2020 has already delivered far more than the usual amount of stress on our physical and financial lives; and over the last few weeks, heightened tensions at the George Floyd protests around the country are pushing the boundaries for change…but not without a lot of pain. So it’s no surprise that online fitness and meditation classes are proliferating, as our anxiety levels are being pushed into the red zone.
As Sam Sifton, food editor of the New York Times and NYT Cooking thoughtfully reminds us in his weekly emails, cooking for ourselves and others also offers psychological comfort and better physical health outcomes in such uneasy and worrisome times. So the much-buzzed about new Hulu series Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, which enthusiastically celebrates the melting pot of America through cuisine from around the world, could not be arriving at a better time.
The ten episodes take us on a culinary journey to cities around the country, exploring the history and origins of immigrant food culture and how this has influenced what we eat today. Top Chef host and author of three successful cookbooks (as well as former model) Lakshmi gets up close and personal as she talks with chefs, historians, farmers, and fisherman, shopping together at international markets, then whipping up dishes that represent their national origins—all the while discussing how they are preserving that heritage through tradition.
In Charleston, SC we meet the Gullah Geechee’s descendants of West Africa, and learn how the traditional rice and seafood based cuisine evolved from a lifestyle that required living off the land, the OG farm to table. We meet Padma’s family and friends in Jackson Heights, Queens, making homemade dosas, the Indian version of crepes, and other dishes that were passed along to her by her mom. And in Tehrangeles, a Persian enclave in LA, we hear firsthand how political tensions affect anti-immigrant sentiment and what that means for the community.
In each episode, the host relates her own experience growing up as an immigrant to discover how each of these international communities have evolved into what they are today—and how that has shaped America and its history of food along the way. As Lakshmi so incisively puts it, “In order to know who we are, it’s important to know where we come from.”
Taste the Nation premiers on Hulu July 18.