Indians across the world were left with a bad taste in mouth after an opinion piece in a US newspaper described Indian food as “based entirely on one spice”, and can knock off “a vulture off a meat wagon.” The column, published by Washington Post, was criticised by celebrity chefs, top diplomats and people of Indian descent on Twitter, as they called out the author for his reductive opinion.
The column titled, “You can’t make me eat these foods,” written by Washington Post humour columnist Gene Weingarten, focuses on various foods he refuses to eat and why. He has earlier written about why he refuses to eat foods like hazelnuts, anchovies etc. Talking about his disdain for Indian food, he wrote, “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice”.
“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,” he added. “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),” the column read.
Model-television host and Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi lambasted the writer in a tweet and said: “On behalf of 1.3 billion people kindly f**k off.” Saying that he clearly needed “an education on spices, flavor, and taste,” she offered up her book “The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs” in a follow-up tweet.
Is this really the type of colonizer ‘hot take’ the @washingtonpost wants to publish in 2021- sardonically characterizing curry as “one spice” and that all of India’s cuisine is based on it? pic.twitter.com/suneMRD8vs
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) August 23, 2021
Lakshmi’s tweet garnered a lot of reactions, and many joined in to give him a “lesson” on various Indian spices. Writer Shireen Ahmed wrote, “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.”
As the criticism grew louder, the writer went to a famous Indian restaurant to have a proper taste.
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. https://t.co/ZSR5SPcwMF
— Gene Weingarten (@geneweingarten) August 23, 2021
Although, he did try to eat Indian food following the backlash online, he continued to maintain his stance on Indian cuisine.
However, on Monday, Washington Post updated the column. “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.”
Weingarten also tweeted an apology, saying he did not mean to be “insulting.” However, people were less than impressed by his defensive approach.
From start to finish plus the illo, the column was about what a whining infantile ignorant d—head I am. 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.)
— Gene Weingarten (@geneweingarten) August 23, 2021
People were not only annoyed by his ignorance or lack of research before writing the column, they also said his take is ‘racist’.
— Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) August 24, 2021
Even Columbus knew it was more than one spice
— Meena Harris (@meena) August 24, 2021
You don’t like a cuisine? Fine. But it’s so weird to feel defiantly proud of not liking a cuisine. You can quietly not like something too
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) August 23, 2021
When he gets what’s coming to him, it will be korma
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) August 24, 2021
India is a nation of incredible diversity and complexity of cuisines.
This man needs an Indian friend STAT but I’m not sure that there are going to be many takers now.
— Alaric Aloor 🐕🏎⚽️🥃 (@AlaricAloor) August 24, 2021
Interested in Indian cooking? One thing to note is that to us, curry is not just anything. It’s a plant, leaves. Secondly, if there is one unifying ingredient, I’d probably say ghee, also called thoupe or clarified butter. Third, everyone’s spice dhabas look very different! pic.twitter.com/obKNgX5zZp
— Angilee Shah (@angshah) August 23, 2021
“Curry” is not one spice. I don’t even know how these people do their research.
— Anand Giridharadas @ The.Ink (@AnandWrites) August 23, 2021
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.
— Shireen Ahmed- CanWNT Stan (@_shireenahmed_) August 23, 2021
Your palate isn’t sophisticated, it’s racist and bland.
— Cindy PikaChu ✨朱良蒨 (she/her) 🌸✨ (@iamcindychu) August 23, 2021
I don’t think anyone cares that you don’t like Indian Food (the world’s best food). It’s that you think curry (a genre of food) is a singular spice, which is comically wrong, and you refuse to admit that you’re wrong about a provable fact. (Also v embarrassing for your editor…)
— Pete Forester 🇺🇸 (@pete_forester) August 23, 2021
The audacity to think “curry” is one spice.
— Ahmed Ali (@MrAhmednurAli) August 23, 2021
the “one” “curry” “spice”. LOL. what a well researched piece.
— Benjamin Espina (@_Fear_Inoculum) August 23, 2021
I’d rather read what an Indian satirist thinks about American food.
Seriously, media, stop publishing this stuff. Stop centering blandness and idiocy. Stop holding back our cultural transformation. Give the platform to unheard voices. Or better yet, fund us to develop our own. https://t.co/HV32UDeQ2w
— Lina Srivastava (@lksriv) August 23, 2021
Impressively wrong, but Boomers gonna boom. https://t.co/FNgbxha5Hv
— Ace Bhattacharjya 🇺🇸 (@durjoy) August 23, 2021
ah yes, the all encompassing one food from india, curry, famously made from one spice: the indian one. https://t.co/CJ6wnZ9G5U
— tired⁷ᴳ (@vante_fm) August 23, 2021
— Torsa Ghosal (@TorsaG) August 23, 2021