May 5, 2023
“Welcome to America,” Padma Lakshmi says in her soothing voice at the beginning of the first episode of the second season of Taste the Nation. “Sort of,” she adds. Today, Lakshmi, the food writer, activist, and TV host, is in Puerto Rico. The episode highlights pasteles, parcels of starchy vegetables stuffed with juicy pork and encased in a banana leaf — a confluence of all the cultures that make up Puerto Rico. The root vegetables are indigenous to the island, Spanish colonizers brought the pork, and the banana leaves came from Africa. This history is also the story of America.
Across two seasons of Taste the Nation, Lakshmi travels far and wide — while remaining within the U.S. and its territories — to find diverse dishes driving American food today. Lakshmi delves into each cuisine with curiosity and warmth, contextualizing each people’s history. “To eat is political,” she points out in one episode.
Lakshmi speaks to how much change has happened in the U.S. since Taste the Nation first aired on June 18, 2020, during the pandemic, and how much it still needs to change. Above all, she paints a picture of an America many long for — one where we can put our differences aside and gather for a meal, one that will definitely make you hungry to taste it all. Welcome to Padma Lakshmi’s America.