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The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South Kindle Edition
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2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year | 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting | Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction | #75 on The Root100 2018
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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.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
"Fascinating."-- "New York Times Book Review"
"Should there ever be a competition to determine the most interesting man in the world, Michael W. Twitty would have to be considered a serious contender."-- "Washington Post"
"Twitty ably joins past and present, puzzling out culinary mysteries along the way...An exemplary, inviting exploration and an inspiration for cooks and genealogists alike."-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"
Twitty ably joins past and present, puzzling out culinary mysteries along the way . . . An exemplary, inviting exploration and an inspiration for cooks and genealogists alike.-- "Kirkus Starred Review" --This text refers to the audioCD edition.
From the Inside Flap
Winner of the 2018 James Beard Foundation's Book Of The Year Award!
Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty brings a fresh perspective to 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 from 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 touchpoints in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, 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.
Twitty travels from the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields to tell of the struggles his family faced and how food enabled his ancestors' survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and visits Civil War battlefields in Virginia, synagogues in Alabama, and 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 South's past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep--the power of food to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.--Dr. Henry Louis Gates, host of PBS' Many Rivers to Cross and Finding Your Roots --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B01BSJIBJI
- Publisher : Amistad; Illustrated edition (August 1, 2017)
- Publication date : August 1, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 9834 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 464 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #171,642 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on August 16, 2017
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Top reviews from the United States
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This is not a recipe book as you know it. Recipes are sprinkled within, often at the ends of chapters as a highlight for the topic within. I found it nearly impossible to read without wanting food and drink at hand. It is at once an impeccably researched and perfectly executed ethnography of the cuisine of the U.S. South, and compelling, deeply personal, spiritual discovery of his own place as an African American gay Jewish culinary historian embedded within the inescapable trauma of chattel slavery and settler colonial violence.
"The Cooking Gene" is a family bible that contains the plants and animals, of songs and recipes of Twitty's ancestors, a personal origin story of the foods he hated as a child and has dedicated his life to understand as an adult. The DNA of food within landscape and heartbreak, poverty and resistance is present on each page. It is about race, and it is not. It is compassionate and critical, transcending boundaries while drawing them firmly. It is a book of education, a contemplative account of countless evils that traces a possible path toward redemption from the "second original sin" that lies at the founding of the United States, sins that perpetuate and live in the headlines and protests, the White House and the streets of Charlottesville and Ferguson, Chicago and Detroit, L.A. and Portland.
Much of this book impressed me as a professional public historical archaeologist and educator who worked for some time in the National Parks system. I felt many moments of recognition and familiarity in parts about the archaeology of slave cabins, and how his own personal experiences brings a meaning I can never experience when uncovering a sprinkle of seeds in the packed earthen floor of a dwelling. His position as informant and expert brings necessary critique to the work that white academics do--anthropology, history, and museums are as embedded in whiteness and colonization as much as any other institution, and does much of the work to keep marginalized people marginalized, the past silent and dead rather than in the hands of the people who own it.
I had to read this book twice, because I devoured it like a beignet the first time, knowing that I would need a second bite to really taste it. I will likely take more as I make room to digest what I have eaten so far. My own personal ties to the South lie in a complicated and obscure diaspora from various migrations from the Scotland, Bavaria, Cornwall and London to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Rhode Island and then North Carolina, then west through Missouri, Ohio, to Utah, then Eastern Oregon where I was born. "The Cooking Gene" spoke to these in a way I did not expect.
In each chapter, there were details that finally provided sense of discordant and messy family gatherings in Eastern Oregon. My own career in historical archaeology of colonial west was born of my need to understand the causes of the endless arguments and traumas that divided my family along religious, political, and racial lines, and my community upon lines of religion, class, race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and political ideology. Much like this nation itself, my family were wedded only by accident of birth and the Southern recipes from my grandmother's kitchen.
My mother attributed these recipes to her mother's strategy in the Depression in rural Utah by cooking such meals for her family and sold them to the community of miners in their tiny home--a former chicken coop on Paiute lands. For her, they were both guilty pleasure and secret shame, associated with the taint of poverty and rumors of her mother's mixed Paiute, German, English, Scottish, and Cherokee lineages. Grandma spoke Paiute, and was claimed by her people there. Yet her written genealogy reveals only hints at some of these details.
From "The Cooking Gene" I now know more about how the foods and traditions that united us as family were rooted in a carefully cultivated landscape of power, enslavement, genocide and survival that is the South. I have never planned to pursue DNA testing, but now I feel compelled to follow Michael's journey to understand these mysteries.
Every reader, regardless their race or disparate identities, will make a connection to their ancestors and their experiences within this book. Twitty brings us Southerners--even those removed for generations like me--gratitude and a redeeming hope for a nation that has never been united though we are mishpocheh.
Top reviews from other countries
Simply can't recommend highly enough. Should be required reading for anyone who feels the need to comment on the US in any way.
Also a book hasn't made me cry in a long time, and I gotta say this is the first food book that made me shed tears. Thank you Mr.Twitty for writing this book.