Finding ‘American’ Food: Tasting The Nation With Padma Lakshmi
Late chef and television star Anthony Bourdain once said, “ The history of the world is on your plate.”
For many working in the food industry, it’s time that we take a hard look at whose history is on our plates and who’s equipped to tell its story.
And Padma Lakshmi’s new show, “Taste the Nation,” attempts to chronicle immigrant and indigenous communities and their contributions to American cuisine — and their erasure from it.
Consider the burrito. In the first episode of Padma Lakshmi’s new Hulu show, Taste the Nation, the food writer and longtime Top Chef host travels to El Paso, Texas, where she attempts to isolate all the different ingredients in one of America’s favorite dishes. At the Jalisco Cafe, a chef griddling oozy eggs with beans on a stovetop tells her that the perfect burrito comes down to an attention to detail. The dish, another interviewee tells Lakshmi, is pure practical convenience: It’s quick to assemble and eat on the way to work. It can also signify a mother’s love, a whole meal swaddled in a pillowy tortilla and tucked into a child’s pocket before the day begins. And, in a city where the hum of helicopters surveying the border adds ambient foreboding to every interaction, burritos also represent the essence of American food: cuisine from one culture cloaked in the imposed ingredients of another (in this case, wheat flour). “A burrito,” Lakshmi observes, “is tradition wrapped in colonization.”
Lakshmi’s not alone in her pursuit of the definition of American food. We talk to her, an indigenous chef and a culinary historian about how — and if — food can still bring us together.
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