Can a Cooking Show Resolve the India/Pakistan Conflict?

A new TV show stirs up a cooking rivalry between feuding countries

A contestant on "Foodistan."

Reality cooking shows stir up enough competition, jealousy, and feuding between contestants as is, but a new show on NDTV takes on a new level of rivalry: the conflict between India and Pakistan.

The show, Foodistan, is hardly the first cooking show with an international premise. However, rarely does a show put foreign conflicts in such a spotlight. Foodistan pits Indian and Pakistani chefs against each other to prepare three meals in less than 90 minutes. NPR reports that in the opening episode, host Aly Khan noted the nationalistic tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife: "So what if we take this rivalry to a whole new arena? ... Where the battle is fought with forks, knives, and skillet."

Why such a spin on the show, placing two countries' battle in such a strong light? Says the executive producer of the show, Monica Narula, on Foodistan's blog, the show wanted a fresh concept in a sea of Western-based cooking reality shows. She writes, "Foodistan is original in many ways. Firstly it brings chefs from India and Pakistan together to compete on television. Despite the great similarities in the cuisines of the two nations, there are many differences in the preparations of their food and that is displayed very well on the show." At the end, she notes that it's not about the countries' rivalry at all: "It's the food that wins."

It will take time to let the show's possible conflicts play out, but the menu does seem appetizing: NPR notes the poached Lahori fish with red chile and pesto and the Pakistani-style potatoes Bhujia, with Besan ki Roti as two winning dishes.