TV Review: Padma Lakshmi Showcases America’s Cultural Diversity in Season 2 of “Taste the Nation”

It’s rare for a show to get a second season years after its first, but such are the times we’re living in. Debuting in the early months of the pandemic, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi allowed Hulu subscribers to travel around the country through cuisine at a time when it wasn’t so easy to go places. Padma followed it up in 2021 with a shorter holiday version of the series that explored the foods that become cultural touchstones for different people in America. But now, with travel restrictions lifted, Padma is back in the long-awaited second season, premiering Friday, May 5th, with ten new episodes.

(John Angelillo/Hulu)

(John Angelillo/Hulu)

Puerto Rico, D.C., Appalachia, New York City, Houston, Daly City, Tarpon Springs, Lowell, and Dearborn are the nine destinations of this second season (NYC gets two episodes). Further emphasizing America’s melting pot of cultures, Padma Lakshmi discovers how cultural foods have been modified by people to further fuse cultures of this great nation together. The season opens with a divisive tradition in Puerto Rico, squirting ketchup on pasteles. Similar themes are explored, like the cyclical nature of traditional Cherokee cuisine on Southern foods, and how modern Cherokee Nation residents blend past and present Southern cooking practices.

With so much division in the world, Taste the Nation serves as a reminder that we’re all human and we all love food. The fourth episode of the season, titled “The Borscht Identity,” feels particularly topical as it centers around Ukranian Americans in New York City. Within the episode, the beet-soup’s origin is discussed, as it is claimed by Ukranian people but its origins are up for debate. It’s a popular dish in Russia, as well as Eastern Europe, so even for Ukranian Americans watching the war from a safe distance, comfort food that reminds them of home is also deeply entrenched in the geopolitical landscape.

Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi is accdssible to anyone with an interest in cuisine and culture. This season, however, is likely to resonate most with American’s who descend from the cultures featured in the season. These include Americans from Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Phillipines, Greece, Cambodia, and Italy, in addition to the previously mentioned episodes that include Puerto Rico and the Apalachan Mountains, including its Indigenous peoples. The Dearborn, MI episode (“Halal from Dearborn”) could’ve easily been added to the show’s Holiday Edition as it focuses on the Muslim community’s celebration of Ramadan.

Padma Lakshmi is an effervescent host whose natural warmth and charisma yields new insights into ways of life that remind viewers of one important fact: in spite of all of our differences, deep down we all want the same things. The Declaration of Independence guarantees “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Well, few things make us happier than food. Whether you come to Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi to learn about new foods you want to try or to gain insight into our great country’s rich diversity, you’ll walk away with a full heart (and a powerful hunger).

Season 2 of Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi premieres Friday, May 5th, only on Hulu.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).