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Padma Lakshmi had a short but scathing response on Twitter to an opinion piece that described Indian food as "based entirely on one spice" and tasting "like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon."
The article, "You can't make me eat these foods," which was written by Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten, focuses on several foods he says he refuses to eat and why. Many of the foods, including Old Bay seasoning, anchovies and hazelnut, were described in similarly harsh ways, but many on social media criticized Weingarten for oversimplifying such a multifaceted cuisine — even if in a humorous manner.
"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," wrote Weingarten in the article, which was published on Aug. 19. "If you like Indian curries, yay, you like Indian food!"
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"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," Weingarten continued. "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.)"
Lakshmi responded, "on behalf of 1.3 billion people," in reference to the population of India, "kindly f**k off."
Lakshmi added that Weingarten "clearly" needed "an education on spices, flavor, and taste," offering up her book "The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs," and asked in a follow-up tweet why the Post was endorsing a "colonizer 'hot take'" that characterized all Indian food as being based on a single spice.
Author Shireen Ahmed accused Weingarten of using the column to "spew" racism and mischaracterize Indian food, wishing him bad Indian food forever.
Others on social media were quick to point out that Indian food is extremely varied and includes a variety of flavors and textures. For example, curry powder, which might be the "one spice" he was referencing, is a mixture of many spices, including (but not limited to) coriander, turmeric and cumin.
On Sunday, Weingarten posted a follow-up tweet linking to the article again.
"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," he wrote. "Food was beautifully prepared yet still swimming with the herbs & spices I most despise. I take nothing back."
And on Monday afternoon, Weingarten tweeted an apology regarding the article.
"From start to finish plus the illo, the column was about what a whining infantile ignorant d—head I am," Weingarten said. "I should have named a single Indian dish, not the whole cuisine, & I do see how that broad-brush was insulting. Apologies. (Also, yes, curries are spice blends, not spices.)"