June 2, 2023


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What Padma Lakshmi will get wrong about Bengali food

Two months in the past, there was an uproar on social media when Pulitzer Prize-successful journalist Gene Weingarten wrote in a column titled You Just cannot Make Me Try to eat These Meals in The Washington Post that Indian food items is “based mostly entirely on one spice”. He was referring to the curry powder which has turn into synonymous with Indian delicacies in the West and forgotten the vastness and variety of Indian foods. 

The flood of criticism that followed—curry powder is not just one spice and Indian food items is not just curries—led to The Washington Post publishing a correction. Curry powder is a blend of spices and is not a uniform masala combine applied in India. The closest thing to curry powder in India is perhaps garam masala. A 7 days afterwards, they carried an view piece by foodstuff clearly show host Padma Lakshmi, who had been vocal on Twitter in contacting out Weingarten’s and The Washington Post. She tweeted, “Is this really the variety of colonizer ‘hot take’ the @washingtonpost wants to publish in 2021—sardonically characterizing curry as “a single spice” and that all of India’s delicacies is primarily based on it?”

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Padma Lakshmi’s column for The Washington Submit was intended to spotlight the misrepresentation of Indian food in the West. Published final week, it was titled Padma Lakshmi States Disparaging Indian Foods Is not Amusing. It’s Hideous. But, there was a issue. Her consider on India’s “culinary regions” invited backlash because of to her misinformed commentary on Bengali dishes. She wrote, “Bengali food items is heavy on seafood, mustard seeds and coconut.” She built the very same oversight as Weingarten—that of generalising Indian food stuff and distorting facts.

There is an abundance of river fish in Bengali cuisine and it does not rely “greatly” on coconut. There are many substantial rivers like the Ganga, Teesta and Brahmaputra that circulation by West Bengal, and freshwater catch like rohu, pabda, katla, tilapia and the revered hilsa are sourced from there.

So, what is Bengali food items? “It is surely not what Padma Lakshmi has composed about,” says Bengaluru-primarily based Srobona Das, a residence chef whose manufacturer is named Tinni Ginni. She details out that Bengali cuisine refers to equally West and East Bengal (now Bangladesh), adding, “Fish is normal fare in a Bengali home.” Ordinarily, she clarifies, seafood was not popular in the coronary heart of Bengal. The coastal regions, naturally, would depend on the sea for foodstuff, and shellfish like prawns and crabs would be sourced from the estuaries by the Bay of Bengal. But, in the inside areas, where agriculture thrived, shrimps and crabs had been caught in ponds or smaller streams. Now, there are significant shrimp farms that also export prawns. “Deep sea fishing was in no way aspect of Bengal.”

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Even coconut, she states, is utilised only in some dishes. There’s the cosmopolitan daab chingri (prawns in coconut milk), potol posto narkol (pointed gourd cooked with poppy seeds and grated coconut), and sweets like the narkel naru (coconut laddoo) and narkel pithe (coconut pancakes). Padma Lakshmi’s comment on Bengali foods remaining “large” on coconut comes throughout as a sweeping assertion for cooks like Das.

To fully grasp Bengali delicacies, Das suggests the ebook Bengali Cooking Seasons & Festivals by Chitrita Banerji. The introduction of the ebook encapsulates the state’s culinary range. It reads, “But if you have the thoughts, the heart, the taste to discover, you will discover an massive assortment in a cuisine wherever richness and subtlety are closely interwoven.”

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