This Essay on Rice by Jhumpa Lahiri Is One of Mindy Kaling’s Favorite Things

Kaling’s protagonist on ‘The Mindy Project’ is a distant cousin of Lahiri, which might make this a sitcom family recipe
This Essay on Rice by Jhumpa Lahiri Is One of Mindy Kaling’s Favorite Things

This New Yorker piece is a treasured component of Mindy Kaling’s writing desk. 

Mindy Kaling, whose second book, Why Not Me, comes out next Tuesday, September 15 along with season four of The Mindy Project, has always been passionate about food — and in fact, her collaboration with Umami Burger, the Mindy Burger, is in restaurants now.

But one of her most important pieces of food memorabilia — though not quite as impressive as making pop culture by having a burger named after you — was written by Jhumpa Lahiri, the Namesake author after whom Kaling named her Mindy Project protagonist, Dr. Mindy Lahiri.

“The back story of my character is that Jhumpa Lahiri is her distant cousin and Mindy is very jealous of her and says, ‘She thinks she’s sooo literary and soooo pretty,’” Kaling told The New York Times.

“I have never met Jhumpa. I think she lives in Italy? I love all her books, but The Namesake struck me the most personally. She also wrote a short piece called ‘Rice’ for The New Yorker about a pulao recipe her father makes. I have it printed out and saved in my desk.”

Published in 2009, “Rice” is an affectionate essay on Lahiri’s perfectionist father and his ability to make pulao, a Persian rice recipe that has never been recorded, so that “no batch is ever identical to any other.”

From The New Yorker:


“Despite having a superficial knowledge of the ingredients and the technique, I have no idea how to make my father’s pulao, nor would I ever dare attempt it. The recipe is his own, and has never been recorded. There has never been an unsuccessful batch, yet no batch is ever identical to any other. It is a dish that has become an extension of himself, that he has perfected, and to which he has earned the copyright. A dish that will die with him when he dies.”