Upma on Top Chef Masters: Breakfast of Champions

Floyd Cardoz is America’s Top Chef Master. He won the show’s final challenge despite LA traffic leaving him with the least cooking time of the finalists, and he did it his way. His menu featured upma in addition to rice-crusted snapper in broth and an Indonesian dish called rendang a Malaysian beef stew called randang. It was exciting to see a familiar-to-me-from-home-not-restaurants desi food like upma on the screen in the finale on the kind of show that often has me looking up its mentions of French foodie terms.

upma.flickr.jpg (Photo by ukanda)

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Outsourcing the Shaadi

It’s time for wedding of the year! No, not that other wedding across the ocean. I’m talking about the wedding where moustachioed Rajiv finally gets wedded to Vimi on the show Outsourced! It’s been a tumultuous first season run for Outsourced, and this Thursday night on NBC the season finale comes to a glorious Bollywood climactic finish. Will the finish be final or will Outsourced be picked up for another season? The cast and crew has been advocating in the community to make sure the show comes back for another season.

I sat down virtually with the bride-to-be, the gorgeous shaadi-rific Noureen DeWulf about her time on set, a real life shaadi, and her perspective on facial hair. Here’s what she had to say.

Shaadi Mubarak, Noureen! This Thursday night you get married, in an all out big Indian wedding on the set of Outsourced for their season finale. Oh so very Bollywood. You came on later as a guest star later in the season, as Rajiv’s fiancée Vimi. What has it been like to be on the set of Outsourced for past few episodes?

Working on the show was a truly great experience. The actors for the most part are a humble and talented group and it is really fun to work with other Indian actors. The producers are pretty incredible people also, having come from and worked on other great shows, so it is a very fun and talented set to be on. I came on in their last few episodes of the season so you could really feel how tight knit they all were and how much they enjoyed their jobs, which is really nice to be a part of.

Outsourced is probably one of the first television series with a largely South Asian cast. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of the concept of the show after watching the pilot episode. But the shows that I’ve seen recently are really funny, having moved away from the Tyler-Perry-desified-type jokes, and the characters have far more depth and complexity to them. Do you feel the show has matured? Why do you think it’s important to have a show with a South Asian ensemble cast on American television? Continue reading

Mindy Kaling aka Kelly Kapoor Back with More Subtle Sexuality

If you’re a Mindy Kaling fan, you’ll enjoy the new music video produced by her character from The Office, Kelly Kapoor. Fans of the show will recall that Kelly and her coworker teamed up to form girl group, Subtle Sexuality, about two years ago and released their catchy “hit” single, “Male Prima Donna.” Well, the dynamic duo is back. I don’t find this particular song, “The Girl Next Door” as singable as the last one. It’s a bit slower and ballad-y. (Perhaps Kelly has a particular fixation on Taylor Swift this season, who knows. Certainly elements of “You Belong With Me” in the piece.) You can catch the “story” behind the song, here. Enjoy!

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A food-centric monologue from Aziz Ansari’s character Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation may be changing the culinary vernacular forever. Or maybe it’s just a funny bit from last week’s episode.

The video below fills us in on the new food lingo. You know, in case someone asks if you’d like some super water with your long-ass rice and chicky-chicky parm-parm. In the special food vocabulary coined by Tom Haverford, super water isn’t really water, long-ass rice isn’t rice at all and chicky-chicky parm-parm has little or nothing to do with *that *Parm.

If you can’t get enough of those zerts, there’s a site serving up more: TomHaverfoods.com. Continue reading

Elmo Goes to Pakistan

Sesame Street.jpg“I don’t own a television.” When I let that slip into conversation, most of my friends are aghast. They immediately assume one of two things: a) I am one of those holier-than-thou, live-in-the-moment, anti-media types or b) I’m just a weirdo. It’s probably a combination of both. Maybe someday I’ll see the need for a television, but right now I’m content with my laptop for movies and the occasional show at someone else’s house. But then again, our family has never been the television type. (Insert assumed air of humility and delicate toss of head.) My parents didn’t purchase their first television set until I was about 14, before that I mostly got my pop culture in disjointed snippets. Five minutes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at a neighbor’s house. The occasional pop song at the mall. Our church didn’t allow the ownership of televisions. Too secular. Too much potential for exposure to sex. Gasp!

So unlike most American kids, I didn’t wake up early every Saturday morning and rush to the television to watch my favorite cartoons (at least not until I was 14). All that to say this: I’m not very familiar with the children’s show Sesame Street, which airs in 120 countries in 20 international versions. I did not learn my numbers from the Count, alas. Aside from that cute little rubber ducky song and of course a fascination with Cookie Monster (nom), I wouldn’t know my Bert from my Ernie. Luckily for kids in Pakistan, however, Sesame Street will soon be a reality in a country where education is on the bottom of the governmental to-do list. Forget NYC, these puppets are going to Lahore.

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Top Chef Masters: Coming Back to Earth

top.chef.masters.chefs.jpg The third season of Top Chef Masters is different and not just because it includes for the first time ever, one–wait, make that two–desi chefs: Floyd Cardoz and Suvir Saran. Instead of having about 20 contestants as in previous years, this season has 12, and pits them against each other in elimination challenges like Restaurant Wars that come straight from the original Top Chef series format. But as usual they are all chefs already at the top in terms of professional success, competing to win money for charities and the title of Top Chef Master.

Cardoz and Saran definitely have what it takes to make it to the finals, and they made a good showing in the first episode. It’s too early to tell which of the remaining 11 chefs will make it to the end, but after the first episode last night it is NOT too early to know that Saran and his quips make for good TV. What did you think? Have you tried their food?

You can watch both chefs introduce themselves below.

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Judging Kaling’s Cover

kaling.cover.jpg Yesterday I was going to change up my commute to pass by a bookstore, so that I could check out Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. Tweeps and blogs like SNL, Vulture, Splitsider and ShelfLife were agog over the cuteness of her floral, pink-sweatered, wry-mouthed book cover. Given her writing background and popularity as a tweeter, I imagined that physically flipping through a copy would offer some kind of quirky comedy contact high. Continue reading

Don’t Be a Hater Says Outsourced Writer

is.time.up.outsourced.jpg Will Outsourced, the NBC TV comedy set in a Mumbai call center and cast with more desi actors than Hollywood can shake a feather at, come back for another season? That’s the question up in the air for the moment. Geetika Tandon Lizardi makes her case for the show by preaching to the unconverted–people who think Outsourced is offensive, racist or condescending–in her LA Times article.

Lizardi says she’s one of the “five South Asian writers on the show telling stories that often come straight from our personal experiences.” Her credentials include living in Mumbai where she helped her husband run a call center, and she shares a couple of examples of those straight-from-personal-experience story lines. Continue reading

Is Mandvi the new Cosby?

As a Desi child of the 80s, television in our household growing up included news with Peter Jennings, PBS shows and The Cosby Show. Think about it – as an immigrant Bangladeshi family during the First Wave (post-1965), my parents (and their community) were drawn to shows like NOVA and Jacques Cousteau to teach them about the sciences. They counted on Peter Jennings to get the news. It was their connection to assimilating and learning about their place in the world.

And The Cosby Show, well the Cosby family showed us how to be the proper brown American. It was a halal show with none of that kissing-shmissing thing that you’d see on the other television shows, except of course what happened between Cliff and Claire, and in our house my parents would have the remote in hand to change the channel as soon as kissing came on the screen. Seriously. This was how I learned to be an American – affection-less and model minority-ed (kidding, kind of).

Maybe, as Katie Couric suggested, all the Muslim community needs is a sitcom showing the quintessential model minority Muslim family. Just like The Cosby Show. Maybe the The Qu’osby Show. Aasif Mandvi takes a stab at creating a pilot episode and it’s blowing up the air waves on The Daily Show.

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Is that all we need, Katie? A television show to make racist people think that Muslims are less scary? There are two ways to look at this. First, despite all the “post racial narrative” that The Cosby Show put out there, at the end of the day we now have Tyler Perry shows on the CW with minstrel level scripts and C-level comedy. And, oh yeah, racism against Black people still exists 30 years after The Cosby Show first started. Continue reading