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Pulitzer Prize Winner's Column on Indian Food Spurs Backlash

Gene Weingarten gets taken to task by Padma Lakshmi for 'lazy' and 'racist' 'WaPo' screed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2021 7:26 AM CDT
Pulitzer Prize Winner's Column on Indian Food Spurs Backlash
You're missing out, Gene.   (Getty Images/Subodh Agnihotri)

(Newser) – A Washington Post humor columnist who apparently has very particular taste buds is taking heat for slamming one specific genre in his latest diatribe: Indian food. Gene Weingarten, who's twice won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, penned a column last week about his various likes and dislikes when he sits down for a meal, and the longest paragraph in the bunch was dedicated to how Indian food doesn't float his boat. The column spurred immediate backlash, a doubling down by Weingarten, a response from Padma Lakshmi, a correction from the Post, and, eventually, an apology, per NBC News. More here on the controversy:

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  • Weingarten's column: In addition to not loving anchovies, balsamic vinegar, and Old Bay seasoning, Weingarten noted that Indian food is "the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based on entirely one spice" (this part has since been nixed from the column). He went on to write, in a now-tweaked section: "If you like Indian curries, yay, you like Indian food! If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like a lot of Indian food. ... It is as though the French passed a law requiring a wide swath of their dishes to be slathered in smashed, pureed snails."
  • Outrage: The online crowd didn't appreciate Weingarten's assessment. "Dude just write a glowing review of your favorite dish from Applebee's for your hometown newspaper and save us all the drama," tweeted lawyer Asha Rangappa, whose parents were born in India.
  • Doubling down: The pushback didn't seem to sway Weingarten. "Took a lot of blowback for my dislike of Indian food in today's column so tonight I went to Rasika, DC's best Indian restaurant," he noted in a now-deleted tweet, per NBC. "Food was beautifully prepared yet still swimming with the herbs & spices I most despise. I take nothing back."
  • Response from Lakshmi: One big name shaking her head at Weingarten's column: Top Chef host and Indian American Padma Lakshmi. "Mischaracterizing and denigrating the food of 1.3 billion Indians is not a good look," she wrote in an op-ed in the Post, wondering how Weingarten's column made it past the paper's editors. Lakshmi's main issue, however, wasn't Weingarten's "performative contrarianism"—it was "that his writing, besides being racist and lazy, is simply not funny."
  • Correction: Weingarten's Post column remains online, but there's now a correction, which notes: "A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Indian cuisine is based on one spice, curry, and that Indian food is made up only of curries, types of stew. India's vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes."
  • Apology: Weingarten finally acknowledged he could've thought this through better. He noted the whole point of the column was meant to be about "what a whining infantile ignorant d---head I am," and that he sees how the "broad brush" he used was "insulting." "Apologies," he tweeted.
(Read more controversy stories.)

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