The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (Hardcover)
"Both personal and cultural history, this takes a long look at the culinary history of slavery, and, by extension, 'Southern' and 'Soul' cooking. With a nod to Henry Louis Gates’ PBS series, 'Finding Your Roots,' Twitty delves deeply into his own personal history, using this is as a starting point from which to chart the history of Southern cuisine, the slaves who made and influenced it, and the places in Africa and the Caribbean (and others) from which a lot of the food ways are sourced. As this is personal, Twitty’s enthusiasm for the subject matter, and educating people about it, shines through on almost every page, often making it seem like you are having an intimate conversation with the author. As one cannot truly talk about this cuisine without acknowledging slavery, this is a compelling antidote to the over the top butter-soaked way it is usually presented."--Reviewed by Andrew
— From Andrew Recommends
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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.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