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Of Tamarind Rice, Samosas, Kamala Harris and Her Historic Inauguration

Of Tamarind Rice, Samosas, Kamala Harris and Her Historic Inauguration

  • Celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi is among the many who are dishing out special Indian eats to mark the occasion.

Kamala Harris made history on January 20, 2021 as the nation’s first woman, first woman of color and first person with South Asian roots to secure the second highest position in the U.S. People around the world have been coming up with special ways and novel ideas to honor her and her Indian heritage on Inauguration Day.

One such way was by author, model and host of Emmy-award winning cooking show, Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi who cooked the south Indian delicacy, tamarind rice, to mark this monumental day.

Padma Lakshmi, pretty as ever in a black top and tights, cooked tamarind rice in her kitchen accompanied by this post on Instagram, where she told her followers, “So, in honor of our new Vice President Kamala Harris, I am making here today, a typical South Indian rice, that happens to be her favorite as well as mine and is a great thing to have.” She shared minute details while preparing tamarind rice and in the nearly-12 minute video, explained the procedure step by step. 

Understanding the variety of audience, she also came up with suggestions that Americans can use during the meal preparing process as substitutes.

Previously, in media reports, Kamala Harris has revealed that she has grown up with fondness for South Indian dishes. In an interview, she had said, “Growing up, my mother would take my sister Maya and me back to what was then called Madras because she wanted us to understand where she had come from and where we had ancestry. And, of course, she always wanted to instill in us, a love of good idli.”

Like Kamala Harris’s mother Shyamala Gopalan, Padma Laxmi was also born in Chennai. She immigrated to the United States at the age of four. 

The video was shared by Lakshmi on her official Instagram page just a few hours ago today. The post has become popular and has garnered love from netizens since it surfaced online. One might start craving for the tamarind rice after watching the preparation video. In addition to nearly 2 lakh views, the post has attracted the reactions of many users on the photo sharing platform. Some people expressed their excitement in the comments space, others revealed how delicious the recipe looks.

Similarly, a Tarrytown, New York restauranteur is commemorating the inauguration of Kamala Harris by celebrating her Indian heritage through street food.

Mini Dhingra told “News 12 The Bronx” that Indian food is an integral part of her identity. The Kolkata-born and raised Dhingra, left a career as a business analyst to start a food company in 2014 making small-batch artisanal samosas,  mostly at the behest of her friends and family. They knew just how good Dhingra’s samosas were, and deemed it a crime to keep them all to herself. Christened Samosa Shack, in a mere 7 years, it is now a successful online catering and dinner delivery company. 

Since launching as a small booth at a local farmers market, Samosa Shack, that serves up Indian cuisine that tastes like homemade has become a source of community for Dhingra. Through her food, Dhingra makes deeper connections with her Indian identity.

Her food is now being used to celebrate a validating moment in the Indian American community as Kamala Harris is set to become the first person of Indian descent to become vice president of the United States. Dhingra is marking the occasion by offering up a special menu this week to honor Harris’ historic inauguration.

The menu includes Dhingra’s famous samosas, a curry with vegetable dumplings and a savory cake.

She hopes her customers savor this barrier-breaking moment by celebrating America’s diversity, which now extends to the second highest office in the land.

In California, East Bay’s Koolfi Creamery is honoring Harris with a new ice cream flavor, made with lotus seeds, rose water, and a sprinkle of pistachio nuts. Priti Rama Narayanan, Koolfi Creamery’s “chief ice cream engineer,” told Edible East Bay that Harris’ “name in the Indian language means pink lotus.” 

She told Edible East Bay that the Kamala Blossom ice cream was inspired by the stories her father would tell her about plucking delicious fresh lotus seeds to snack on in his village in South India. “My dad’s fun stories inspired me to create this uniquely Indian mithai to celebrate the success of one of our own,” she said. 

According to her partner and co-owner Madhuri “Mads” Irene Anji, the ice cream flavor is “a tribute to Harris, who is half Indian” and who touched the married couple with her LGBTQ advocacy. “Her taking that stand was just so important to me. It meant a lot to us,” she said. 

Meanwhile in India, people are scratching their heads wondering whether the recent renaming of the dragon fruit to ‘Kamalam’ was a way to pay tribute to Harris’s upcoming leadership. 

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, on Tuesday said that the government has applied for a patent to change the nomenclature of dragon fruit to ‘Kamalam’. According to Rupani, the word “dragon for the fruit sounded inappropriate, following which the government had decided to rename it ‘Kamalam’”.

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The minister made the announcement during the launch of the Chief Minister Horticulture Development Mission. She said, “We have applied for the patent of the Dragon fruit to be called as Kamalam. But as of now, we the Gujarat government have decided to call the fruit as Kamalam.”

Rupani pointed out that ‘Kamalam’ is a Sanskrit word and the fruit does have the shape of the lotus. However, she cleared that “there’s nothing political about it.”

But desis online have taken the matter beyond Indian politics by trying to establish a link between the fruit’s recent name-change and the much admired Kamala Harris, whose Indian roots have given Indians all the more reasons to rejoice in her victory. 

As congratulatory messages pour in for the 56-year-old Harris on Indian social media, author Veena Venugopal, too took to Twitter to convey her best wishes to Harris for her ‘new job’ and something else too!

“What an exciting day for Kamala Harris. Congratulations for being the new name for dragon fruit. Oh and the new job,” said Venugopal. 

Other netizens like, Rishabh Bafna, tweeted, “I am sure Gujarat CM renamed Dragon Fruit as “#Kamalam” in honour of Kamala Harris making history as first woman (& Indian origin) ever taking oath as Vice President of USA! Very, very, well thought of!! Timing is just so perfect! 😉🙈😋”

Another Twitter user, Aiyappa CG tweeted, “This is a very sweet gesture… Renaming the dragon fruit #Kamalam just in time for #KamalaHarris inauguration…Respect.

Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.

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