American security expert called Indian food ‘terrible’ and started a word war

Tom Nichols
Tom Nichols; image via Facebook

By Revathi Siva Kumar

Tim Nichols was quick to learn how a little tweet could spice it up.

“I think Indian food is terrible, and we pretend it isn’t. I don’t like Indian food. And now the whole world knows it.”

Those were the immortal words of Tim Nichols, a twitter user who didn’t realize that he would soon be looking like a twit to one billion people and counting.

The reactions to his golden words came fast and furious. Even though he is a national security expert, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “The Death of Expertise,” Tim Nichols suddenly became the “other”, the “enemy” and the imperialist.

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Food is not just a lot of organic fuel being shoveled into your body. It has become a medium now for culture, race, nationalism, taste, palate, aesthetics, history, character. your political beliefs and what not.

Nichols realized the hard way that a little tweet could trigger a war of words, of fingers and high tempers — a perfect storm in a curry bowl.

While his dislike of mayonnaise, lettuce, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches did not raise temperatures among swashbuckling supporters so much, ‘Indian food’ got an entire twitter row boiling.

In the beginning, the reactions were just simple and funny. The Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi for one asked him whether he did not have taste buds, while another called him the ‘Donald Trump of food’.

ALSO READ: Chef Aarthi Sampath: Indian food in US is ‘bastardized,’ has too many short cuts, frozen products, too North Indian-focused (July 21, 2019)

However, it soon stirred a lot of fury among followers, who read a dark and deep meaning in his line, “we pretend it isn’t.” It raised hackles and there were memories of British oppression, Churchillian contempt and the autocratic colonial empire.

Nichols was amazed that his statement made the headlines in the Indian media, the BBC, The Washington Post and even Russia’s RT. “Nothing is less funny than having to explain a joke,” he sighed, “but of course I don’t think a billion people are lying about loving Indian food.”

Still, he was forced to admit that he had been seriously “trying to tweak the pretentious foodies among Americans”. However, he only managed to tie himself into more knots when he called Indian food spicy.

ALSO READ: Why Indian food has not gone mainstream in America (June 11, 2019)

The reactions do bring home a profound truth as Nichols himself put it: in a global village, social media connection is more than a boon. It has also become a weapon of verbal and emotional destruction over little differences like one’s food choice!

“We used to care about more important things,” he laments. “Alas.”

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