Padma Lakshmi Explores Food From US Immigrant Communities
Image Credit: Twitter/Padma Lakshmi

You might have heard people repeatedly referring to the United States of America as a nation that is the melting pot of the world—and its cuisines—but the recently launched second season of a show is proving it in spades with its in-depth exploration of the food culture. The new season of Taste the Nation, an American food reality television show, made its debut recently and has been making waves since thanks to the unique “do-it-yourself" approach taken by the host, Padma Lakshmi.  

The Indian-origin American author and Top Chef host sheds her glamorous avatar for the show and instead focuses on highlighting nothing but food from the immigrant communities in the United States. The second season of the show, which is available on Hulu, travels across the nation with Padma Lakshmi to not only taste the traditional food these immigrant communities cook up regularly, but also provides enough details for viewers to try them out too. 

The show is all about the American food experience, as seen through the lens of immigrant communities, whether it be Arab-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan or Nigerian-Americans in Houston, Texas to the Aghan enclave in Washington, DC or the Ukrainian community in New York. Taking a documentarian approach rather than a sensationalist or exotic anthropological one, Padma Lakshmi and the team behind Taste the Nation manage to present a hands-on story about US immigrant communities through their food journeys rather than political ones. 

In an interview with The New York Times, Padma Lakshmi opened up about how the show’s format also allows her to be herself on television while also highlighting the interesting stories of food, trauma and often displacement that people from immigrant communities feel. In the very first episode of the second season, for example, she travels to Puerto Rico (a US territory since 1898) and asks members of the community whether they eat their traditional pasteles with American ketchup—which is seen as a symbol of colonialism—or not. 

Similarly, in another episode, Padma Lakshmi manages to shed light on the fact that the Nigerian-Americans in Houston do not share the same history of slavery that other African-American communities in the US do—a fact that separates the food from these communities from each other’s despite their common continent of origin. And yet, their experiences of racism in the US have managed to bring these African-origin communities together, especially through shared food experiences in Texas. It is certainly the focus on these nuances that make Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi such an interesting topic of conversation among foodies across the world.