New day, new discourse. First we had bathing, then we had milk. Today, we have Indian food.
It all began when columnist Gene Weingarten, a self-identified “food snob” — or rather, someone who admits that “some people feel” he is one — penned a piece titled, “You can’t make me eat these foods.” Published in the Washington Post, the article claims that, despite Weingarten’s reputation as a picky eater, he simply has a “sophisticated palate, broadly eclectic tastes supplemented by the lack of an ‘ewww factor.’”
It’s worth noting that Weingarten is a Pulitzer-winning comedic writer, and this piece, like most of his work, was meant to be satire — a tongue-in-cheek (tastebud?) venture into the culinary narrative. Despite this notoriety, however, many readers believe Weingarten took this one too far, veering into “problematic” territory with questionable takes on Indian food.
Indeed, Weingarten did write that Indian food is ‘the only ethnic cuisine in the world based entirely on one spice,” which is factually incorrect. So much so, that Washington Post literally issued a correction in the article, writing: “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.”
Still, Twitter is curious: How exactly did the claim that Indian food, or even curry, make it past fact-checkers and editors in the first place? Who exactly is doing their research? Surely no one from South Asia.
Amid the backlash, Weingarten took to Twitter to double down on his anti-seasoning stance, stoking the flames further. “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.”
But people were not pleased with his lack of apology, self-awareness or accountability — especially Padma Lakshmi, who told Weingarten to f**k off and read her book on spices and herbs.
Critics aren’t just upset with Weingarten, though, it’s indicative a much wider social dilemma: Food writers who truly do represent the Indian diaspora — or really any culture known for its spices — severely lack access to opportunities like Weingarten’s, while he freely takes theme to run and insult their cultures’ cuisine.
“I think ultimately my issue is not necessarily that this guy thinks Indian food only uses one spice which is factually inaccurate and also stupid, but more so that it was printed in a “reputable” paper while POC food writers struggle to break into this industry,” one food editor wrote, to which a writer replied: “So true, POC food writers are struggling to adjust their stories to please a white audience and then dude just walks in to drop shitty takes that somehow turn into a traffic surge zzz.”
New Jersey’s governor dabbled in the discourse as well, advising Weingarten to try authentic Indian food in the tristate area.
Some made deep cut references to “Little Britain.”
Others shared images of their spice cabinets.
The discourse goes on — and on and on on, in both directions. For now, we simply look forward to a surge in Indian food writers sharing beloved recipes that require more than one spice. Maybe even two!
BRB, ordering some Indian food.