• Mindy Kaling and Kamala Harris. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
"My grandfather was very progressive... people have these stereotypes and misconceptions about who Indians are. His daughter wanted to do this and that, and he said 'go ahead!'"
SBS staff writers

17 Aug 2020 - 11:52 AM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2020 - 12:22 PM

The announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden's vice-presidential running mate has lead to the resurfacing of a video from last year, showing Harris cooking masala dosa and reminiscing about her childhood growing up with an Indian mother and Jamaican father.

In the segment, the Californian Senator appears with Indian-American media mogul and actress Mindy Kaling and chats about food and family.

In the video Harris and Kaling exclaim loudly at the reused 'Taster's Choice' coffee jars their families both used to store spices. 

"This is how my mother kept all our stuff!" Harris exclaimed 

In the video Kaling muses how to be respectful to Harris and avoid the Indian faux pas of addressing elders by their first name and asks instead whether she should address her as 'Senator'. 

"Just don't call me Auntie," Harris laughs. 

While dicing onions, Harris admits she has never cooked dosa before, but grew up eating the South Indian staple of savoury crepe with chutney and potato curry.

"That's a very fine chop. OK, I say this with respect Senator Harris, but you're kind of a show-off," Kaling jokes as she observes Harris's perfectly diced onions, the base for most South Asian cuisine. 

The pair talk about sneaking out to eat meat in a vegetarian culture and growing up with professional Indian migrant mums - Kaling's mother was a doctor and Harris's was a professor - who had to juggle doing 'both' - working full-time and managing food preparation and children.

"We would often come home from school before our mother was back from work and there was always fresh based cookies. Everything was from scratch. This is why I've become a snob about food," Harris says. 

Harris's mother, Indian immigrant Dr. Shyamala G. Harris, was a pioneering scientist and active in the civil rights movement.  The daughter of a diplomat, Shyamala moved to the US from India at 19 to pursue studies at Berkeley in the 1950's, graduating with a PhD in nutrition and endocrinology at age 25.  

In a Facebook post for Immigrant Heritage month, Kamala shed insight into her mother's life as an Indian immigrant and the tradition-breaking path she paved for herself. Instead of moving back to India after finishing school, Shyamala stayed in America after falling in love with Donald Harris, a Jamaican international student who went on to become an economics professor at Stanford. 

The pair divorced when Kamala was aged seven, after having two daughters: Kamala in 1964, and Maya in 1967. Kamala says the marriage was a brave act for a young woman on her own in a foreign country.

"My grandfather was very progressive...people have these stereotypes and misconceptions about who Indians are. His daughter wanted to do this and that, and he said 'go ahead!'" She told Kaling. 

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