The Cooking Gene

The Cooking Gene

A Journey Through African American Culinary History In The Old South

Book - 2017
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"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. Michael W. Twitty traces 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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.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. Michael W. Twitty is a culinary and cultural historian and the creator of, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacy"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2017.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780062379290
Characteristics: xvii, 443 p., 8 unnumbered pages of plates : col. ill. ; 24 cm.


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Feb 18, 2019

This is more than just a cookbook. It's a combination of personal memoir, family history, cookbook, historical study, and cultural exploration of the American South and all the myriad ways it has been influenced by Africa. It's also deeply philosophical, humanist, and poetic. The thing that also moved me the most was discovering near the end that Mr. Twitty wrote this splendid work at a time when he was grieving the loss of his mother.

Jan 09, 2019

This is a well-researched, poignant, heartfelt, beautiful and just plain delicious deep dive into culinary history, personal genealogy and memoir. It so full of information and feeling that I can't think of another book I've read that hit me so hard. This is why you read: to put your life and mind into the capable hands of someone who, through beautiful imagery and words, takes you somewhere completely unexpected, new, scary and ultimately, enriching. You return with a perspective on your own life that you didn't even knew existed. It's like therapy - take this part of life out of its normal setting, examine it up close, and see what is different from what you assumed or expected.

May 22, 2018

Twitty writes a food history and about his personal genealogy search, using DNA and the help of a noted genealogist.

I always enjoy adding one or two of the James Beard and IACP cookbook winners to my reading list. 'The Cooking Gene' was one choice this year. Reading about foodways of the enslaved South is brought to light by the writer in unexpected scholarship. But, his personal journey searching for his roots was the most fascinating reading, if a times hard to follow.

Feb 28, 2018

Michael is an amazing food historian, chef, food revolutionary, and a kind, curious, and honest guy. His book is as far-reaching, innovative, and surprising as he is. It’s a memoir that starts in the kitchen and radiates out into everything else. But somehow this book is not just about Michael's life, it’s about all of the African American experience, and therefore, about all of the American experience. It's a gumbo of culinary traditions, historic recipes, local foods, mixed families, culture, sexuality, spirituality, and politics. It helped me better understand what being an American is all about and how our food connects us with the rest of the world.

Yes, it could have used a little more editing here and there, but a page later we’re off on the next intriguing adventure. And there are so many passages of searing brilliance, as when Michael observes, “The privilege of living now is that I can seat myself at the master’s table — the table of my white ancestor, a slaveholder — and interpret his world, and he has no say.” Yep, we’re finally getting to hear the rest of the story.

Sep 03, 2017

Brilliant, thought-provoking......AND a easy-reading style that makes turning the pages of this magnificent book about identity, history, and finally finding and appreciating your own self and culture addictive.

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