The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

The Cooking Gene A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South 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

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  • Title: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
  • Author: Michael W. Twitty
  • ISBN: 9780062379290
  • Page: 479
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 oA 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foods that enabled his ancestors survival across three centuries He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black owned organic farms in Georgia.As he takes us through his ancestral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 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.

    One thought on “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South”

    1. My rating for this book is actually 3,5 stars. The Cooking Gene was quite the challenge for me and for the ladies I buddy read it with. The Cooking Gene is an exploration of African-American culinary history in the south, slavery, and genealogy. I wasn't read for the way the book was laid out. I was expecting something a bit more linear than what I got, which was a jumpy, hard to stay on tract reading project. There were some key elements missing to make the reading experience better - maps, glo [...]

    2. I heard Michael Twitty speak on a panel a few years ago, at an event on interpreting African-American history today. Twitty, a gay black Jewish man who passionately talked about culinary history, sparked my interest. He is well known for cooking meals on plantations in the American South using only the cookware and food that was available to slaves. I was thrilled to find out that he would be publishing a book, and eagerly awaited its publication. I was not disappointed."The Cooking Gene" is a m [...]

    3. I think it’s most fitting to begin at this book’s bend: “It is no sin to go back and fetch what you have forgotten.” In The Cooking Gene, Michael W. Twitty helps us rediscover a vast and influential culinary tradition that black Americans have created throughout our time on this continent. Some people are sangers, not singers. Some people cook, and others, like my father says, can burn: Twitty is clearly in the latter group. As someone who only burns water (but washes a mean dish), I was [...]

    4. Unfortunately, The Cooking Gene was a bust for me. I think that I was expecting a reading experience from Twitty that he wasn't really promising in the synopsis. I may have read more into what the book would be about than the premise really is. I thought that I was going to get a book that pretty thoroughly explored the social aspects and dynamics of food in the African American community. How food played and still plays a part in how many of us show affection and appreciation for one another th [...]

    5. I've been following Twitty's blog, Afroculinaria, ever since I heard an interview with him on local Washington, DC radio a few years ago. He is a really interesting guy--and just reading his recipes will make you hungry!A basic premise of the book is that black Americans need to "reclaim" southern cuisine. I don't really have a dog in that fight (which seems to be mostly in culinary circles anyway), I just like to eat the food! I'm white, but I've always assumed that Southern food belonged to ev [...]

    6. "My mouth had been watering to read Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South ever since I learned about it from reading Twitty’s blog, Afroculinaria, where he often writes about the intersections between history, racial politics, social justice, and food. The idea of Twitty, a black male culinary authority – who also identifies as Jewish and gay – investigating and writing about “African American History in the Old South [...]

    7. I had a complicated experience reading this book. On the whole, it rates 4* for the important and fascinating information on the history of enslavement in America, the culinary history of Southern food, and the way in which DNA can guide a genealogical project. But the book is not without its flaws.My mother was born a Southerner (white) and I recall our family treks from Wisconsin to Virginia which was very much moving from one culture (heavily German/Scandinavian) to a foreign one. The food my [...]

    8. I wish Michael Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene: a Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, had been a hundred pages shorter, less overwhelming in detail, and much less convoluted as narration. But the truth is Twitty’s book is about as long, detailed, and convoluted as it needed to be to trace two equally long and difficult genealogies -- his own and that of Southern cooking. It is astonishing to watch him reach back to find answers--through information gaps, fissu [...]

    9. Michael Twitty has penned a sweeping memoir enriched with interleaved stories of the African Slave experience. As a culinary historian who delves into the African contribution to American cooking and a docent in a living history center demonstrating slave cooking, Michael used those resources as a jumping point, ultimately traveling the world gathering details for this wide reaching tale. Sometimes drifting into a scholarly voice Michael Twitty never loses sight of the soul rending truth of slav [...]

    10. Magnificent read! In many ways it was not an easy read but the layers are thought provoking, at times jarring. The topics covered by Michael Twitty can each command special series in themselves - Ancestry DNA related groups and communities, food as a conduit of cultural norms and so forth. I have read historical cookery writers such as Fannie Farmer and Mrs. Beeton, but this goes way behind the scope of their coverage. I look forward to more from this writer and applaud him in the degree and dep [...]

    11. Twitty is a master historian mixed with a master memoirist. This book pulls together years of research and reflection to create a work that is part historical narrative , part family memoir, and which is rich throughout with descriptions of the horrors of America’s culinary history and with moments where real people in the present come together to uncover the past and heal the present through understanding food traditions and the way they tie us together.Twitty traces his own family history in [...]

    12. This is an extraordinary book. Twitty manages to combine his love of the South and Southern food, his deep personal and ancestral feelings about slavery, his (Jewish) religious faith, his search for his genetic lineage, and more into a compelling, emotional, complex, sensual narrative.He certainly added to my understanding of culinary history, especially in the American south and Africa, but also in northern Europe and elsewhere. He gave me a whole new slant on what the transition of southern ec [...]

    13. This is a troubling book is many ways. Needless to say the subject of slavery itself is a difficult one. While Twitty frames his entire book in terms of himself and his family/ancestors, it's not hard to extrapolate to the larger picture. If you didn't already know how brutal/inhumane/unacceptable/etc. slavery was, there's enough here to drive it home for you. But of course the focus is supposed to be African American culinary history and I have a hard time seeing how this book does justice to t [...]

    14. I heard about this book on a podcast (Bite, I think?) and it sounded fascinating and educational so I picked it up and started reading it pretty quickly. The book turned out to be both what I thought it was along with something different, and I learned a lot while reading it.The premise of the book is simple enough - a black man wants to learn more about his family history via the food they eat, along with how that has been affected by social, political, and economic issues throughout the last f [...]

    15. Twitty provides a fascinating look into how African cooking during the Slave Trade influenced the modern day and historic foods we associate with Southern cooking today, and how climate, cash crops, and the violence visited upon the enslaved all are evident in the cuisine. It's a deep dive into his own personal genealogy and family oral histories as well, written in a way that doesn't provide conclusion, as so many African American people can never fully re-discover their lost roots. A few chapt [...]

    16. The Cooking Gene goes on our must read list - no wonder this book is Number 1 on releases right now. Read our full review here!booktrib/2017/07/amazon-c

    17. The book traces Twitty's journey through his families food history and how it relates to modern African-American culture. Tracing how food and culture inform each other he looks at the genealogy of his own family to explain how certain foods and food cultures developed. I really wanted to like the book more than I actually did, but found the style, which Twitty describes as "bric-a-brac" made it a disjointed and often difficult read. It is however an important book for anyone interested in Afric [...]

    18. An exploration of the history of African American cuisine via one man's investigations into his enslaved ancestors. Memoirs are usually compulsively readable, even if grim; despite appearances this is too broad in scope to be a memoir, and it's certainly not quick reading. Twitty makes some attempts to justify the book's messy structure, and he's right that the subject, particularly the genealogical focus, is by nature disjointed and complex; this still wants for a refined introduction, a strong [...]

    19. I don't have the words to really express what I felt reading this tremendous work. I only feel lucky that Michael Twitty wrote this story and I got to read it. I learned about the experience and struggle of enslaved Africans and their descendants not as objects of an old discarded history (as our childhood textbooks would have it, if they had it at all), but rather as living truth, alive in our hearts, minds, and foodways. Michael Twitty is such a generous and inviting writer, I am forever chang [...]

    20. The Cooking Gene is an astonishingly beautiful book: heartfelt and raw, funny and sad, witty and profound. It is actually one of the only books I've ever given as a gift. This is not a cookbook per se, although there are some recipes in it. This is a journey into history and identity through the lens of the heritage foods and foodways of Black people brought here from Africa to be slaves: foodways they further developed and bequeathed to every person born in the South, white or black, as part of [...]

    21. Didn't finish. Too disjointed and I couldn't stay awake long enough at any stretch to make this a worthwhile use of my time. May have been a function of a hectic schedule, though I think some editing was in order.

    22. A masterpiece of modern American literary non-fiction. A must read for those who want to understand why "black lives matter", both in the literal sense of that statement, and in the reasons why that statement must be stated clearly and defiantly in America. A must read for those who want to understand America. Read it if you love cooking; read it if you love history, but hate cooking. Read it if you love America; read it if you have a complicated love of America. Read this book.Twitty writes it [...]

    23. An interesting combination of genealogy and culinary history, with a bit of autobiography thrown in. I'm not a foodie, but will be trying his recipes for beaten biscuits and mac & cheese! A little like "It's All Relative" but it turns out it's a lot harder tracing your roots when some of your ancestors were slaves. I learned the Russian word Toska, which according to Nabokov, is a sense of spiritual longing with nothing to long for, which seems like to might come in handy sometime. Also, 30% [...]

    24. So much richer and historically packed then I thought it would be. A nonfiction narrative about Twitty’s search for his place in the diaspora of the southern cooking tradition and, no holds barred, look at the slave trade and what it meant to be a slave, displaced and made less that human but keeping touch through traditions of food. Twitty looks at his own geneology and tells the story of his ancestors through the Corn, cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, rice plantations through present day and end [...]

    25. "White privilege is an obscene thing. It takes everything, quietly, until there is only silence left. Then it takes that too and fills it with noiseSouthern food culture has openly appropriated black food culture then prescribed the proper feelings the appropriated should possess regarding their hurt. Through kind concern, dispassionate reportage, and open quarrel, this privilege invalidates black folks by suggesting their experiences of prejudice are nothing more than overactive and hypersensit [...]

    26. I’m late, but ‘The Cooking Gene’ is my favorite book from 2017. Here, Twitty gives us a real history lesson about and around food. This is a book with pain, but it’s also one full of pride and hope. For anyone interested in learning about the history of southern food or about those people from whom these foods come, read this book. It’s spectacular.

    27. I had been excited to read this book, but it tried to do too much and didn't provide a structure to help me make sense of where in the journey(s) I was. The writing itself was lovely, though sometimes to the point of compromising clarity.

    28. Not sure what I expected when I started this one, but once into it, I was fascinated by Twitty's crafting of what is essentially a genealogy of food in his family tree. Very beautiful prose throughout.

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