In early November, Netflix released all 10 episodes of Aziz Ansari's new show, "Master of None." As I binge-watched the show's brilliant inaugural season, I was delighted by its deft handling of topics like race, gender, relationships, family, and of course, food.
Not only does Ansari give plenty of shout-outs to some of the best bars and restaurants in New York City, but he also expertly weaves underlying truths about today's food culture into almost every episode. Here are five things "Master of None" gets so right about food.
Note: If you haven't watched the show yet, there are a few spoilers ahead. You've been warned.
1. The best conversations happen at the dinner table.
Episode two, Parents, is a testament to just how sacred the dinner table can be. A symbol of familial gathering, the dinner table is where we convene with friends and family at the end of the day to share our stories.
In the episode, Ansari's character, Dev, invites his parents out to dinner to learn about his parents' experience immigrating to the United States from India. He ends up leaving the dinner with a newfound appreciation for the hard work his parents put into creating a better life for him.
It's a poignant reminder to sit down with loved ones — away from distractions and devices — and ask them questions. You never know what you might learn.
2. Sometimes we can get carried away with our food obsessions.
In episode six, Nashville, Dev wants to make a "quick" stop to get some BBQ sauce on the way to the airport. Despite objections from his girlfriend, Rachel, he gets his BBQ sauce, but they end up missing their flight home.
I'd be lying if I said I've never had a similar experience. Sometimes our line of vision is blocked by one singular goal — to get that super-special, hyped-up food or drink item — even if comes at the expense of something more important.
3. We research restaurants to death in search of the latest and greatest.
In the final episode, Dev decides he wants tacos for lunch. After pulling up multiple online searches for the best tacos in New York — Yelp reviews, Eater lists, and the like — and texting friends for their taco recommendations, he finally settles on a place, only to find it's closed once he gets there. In response to this, he yells: "This is supposed to be the best taco! What am I supposed to do now? Go eat the second-best taco like some kinda asshole?"
This scene really illustrates our approach to dining out today. It's no longer acceptable to just blindly walk into a place — we have to do our due diligence and research every option (and there are plenty) before choosing the ultimate one.
In our quest to find the best of the best, we sometimes end up missing out.
4. Fancy cooking equipment is meant to be used.
When I first got my KitchenAid stand mixer, I proudly displayed it on my countertop and stared at it lovingly every time I entered the kitchen — but I didn't use it. Whether it was a fear of breaking it or a reluctance to "dirtying" it, I just couldn't bring myself to actually try it out. Once I did, however, I kicked myself for not using it earlier.
In a similar vein, Dev receives a pasta maker from Rachel, but keeps it in its box above the fridge, unused, for quite a while. But when he finally uses it, he is amazed at his ability to make fresh pasta carbonara at home.
We spend so much time pining over fancy kitchen tools — Vitamix blenders, anyone? — that when we finally get them, we set them out and admire them, often forgetting they actually serve a purpose beyond decoration. Go ahead — use them; I promise nothing bad will happen if you do.
5. Relationships come and go, but pasta is forever.
In the final episode — spoiler alert! — Dev hops on a flight to Italy to learn pasta-making instead of following Rachel to Tokyo. The true meaning behind this is, of course, that you should always choose pasta over love; pasta will never leave you. (Kidding! Sort of.)
On a more serious note, this scene touches upon the notion that we owe it to ourselves to act on our interests and passions. Pursuing the things that make us happy might require sacrifices up front, but will (hopefully) pan out later on.
We'll just have to wait until the second season to find out.