Next week, Hulu is releasing a series hosted by Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi, about the search for true American food. Taste the Nation follows Lakshmi as she travels across the country to learn about different styles of American cooking, with a focus on immigrant and indigenous cultures and foods. Lakshmi says, in the official trailer, that “everything that the American cuisine is today is because all these different people and different cultures contributed to it.”
As Lakshmi travels the country in this new series, she makes a stop close by. In an episode set in Arizona, Lakshmi cooks with and interviews indigenous people like local chef and curandera (a traditional healer who uses natural remedies) Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz.
Cocotzin Ruiz is a chef who specializes in indigenous foods and natural remedies. On Taste the Nation, she spends the day with Lakshmi, cooking with her and talking to her about the physical and spiritual properties of indigenous foods. An active member of the indigenous foods movement, Cocotzin Ruiz says that being able to showcase these foodways in a series like this is important because they are not frequently covered in mainstream media. Growing up, she says, “I realized there were very, very few indigenous chefs, especially women, that were in any kind of cookbook, magazine or on TV. We were just not there. Our presence was not there, let alone our foods.” She adds, “Even if there were Indigenous chefs, they were only cooking their traditional foods at home.”
Taste the Nation offers an opportunity to change this. The episode featuring Cocotzin Ruiz focuses on indigenous people and their traditional foods. “For people who watch this episode,” she says, “I want them to rethink, ‘What is American food?’” She says that she wants people to learn from this episode and to understand the importance and influence of indigenous foods and culture. “I want people to not just see our food, but our people, our culture, our history.”