Just in time for the holiday season, Mindy Kaling and Senator Kamala Harris released a heartwarming video where they cook south Indian food together, swapping stories about their immigrant mothers and bonding over how their parents both reused Taster’s Choice jars to store Indian spices.
Over the course of an almost nine-minute clip, the two women cook and eat masala dosas in Kaling’s kitchen as they share the things (both big and small) that defined their Indian American upbringing. It’s no surprise that Harris–who has previously posted cooking videos while campaigning for president–is choosing to use food as a way to further introduce her Indian identity to the wider public.
“What we’re going to cook today is an Indian recipe, because you are Indian. I don’t know that everybody knows that,” Kaling said after introducing Harris on camera. “But I find that wherever I go and I see Indian people at the supermarket or on the street…it’s our thing we’re so excited about, to have you running for president.”
It didn’t take long to discover how much they had in common as Indian Americans. One unexpected commonality is that both Harris’s late mom and Kaling’s dad reused Taster’s Choice jars to store spices. “Oh my god. You have no idea, this is how my mother kept all of her stuff” Harris exclaimed the moment she saw them on Kaling’s kitchen counter. “That’s so funny, did they tell each other?” Kaling responded.
Kaling’s father later made a funny and brief cameo, but he didn’t spill on the reason Taster’s Choice jars are so prevalent in their cuisine. The two eventually concluded: “I guess it’s an Indian thing.”
As we learned, both Kaling and Harris are specifically south Indian and they walked us through some of the staples specific to that region: rice and yogurt, potato curry, daal, and idli, among others.
“No meat. Even the dog would eat rice and yogurt. The dog would like rice and yogurt,” said Kaling, emphasizing that south Indians generally eat a vegetarian diet.
Even within South Indian food, there are differences of opinion. At one point, Kaling mentioned she puts peas and cashews in her potato curry–and is met with silence from Harris. “Your silence is very damning… I don’t want to suffer the consequences of our future president not liking my Indian food,” said Kaling, reconsidering her choice of ingredients.
As the cooking kicked off, the two women addressed their late mothers in a sweet way. Kaling’s mother was a doctor, she shared, and Harris’s was a breast cancer researcher; both immigrated to America from India at ages 28 and 19, respectively.
They recalled how their mothers’ food was such a memorable part of their childhood. Harris described how hers would have freshly baked cookies ready every day after school and always made everything from scratch.”This why maybe I’ve become, hopefully not a snob about food, but I take food very seriously,” she explained. If you study the way Harris chops onions for Kaling, you’ll see she’s not joking.
Since the cooking video was released in late November it has reached over two million views online. Showing just how well food can bond folks together, many Indian Americans started sharing their own reactions on social media.
Comedian and actor Kal Penn marveled at watching two Indian American women cooking a meal together:
U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal wanted to be invited next time:
News anchor Rekha Muddaraj felt like her entire life was depicted in the video:
Washington Post Operations Editor Shefali S. Kulkarni defended Kaling’s choice of peas and cashews:
And NBC news reporter Deepa Shivaram shared a photo from her mom’s spice cabinet full of Taster’s Choice jars:
This cooking segment landed on the internet in the wake of a viral tweet that framed all Indian food as “terrible”—and which did not go over well on social media. Although Harris and Kaling don’t directly address the controversial tweet, their laughter-filled video reminds all of us that there’s beauty in every cuisine.