The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty
A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

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...Twitty ably joins past and present, puzzling out culinary mysteries along the way—e.g., “chickens got served to preachers because chickens had always flounced in the hands of African priests, and nobody remembered why.” An exemplary, inviting exploration and an inspiration for cooks and genealogists alike.
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Synopsis

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.

From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.

As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.

Illustrations by Stephen Crotts

 

About Michael W. Twitty

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Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian and the creator of Afroculinaria, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacy. He has been honored by First We Feast.com as one of twenty greatest food bloggers of all time, and named one of “Fifty People Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by TakePart.Com. Twitty has appeared throughout the media, including NPR’s The Splendid Table; has given more than 250 talks in the U.S. and abroad; and his work has appeared in Ebony, the Guardian, and on NPR.org. He lives in Rockville, Maryland.
 
Published August 1, 2017 by Amistad. 477 pages
Genres: History, Cooking. Non-fiction
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Kirkus

Excellent
on May 15 2017

...Twitty ably joins past and present, puzzling out culinary mysteries along the way—e.g., “chickens got served to preachers because chickens had always flounced in the hands of African priests, and nobody remembered why.” An exemplary, inviting exploration and an inspiration for cooks and genealogists alike.

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