Michael W. Twitty

The Cooking Gene

A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South

Amistad 2017

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in FoodNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network June 19, 2017 Jeremy Wood

The “ownership” of Southern food is a divisive cultural issue, reflective of the ongoing struggle for racial justice in America. Michael Twitty shares with...

The “ownership” of Southern food is a divisive cultural issue, reflective of the ongoing struggle for racial justice in America. Michael Twitty shares with us that struggle in The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (Harper Collins: Amistad 2017). He brings to life the unsung heroes of American food history, the black cooks in slavery and freedom who created an innovative and syncretic cuisine. Like them, he builds upon the South’s diverse botanical ecosystems, a continent of indigenous nations, and the long roots of memory, extending back across the middle passage to West Africa.

For Twitty, this is also a tale of family. He shares his ancestors experiences through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents. He travels from abandoned cotton plantations to black-owned organic farms, from synagogues in Georgia to vodun rituals in New Orleans.

As Twitty takes us on this journey, he shows how food and memory together can heal. He reminds that as uncomfortable as honest conversation about racism’s legacy can be, its the only path to rejuvenating body, soul, and American community.


Jeremy Wood is a Seattle appellate attorney. Much of his scholarly work has concerned Native American interests. He also serves as Co-Chair for the Seattle City Human Rights Commission and as a Jewish educator. You can learn more about his work by visiting https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremyfwood. He can be reach at [email protected].

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