Mindy Kaling, Padma Lakshmi and several social media users lashed out at American columnist Gene Weingarten’s article for the Washington Post in which he falsely stated that Indian food is “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based on one spice.

Representation image for Indian spicesImage for Representation..Pixabay/ Aarohi Rane
Flix Social media Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - 18:17

After backlash from celebrities and social media users, American daily The Washington Post modified an article claiming that Indian cuisine was "the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice". Actor- producer Mindy Kaling and television host Padma Lakshmi were among those who slammed the article that falsely stated that Indian cuisine only has one spice. The article was by American columnist Gene Weingarten, and was on his dislike for certain foods. His statement garnered criticism from Indians as well as non-Indian social media users, who slammed the columnist for misinforming readers.  

Pointing out how the comment in the article is racist, model and TV host Padma Lakshmi wrote: “My issue is not this person’s performative contrarianism (although it is tedious) or that he didn’t enjoy the Indian cuisines he’s tasted. My problem is in this attempt at a comedic piece he’s actually just regurgitating old colonizer tropes, gleefully reducing the culture and country of 1.3 billion people to a (frankly) weak punchline- and that the @washingtonpost published it,” she wrote.  

Actor Mindy Kaling noted that if one does not like a certain cuisine, they could choose not to comment. “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 tweeted.  

Reacting to the article that was published on August 19, Meena Harris, lawyer and niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, tweeted, "Apropos of absolutely nothing name your ONE favorite Indian spice. I’ll go first: asafoetida. In response, several social media users including Mindy Kaling stated the Indian spices they enjoy. Meena Harris, who went through the tweets below her post, laughingly added that she will be ordering from a popular south Indian restaurant. “These replies bring me so much joy! Yes I will be ordering Saravana Bhavan tonight!(sic),” her tweet read.  

Several users also shared images of the container that is widely used in Indian households to store spices. Known by various names across the country, images of the  ‘Anjarai Petti’ or ‘Masala dabba’ were posted online in response to the comment.  

A section of Twitter users countered the ‘one spice’ argument by sharing details and facts about the cuisine. One of the users tweeted that curry is a blend of spices and it is not possible to make it with a single spice, while another user noted how the trade of spices such as cloves, cinnamon, black pepper etc, between India and Europe played a major role in European history and its economy in the past.  

Here are some reactions from Twitter users:  

Padma shared a screenshot from the article that read, "Indian food. 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. If you like Indian curries, yay, you like Indian food! If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like Indian food." 

After backlash, the modified version of the article now reads, "...rock candy, cataract surgery, cashmere, USB ports ... and curry. If you like Indian curries, yay, you like one of India’s most popular class of dishes! 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." 

The Washington Post has also added a note to readers stating that the article had incorrectly stated that Indian cuisine is based on one spice. The note also added, “In fact, India’s vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes. The article has been corrected.” 

In response to the criticism, Columnist Gene Weingarten tweeted on August 23 that he does not take anything back. “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,” he tweeted.  

However, in his latest tweet, he apologised citing that he should have named a single Indian dish rather than naming the whole cuisine.  

But if you really want to explore Indian food, here's a Twitter thread you mustn't miss: