful or funny to the conversation.

Anyway, you can read it here:


As a white septuagenarian of Northern European extraction, who didn’t taste anything with hot pepper until almost 30, nor Indian food until 20 years after that, my dudgeon is overtopping its banks at Mr. Weingarten’s piece, and at the crassness of whichever WaPo editor okayed it. Both need to learn the concept of not yukking someone else’s yum, and to think again about contributing to xenophobia, even though its gustatory form is less threatening than its other manifestations. If I had to pick a single country’s food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be India. Good on Ms. Lakshmi for her well-written rebuff.


Just to note the original column was presented as humor, though it didn’t result in any laughs.


Ehhhh…after the backlash, he doubled down on his criticism of Indian food, which sounds like it has a xenophobic root.


Yes, presented as humour, just not funny when an entire culture is someone’s punchline. Then it’s more like punching down. It must be particularly acute when someone’s choice of language and strategy mirrors that of the coloniser and the oppressor.
To Weingarten’s credit, he finally issued an apology that suggested he got what the problem was. Unfortunately, his fans seem to continue the doubling down for him.


It might have worked if he actually took a consistent contrarian position, i.e. hating on things other people like, as he did with hazelnuts (what kind of monster hates hazelnuts?). Or if he got everything - not just Indian food - wrong, since he also calls sushi “raw fish,” when pedants like me know it means “sour rice.” Then it would seem like the piece was written in the voice of someone you were supposed to think was an idiot.


Actually, multiple cultures with food that can vary greatly between them.

I can’t even understand why you would use space for such writing. What does it really contribute? Could it have been done on purpose to attract attention to WaPo’s food section?

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It was actually published in the WaPo Magazine section; the editor of the food section seemed pretty upset about the piece.

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What Elsie said. This is a humour columnist who was operating separate from food and from humour, as has been mentioned by many. He is definitely poised to be the Post’s “white nonsense” correspondent.

Oh, it wasn’t clear to me from reading above that he wasn’t a food columnist dabbling in humor. Thanks for explaining.


Perhaps an unpopular opinion - I read Padma Lakshmi’s response before I read the column, and it gave me a very different (strong) opinion of what had transpired. WTF WaPo?! Who is writing / editing / publishing straight out racist nonsense in this day and age in a mainstream publication with no hesitation or shame?!

Then I read the column. It’s a humor column. The point of it is ridicule and insulting a whole range of lauded foods and making fun of himself for not eating things that are well and widely acknowledged as delicious. It is self-mocking as his own food idiocy / illiteracy.

Bleu cheese. Rhymes with eeuuu cheese.”

Balsamic vinegar. Okay, you take some perfectly good vinegar and infuse it with perfumes that make it smell like the anteroom of a 19th-century San Francisco bordello.”

Reading the article dissolved my “outrage” - now I’m going with the thought that this was a good PR stunt for Padma Lakshmi. She got me too, until I read the piece. I’m willing to bet that most people who responded and reacted did not actually read the column itself or know the context.

My best friend and college roommate “hates Indian food.” She has eaten - and loved - Indian food in my home and at restaurants with me. But she still, vehemently, insists that she “hates Indian food - except anything you make or I’ve eaten with you or your family.”

I decided she ate something she didn’t like as a kid and that extended to everything under the umbrella. We make fun of her for it, but we never pick an Indian restaurant when she is along - even if I’m going to do all the ordering. But yes, I cook Indian food for her and so does my family, lol.


He’s no Calvin Trillin.


Not least because I can’t recall Calvin Trillin ever writing about a food he hated.


But clearly, a roast turkey dinner was not his favorite meal!

True! But is it anyone’s?

Humor is perhaps the hardest prose to pull off. Heavy-handed usually fails. Add ethnic aspersions and it’s a minefield. I think way too many of these columns are or come off as pot-boilers, a need to meet a weekly quota.

I’m good with all the trimmings, but roast chicken or capon is preferable. However, turkey stock, rather than chicken, plus beef base makes a superb French onion soup.

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I get what you’re saying but it misses the nuance of what Lakshmi and others have brought in their critiques and even what Weingarten noted later: the flaw is including ‘Indian food’ - an entire cuisine of a place that is diverse and vast. Hate papadum, dosa, okra, vada pau (although what monster could hate that?- probably the same one who hates hazelnuts) etc. But slamming all food rings with the school yard and colonial taunts that have been used as weapons.

It lacks humour, as Lakshmi rightly notes, and smuggles in something ugly.