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Taste The Nation

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In Taste the Nation, award winning cookbook author, host and executive producer Padma Lakshmi, takes audiences on a journey across America, exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have so heavily shaped what American food is today. From indigenous communities to recent immigrant arrivals, Padma breaks bread with Americans across the nation to uncover the roots and relationship between our food, our humanity and our history - ultimately revealing stories that challenge notions of identity, belonging, and what it means to be American.

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Edited by ElectricBoogaloo
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S1.E1: Burritos at the Border

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El Paso was once part of Mexico. Its border location defines the region’s identity and the complexity of America’s political landscape. Padma eats her way through this border city while discovering the origins of one of America’s most beloved cuisines.

I am a California girl so I am always up for a burrito! I grew up in San Diego which has a similar relationship with Tijuana as El Paso does with Juarez. People cross the border every day for work, for food, for entertainment, for family, etc. (and of course teenagers/college kids cross the border to drink and party because the legal age to drink in Mexico is 18, not 21). I remember my parents took us to Tijuana when we were kids just to walk around and spend the day there.

For a half hour show, I felt like this covered a lot which was nice. The cafe/car wash reminded me of a place in San Diego (it's actually two separate businesses but it's a car wash and a Mexican place that off in their own odd little corner of a strip mall parking lot so everyone goes to get burritos while they wait for their cars). I could not understand the owner's logic though. He himself is a Syrian immigrant and he said that his employees are like family, yet when he's told that many of these people have to spend 1-2 hours at the border crossing each way (instead of 30 minutes as it used to be), all he says is that Trump is full of shit but he still supports him. Okay then. I am not going to try to understand the cognitive dissonance there.

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S1.E2: The All American Weiner

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Many think hot dogs, hamburgers and pretzels are quintessentially American, but their origins are actually German; in Milwaukee, Padma meets descendants of early German immigrants who hold onto their heritage by celebrating and reclaiming it.

That one pound pretzel looked freaking amazing.

I am not a beer drinker so I was surprised by how easy it is to make beer in your garage with a cooler and a pot. I like that Padma is up for helping out (I think people expect that more from travel hosts who are chefs).

Some of those sausages looked so good I could practically smell them through my screen. I'd never considered hollowing out part of my hot dog bun (although I've seen it done for sandwiches). It's probably a great way to keep the hot dog steady and keep some of the condiments from sliding out. And hey, low carb! Okay, maybe just lowER carb.

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S1.E3: Don't Mind if I Dosa

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Padma asks family, friends and those she admires how they hold onto Indian culture and pass it down to the next generation; In New York City, she cooks the dishes that remind her of her original home and tastes Indian foods near her current home.

It was obvious that this episode was very near and dear to Padma since she got to include her mom and daughter. I had to laugh when she said Krishna broke her heart when she said she hates lentils. Looking back, I wonder if I said anything like that to my mom and made her sad.

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S1.E4: The Gullah Way

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The Gullah Geechee people of South Carolina are fighting to preserve the traditions passed down from their ancestors, West Africans forced into slavery; Padma catches and cracks crab with friends, all working towards reclaiming their heritage.

FYI - Netflix has made this episode available for free on Youtube:

 

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I’m really enjoying this show so far. It’s very touching. I really like how Padma is a gracious guest everywhere she goes. She’s not there as a host, lecturer or show off, she’s a guest. I love that. 

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S1.E5: What Is Chop Suey Anyway?

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Chinese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the U.S. but the flavors of a vast country have been simplified over time. In San Francisco, Padma explores how Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans are broadening people's understanding of this cuisine.

I found this episode really interesting and I liked the guests she had in this episode. Side note: I remember Ali Wong said that when she went back to her favorite Chinese restaurant in San Francisco (where she's been going since she was a kid), she tried to talk the owners into letting her cut in line and they were like NOPE. They didn't care that she's been eating there her whole life or that she's famous now.

The farm in Marin looked pretty great (although as soon as I saw all that wide open spaces, I knew they weren't in San Francisco anymore). I'd always heard "chop suey" as a derogatory term used to describe food for non-Chinese people so it was interesting to see some people just make it into their own thing instead of rejecting it outright.

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I am really liking the show, its fun to explore the cultures behind so many types of food, and Padma is a great host. She seems so excited to meet new people and try new foods, she never tries to talk over the people she meets or humble brag about her own accomplishments, she just seems really happy to be finding so much great food. Plus, everything looks so delicious, I end every episode hungry!

I especially liked seeing the Gullah episode, as I lived in that area for a bit a few years ago and I learned a lot about the Gullah culture. Its really unique and its great to see it get represented. 

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I'm really enjoying this show. As an immigrant myself, I identify a lot with the stories told. Especially some of the chefs she talks to that learned cooking from their mother or their grandmother. Or when she visits the stores that sell the products from that country. I watched episode 8 last night which was about Peruvian food and I'm definitely planning on trying to make Lomo Saltado. 

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S1.E6: Where the Kebob Is Hot

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Padma tastes her way through Los Angeles, sampling one of her favorite cuisines: Persian food; the community opens up about the misconceptions some Americans have about Iranians, one kebab at a time.

Mmm, kebabs. I enjoyed seeing Padma shopping with one of her guests and just smelling spices.

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S1.E7: The Original Americans

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What is the original American cuisine? Padma travels to Arizona to eat food that is indigenous to this land. She tries some dishes and explores how Native Americans seek to reestablish a connection to the past to protect their future.

I know very little about Native American cuisine (I remember we briefly talked about things that they ate during our fifth grade segment on Native Americans but it was pretty basic information), so this was really interesting. I remember I watched a program where they talked about how Native American metabolism was geared toward being active hunters and gatherers, so eating processed food affects them differently which is why the rate of obesity is higher. I wished I could have asked one of the guests to talk more about the different kind of corn they used (I love corn).

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S1.E8: Dancing in Little Lima

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Peruvian cuisine hasn't quite had its moment on the American food scene, but Padma knows the power of a great bowl of ceviche; she visits Paterson, NJ, a Peruvian enclave, for a deeper look at this vibrant culture.

I love loma saltado and ceviche, but the only thing I knew about Paterson, New Jersey, before this episode is that gymnast Joyce Wilborn was from there. I had no idea there was such a large Peruvian community there! I love that so many of the kids are in that dance class. Often second generation kids really try to avoid their culture at that age so it was nice to see them embracing it.

Edited by ElectricBoogaloo

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