- The humorist issues apology for an Aug. 19 article he wrote saying Indian food is “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice,” and tastes like “something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon.”
The Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten has apologized for dissing Indian cuisine and facing the ire of Indians on Twitter. In an Aug.19 article — “You can’t make me eat these foods” — Weingarten wrote Indian food is “the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice.” In the column, he listed several foods he dislikes — Old Bay seasoning, hazelnuts and anchovies, among others.
The illustration at the top of the column depicts a mustached man in a bib turning his nose up at a spoonful of food being offered to him.
“If you think Indian curries taste like something that could knock a vulture off a meat wagon, you do not like Indian food,” he wrote. “I don’t get it, as a culinary principle,” he added. “It is as though the French passed a law requiring every dish to be slathered in smashed, pureed snails. (I’d personally have no problem with that, but you might, and I would sympathize).”
In his apology, Weingarten tweeted: “From start to finish plus the illo, the column was about what a whining infantile ignorant d—head I am. I should have named a single Indian dish, not the whole cuisine, & I do see how that broad-brush was insulting. Apologies.(Also, yes, curries are spice blends, not spices.)”
The Washington Post also amended the column with a correction to the top and removed the inaccuracies. “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,” reads the correction. “In fact, India’s vastly diverse cuisines use many spice blends and include many other types of dishes. The article has been corrected.”
The apology comes on the heels of a backlash Weingarten faced on Twitter, including from Padma Lakshmi, Mindy Kaling, Meena Harris, Anand Giridhardas, Neal Katyal, Preet Bharara and others. There was no dearth of memes either. Many shared the famous Indian spice box that holds several spices, reiterating that Indian food is made up of a zillion spice combinations. She shared their favorite spice; others shared their favorite food. Some even went to eat at their favorite Indian restaurant, irked by Weingarten’s tweet.
In a series of tweets, Lakshmi slammed Weingarten’s article. “On behalf of 1.3 billion people, kindly f**k off,” she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet, she wrote: “Is this really the type of colonizer ‘hot take’ the @washingtonpost wants to publish in 2021- sardonically characterizing curry as ‘one spice’ and that all of India’s cuisine is based on it?”
And she followed it up with: “What in the white nonsense is this?”
Lakshmi also offered her book “The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs,” to Weingarten as he “clearly” needs “an education on spices, flavor, and taste.”
“Even Columbus knew it was more than one spice,” tweeted Meena Harris.
In another tweet, she asked: “Apropos of absolutely nothing name your ONE favorite Indian spice. I’ll go first: asafoetida.”
To which Mindy Kaling replied: “I love fenugreek! There are so many spices in this wonderful cuisine!”
In a separate tweet, Kaling wrote: “You don’t like a cuisine? Fine. But it’s so weird to feel defiantly proud of not liking a cuisine. You can quietly not like something too.”
Neal Katyal, the former Acting Solicitor General of the United States, jumped in on the Twitter bandwagon as well. “Maybe some @washingtonpost columnists have the equivalent of tenure and can just write whatever stupid drivel they wake up thinking about (with no editors or fact checks). One spice? What an embarrassment.”
Replying to Katyal, Preet Bharara, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote: “One spice to rule them all, Neal!”
In another tweet, Bharara wrote: “Sorry, I am not having dinner with this guy,” alluding to his dinner with international affairs professor Tom Nichols, who had earlier written that Indian food “is terrible and we pretend it isn’t.” This June, Bharara took Nichols to dinner at Priyaka Coopra’s New York City restaurant Sona. Not only did he manage to convert Nichols, but the two raised $128,538 for COVID-19 relief efforts in India.
Journalist, podcaster, and sports activist Shireen Ahmad tweeted: “I pride myself on my Pakistani cooking. I also love South Indian, and fusion dishes. That you got paid to write this tripe, and boldly spew your racism is deplorable. May your rice be clumpy, roti dry, your chilies unforgivable, your chai cold, and your papadams soft.
“This is amazing except that I like clumpy rice,” replied Neil Makhija, executive director of IMPACT, to Ahmad’s tweet.
Vikas Navratna, a scientist at UMich, who describes himself on his Twitter handle as “one of those annoying food & drink enthusiasts,” tweeted: “Hey @geneweingarten I threw together some spices & powders from my pantry with their Hindi names for your quick referral. I regret to inform you that this is just a partial repertoire. This is a good start. But hey! It is never too late to start learning about #indianspices.
Journalist and author Sadanand Dhume also chimed in: “@geneweingarten: Indian food is ‘the only ethnic cuisine in the world insanely based entirely on one spice.’ Me: I wish!”
Author Anand Giridhardas, in his tweet, wrote: “@geneweingarten thinks Indian food is terrible because it is entirely based on one spice. Which is basically the opposite of the truth.”
Former FBI agent and now a senior lecturer at Yale, Asha Rangappa tweeted: “This is even dumber than people saying they don’t like Indian food because they don’t like ‘curry.’ A curry is a masala, which is a *combination* of spices. There are tons of masalas. Which one?”
Ramesh Ponnuru, a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote: “Indian food is great. If Gene Weingarten doesn’t like it, that’s his loss. It is sufficiently popular not to need an indigent defense.”
Vipin Narang, Frank Stanton Professor of Nuclear Security and Political Science at MIT and a nonresident scholar at Carnegie Endowment Nuclear Policy Program also weighed in. “And on @geneweingarten trolling, it’s not his total idiocy that’s the problem, it’s the casual ‘eww your food smells’ racism that every Indian American kid of my generation had to endure,” he tweeted. “We used to nervously laugh it off, embarrassed of our roots. But no longer. I’m not laughing.”
Celebrated author Salman Rushdie shared his two cents as well. “I just heard about @geneweingarten for the first time in my life,” he tweeted. “What he doesn’t know about Indian food would fill an encyclopedia. I plan never to hear about him again.”
However, journalist Amit Varma had a different perspective. “Poor @geneweingarten wrote a humour piece, and not only did touchy Indian readers take it seriously, so did his publication, issuing this correction. A whole genre of humour writing is just going to die like this!