If you’re looking for something to get your mind off of current events right now, but wouldn’t mind an educational tour of America in some way, this is a perfect week to add Taste the Nation to your Hulu queue.
I’ve watched more than my fair share of cooking shows, so when I tell you that Taste the Nation feels special, I promise you I know what I’m talking about. Food writer Padma Lakshmi uses American cuisine to explore American identity, which, as you might imagine, is more diverse than hot dogs and barbecue. In fact, it’s more about cactus fruit and grilled antelope than whatever comes in nugget-form these days.
Here’s where to start.
In my favorite episode, Episode 7: “The Original Americans,” Padma dives into Native American culture to find out what real American cuisine is. Through sharing meals with her indigenous hosts in Arizona she learns that even fry bread — a staple many people think of as Native — actually derived from government rations during Native Americans’ time in US concentration camps.
But you can start with any episode at all that looks interesting, and learn about the geo-political origins of Chop Suey, Burritos, and Kababs and how they’ve changed.
The show is full of so many wonderful revelations about the cultural patchwork that makes up food in this country, and I think it’s a great way to get kids talking about the diversity that makes our country wonderful — let alone knowing more about the backstory of the foods they enjoy.
In fact, be sure to watch Episode 2 in which they’ll learn that hot dogs aren’t particularly “American” either.
If you don’t have time to watch the whole season, at least watch “The Original Americans.” The de-colonized Thanksgiving meal at the end is so powerful and redemptive, it might just inspire you to try to plan your own this year.
Stream Taste the Nation on Hulu.