The Cooking Gene – Michael W Twitty


The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South,  by Michael W. Twitty is another book that I picked up from the Millennium Library’s New and Noted Section. If you can get past all the latest and greatest diet and nutrition fad books, there are generally one or two worthwhile titles to pick up and read. I was particularly interested in this book after having recently read John T. Edge’s the Potlikker papers.

*Before I get into this post, for some unrelated, bonus, Dining with Donald content, here’s a link to an article I wrote on Feasting for The Rupert’s Land News, our Diocesan newspaper.*

I first heard of Twitty when I came across a link to a talk he gave on Culinary Justice. I was unfamiliar with his work, and when I went looking for some background information, that is I Googled him, I discovered that he first came to prominence when he wrote an open letter to Paula Deen. This letter came amid Deen’s firing from the Food Network over her use of racist language.

Twitty was already in the process of laying the groundwork for what would end up as The Cooking Gene. The book is a deep and complex look into Twitty’s family life and history, and how that family life and history is intertwined with the history of The Old South(he explains at the opening of the book his own definition of what The Old South means). Twitty identifies as a Black, Jewish, Gay man, and these three combine to

The Cooking Gene cover

The cover of Michael W Twitty’s The Cooking Gene.

I’m not sure how well qualified I am to review this book. Being a middle-aged, white, Canadian has kept me far removed from the outrages and injustices visited on Twitty, his ancestors, and his modern, black contemporaries. I will however give a few thoughts.
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Potlikker Papers – John T Edge


Earlier this spring, when I was doing my lecture series on Eucharistic Eating, one of the participants asked a question relating how the Eucharist was viewed in other cultural contexts. I didn’t have the answer to his question (my research is ongoing), but it did make me ask questions about my own reading experiences when it came to the subject of food.

Front cover of The Potlikker Papers

It seems to me, at times, that food writing is a particularly western, white, and privileged preoccupation. That may simply be due to my failure to find other writers. However, even a book like Mark Kurlansky’s Choice Cuts, shows a heavy tendency to lean in this direction.

I’ve tried to correct this somewhat in the intervening period. One thing I’ve done is become familiar with the work of Michael Twitty. The video below is a good introduction to some of his thinking.

There is a good selection of his videos available on YouTube, if you want to explore more.

One of the things the video above puts emphasis on is the need to credit that Black slave community for creations, Continue reading