(Krishnendu Ray is a professor of Food Studies at New York University. The column first appeared in the print edition of the Indian Express on September 8, 2021)
- On August 19, The Washington Post humourist Gene Weingarten published ‘You can’t make me eat these foods’. Among his list of inedibles are hazelnuts, blue cheese, cooked peppers, balsamic vinegar, and pizza with more than two toppings. Most of Weingarten’s listing could have been ignored as trivial, but his inclusion of “Indian food” as a whole category provoked incensed responses. The fact that he assumed Indian cuisine is based on a single spice called curry says much. It reveals at least two things about the state of American food commentary. First, that Weingarten is among the commentators who can no longer pull their weight in a world more familiar with wider conceptions of good taste. Second, spices continue to haunt the Western imagination: Initially with paroxysms of desire, driving them to a search for their source, then with disdain once exotic spices from the East were dethroned around the 17th century with reduced price and status.