Photo: Dominic Valente / Hulu
Food media is going through a reckoning. Earlier this month, Adam Rapoport resigned as editor-in-chief of Enjoy your meal after a photo of him with a dark face at a 2004 Halloween party started circulating. Soon, it became clear that the photo only scratched the surface of what was current and previous. licensed in letters Employees have alleged that it was a racist and toxic work culture. Rachel Premack Chronicle licensed in lettersThe Business Insider issues, speaking to more than a dozen employees of color who claimed extreme pay disparity, microaggression, and limited opportunities for people of color compared to their white counterparts.
The consequences of the magazine were the product of a violent reaction against Alison Roman, a former licensed in letters employee and New York Times food columnist, for her racially callous comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. The events have rekindled a broader conversation about racial inequality and cultural appropriation in the food industry, including how successful white chefs have found incredible success in proselytizing what they consider and present as “ethnic” or “exotic” foods. ” As Navneet Alang wrote for Eater last month: “We are living in the era of the global pantry, when a succession of white figures, often endorsed by the food media, have made a variety of international ingredients accessible and even desirable to the mainstream American world. North, the same current that, a decade ago, would have labeled these foods dark at best and unpleasant at worst. “
Padma Lakshmi’s new Hulu show, Test the nation, offers a useful counterpoint. The program focuses specifically on food and the immigrant and indigenous communities, exploring their places in American culture. Chef, author, presenter, and famous voice in the food industry, Lakshmi is exceptional in her own right, but she also offers, along with Samin Nosrat and Nadiya Hussain, a refreshing antidote to widespread bleaching in the media and entertainment. . AND Test the nation make one thing extremely clear: whether we like it or not, food is political.
The first episode, for example, focuses on Mexican food, and Lakshmi visits El Paso, Texas, near the United States-Mexico border. Patrol helicopters vibrate in the background and she talks to locals about the burritos, as well as the impact Trump’s immigration policies and border arrests have had on her city. In another episode, Lakshmi visits the Gullah Geechee in South Carolina, exploring how a history of slavery influenced their modern food traditions; While preparing red rice, Michael Twitty, a descendant and culinary historian of Gullah Geechee, explains how her West African ancestors were targeted by slave owners specifically for their experience in rice cultivation. An especially fascinating episode explains how the Vietnam War made Las Vegas a bulwark of Thai cuisine; another shows how Indian immigrants shaped the food culture in Lakshmi’s hometown of Jackson Heights, Queens.
Lakshmi does not shy away from difficult conversations, occasionally turning to his own immigrant story: he emigrated from Madras (now Chennai), India when he was four years old, but mainly listened to others, which is what he does. Test the nation one of the most prophetic shows about food, immigration and appropriation we have right now. We talked to Lakshmi about why he did the show, what American culture really is, and how Test the nation It is, as she says, “about giving credit where it is due.”