Lak­shmi’s cross-cultural jour­ney

The Week (US) - - News -

Padma Lak­shmi be­lieves that food should be a cultural melt­ing pot, said E. Alex Jung in New York mag­a­zine. A for­mer model and now host of TV’s Top Chef, Lak­shmi en­tered the culi­nary world in 1999 with the cook­book Easy Ex­otic, which sought to pop­u­lar­ize “global” food. She says she’s de­lighted that in­gre­di­ents from her na­tive In­dia such as gin­ger and turmeric have been “gen­tri­fied and hip­ster­ized” in the U.S. “I don’t care about cultural ap­pro­pri­a­tion,” she says. “If it opens Amer­i­cans to new fla­vors and in­gre­di­ents that are more nat­u­ral and healthy, that’s fine.” Lak­shmi, 48, has spent her life shut­tling be­tween cul­tures. Born in Delhi, she moved to New York City at age 4 to live with her mom, a nurse. When she was 7 years old, Lak­shmi was sex­u­ally abused by a rel­a­tive. She told her mother, but her step­fa­ther re­fused to be­lieve the ac­cu­sa­tion. So a few days later, Lak­shmi was sent to In­dia to live with her grand­par­ents. She re­turned a year later—af­ter her mom’s mar­riage had dis­solved. Lak­shmi says she now un­der­stands that “my mom did the best thing she could. She sent me to some­where she thought was safe.” But at the time, Lak­shmi felt like an unloved out­cast. “It re­ally marks you as a young child, and you can never get that con­fi­dence back.”

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