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Indian food not based on one spice — curry, Washington Post columnist finds out the hard way

Gene Weingarten's column 'You can't make me eat these foods' says Indian food is based on 'curry' spice, Washington Post issues correction noting there are many spice blends & other types of dishes.

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New Delhi: Indians across the world, from celebrity Padma Lakshmi to author Salman Rushdie, were not amused when Gene Weingarten, a food columnist with the Washington Post, reduced India’s culinary spread to just ‘curry’.

In a column listing out foods he doesn’t approve of, Weingarten had criticised Indian food for being “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice”. The Washington Post has since issued a correction, noting that “India’s vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes”.

However, the column — titled ‘Gene Weingarten: You can’t make me eat these foods’ and first published on 19 August — has drawn criticism for being ‘ignorant’ and even ‘racist’ for confusing curry with spices.

Rushdie, the author of ‘The Satanic Verses’, hit out at Weingarten stating that what the columnist didn’t know about Indian food “would fill an encyclopedia”.

Weingarten, a regular Washington Post columnist, took to Twitter Tuesday to apologise.

“From start to finish plus the illo, the column was about what a whining infantile ignorant d—head I am. I should have named a single Indian dish, not the whole cuisine, & I do see how that broad-brush was insulting. Apologies.(Also, yes, curries are spice blends, not spices.)

His apology, though, came after he initially defended his column and said that he had eaten at the best Indian restaurant in Washington DC which is “still swimming with the herbs & spices I most despise. I take nothing back”. The tweet has since been deleted.


Also read: To cancel or not to cancel curry — food blogger raises a storm with Instagram post


‘Colonizer hot take’

Among the volley of criticism was Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi’s, also the author of ‘Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs’, who described Weingarten’s column as a “colonizer ‘hot take'”:

Washington DC-based advocate Rabia O’ Chaudry talked about how Indians put eight different spices even in an omelet, while New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Indian food was a symphony of spices and flavours. Murphy also invited Weingarten to the state, which is home to a large Indian-origin community.

American journalist Anand Giridharadas questioned the kind of research Weingarten does for his articles, and even posted a recipe for Chettinad Chicken curry.

Some posted pictures from their kitchen, showing a wide array of spices to drive home the point.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)


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