REVIEW: Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
I will admit that I am a sucker for foodie shows. I love shows like Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain where people travel all over to talk about how food impacts culture. Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi streaming on Hulu fits perfectly in this category, except its refreshing to see a woman of color in the front seat. In this series featuring the popular Top Chef host, Lakshmi travels the United States while exploring the timely conversation around immigration. Lakshmi herself is an outspoken advocate for immigration rights and I think she found a wonderful way to make talking about this issue so accessible. Her central thesis is - What is American food? Is there a truly American food or did they come from other places?
In the first episode, we are swept to El Paso,Texas, where we learn the origin of the burrito. But, what we also learn is that, without immigration to this country, we wouldn't have our beloved Mexican food which has become part of the American diet. Interviewing a diner owner who employs Mexicans, he is asked about his support of Trump. He says he supports him, but, at the same time, is virulently against limitations on immigration because he'd have no business without Mexicans. It's an interesting juxtaposition.
In another episode, we learn that hot dogs are not as "American" as we think having roots in Germany. We learn that it was a German immigrant named Oscar Meyer (maybe you've heard of him) who started mass producing what we now know as a hot dog. But, the story goes even further back than that when a guy from Frankfurt put a sausage between a bun to protect his hands from the hot sausage. But, again, we would not have the hot dog today without an immigrant.
And, in yet another episode, we learn about the exploding second generation of Chinese Americans trying to make a distinctive Chinese American food. They respect the old ways, but are trying to find ways to incorporate things like Chop Suey, which is not of Chinese origin but created here. But, did you know there was a time when it was illegal for Chinese (and other Asians) to enter the country? Thankfully, thanks to immigration, we have our favorite go-to cuisine.
The show is loaded with these stories. And, Lakshmi, interviewing many different kinds of legends and people that inspire her, is a fantastic host, always being respectful of the food she's eating and the communities she's in. But, more so, through this show, we makes us think about where the food we eat come from and what would happen if there was no immigration.