Padma Lakshmi, on the definition of culture and the art of hosting a good party

Asia's Tech News Daily

Padma Lakshmi, food expert, model and survivor of multiple traumas, offered her take on diverse matters – such as hosting a good party and motherhood – in a recent interview.

“A great dinner party doesn’t have anything to do with well-appointed linens or shiny silver platters. It starts with a good guest list,” Padma Lakshmi told Esquire. “You want people who have some touchstone in common but don’t necessarily know each other, people who will enjoy meeting each other.”

Lakshmi uses an unusual ice-breaker. She asks guests to help in the kitchen. Not with major tasks, of course, but something light.

“I like to leave (some) things to the last minute,” she said. “I cook most of the meal, go have a shower, have one glass of wine before anybody gets there. And then when people start arriving, have them help make a salad together—just to break the ice.”

Also read: Padma Lakshmi cooks up a children’s book with a message

Lakshmi had a difficult childhood and adolescence. Born in Chennai, she moved to New York at age four with her mother after her parents divorced. At the age of 14 she was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare and serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. Days later, she had an accident. She also suffered from endometriosis, which resulted in painful menstruation.

Add to that the racism Laksmi experienced as an immigrant, her two marriages, the highs of fame and glamour as well as the depths of crises, and it is evident that she has experienced all that the rollercoaster of life has to offer.

Basis her well of experience, Lakshmi said she wanted to teach her daughter Krishna to learn to trust her instincts. She also said culture meant respect for family, and not necessarily wearing traditional clothes.

“The biggest thing I hope I can foster in Krishna is to listen to her gut,” Lakshmi said. “It’s something my mother taught me when I was very young, and I hope I can cultivate that muscle—because it is a muscle.”

She added, “I don’t get a badge for Good Indian Motherhood if my daughter suddenly parrots everything back in Hindi or Tamil. Culture is a respect for the family, not whether she wears Indian clothes or has a bindi.”

While it wasn’t easy for Lakshmi to make a huge shift from India to America in the 70s, it had some advantages.

“Growing up as an immigrant child, between two cultures, allowed me to learn to code-switch. It was useful when I started working in Europe. It made me more broad-minded; it taught me languages,” she said.

At 51, Lakshmi has an informed view of adversity, and the idea of ageing gracefully.

“Trauma doesn’t go away. It only becomes manageable if we deal with the pain of it,” she said. “Growing older gracefully means having a keen curiosity about learning things about the world that you didn’t know yesterday, no matter how many yesterdays you’ve had.”

And finally, she said, “I don’t feel guilty taking pleasure in things anymore.”

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