Padma Lakshmi has watched in anger as some politicians denigrate immigrants. She’s been left seething as newcomers are discriminated against or targeted.
So she has responded with something she knows quite a lot about: food. Specifically, immigrant food: burritos, dosas, crab boil, pad Thai and poke.
Lakshmi, a longtime judge of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” created and hosts the new Hulu documentary series “Taste the Nation,” which celebrates the food of American immigrants and indigenous people.
“I am an immigrant. And I was just disgusted the way immigrants had been used as a pawn for political gain and been discriminated against so grossly by this administration. I guess this show is my rebuttal to that,” she said.
“Taste the Nation” sees Lakshmi go to the Texas border city of El Paso and talk to locals about the wall. She goes to South Carolina to go crabbing and explore Gullah Geechee food. She goes to Las Vegas to spend time with Thai immigrants and to Arizona to forage for Native American ingredients.
Lakshmi, an Indian American who came to America when she was 4, tells viewers at the top of each episode, “I want to explore who we are through the food we eat. What makes us American?”
There’s discussion of immigration, global warming, massacres, cultural stereotypes and racism. It’s a departure from most food shows, which avoid partisan politics or current events for fear of alienating viewers or piercing the safe cooking bubble.
“I wouldn’t even say that I was a very political person a few years ago, but I have out of necessity and anger and frustration, and become very vocal,” Lakshmi said.