“Amp-ah-nada? What’s that?” asked a grandmotherly woman about the delectable little filled pastries so popular throughout Latin America. Her skeptical sneer told me she wouldn’t discover the delights of empanadas anytime soon, or probably ever.
That reluctance to experiment with new foods is a leading reason why foreign cuisines take so long to find a foothold. People who don’t grow up eating certain foods are unlikely to change their eating habits as adults. That’s especially true for those who live in rural areas with limited ethnic and culinary diversity. It’s not only that they might not sample new foods, they might not even be exposed to them.
But those factors by themselves don’t explain why Indian food has taken so long to gain acceptance in the U.S. According to a Washington Post article purporting to solve that mystery, “there are, after all, more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants around the country, and roughly the same number of Mexican restaurants, but only about 5,000 Indian restaurants.” Why?