Taking the Cake

So there is a lot of press about two children’s books published as of late. One, A Fine Dessert, was published and honored, another, A Birthday Cake for George Washington just got pulled. Both showed smiling enslaved cooks serving their wealthy planter slaveholders.  People sounded off. I had to add my voice to the discussion. In one piece for Salon I am quoted, and in another, I write about the thorny nature of slavery in both national memory and children’s books in the Guardian. Let me know your thoughts on the subject.

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Happy slaves or a wider lens? You decide. I have no interest in the pontificating on the part of the Twiterati/Newgrorati. Nope. Not until they do this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Posted in African American Food History, Cultural Politics, Elders and Wise Folk, Food and Slavery, Pop Culture and Pop Food, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Letter to the Newgrorati: Of Collards and Amnesia

Dear Newgrorati on #BlackTwitter,

If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. And if you want to change a culture, change the stories.—Michael Margolis

We need to have a talk about collard greens. Like, now.

Apparently some – y’all thought Whole Foods was punking you with “new-fangled” recipes and a stock pic of collards with peanuts. Y’all went off and went deep. Think again.

We can’t get cemented in stereotypes about our food culture. Our tradition is so old and so broad it deserves more respect than lazy assumptions and not being informed. Let’s go deep…read this….

Oh yeah….greens in peanut sauce and greens with peanuts. Guess what…we were still doing that in the Deep South in slavery time…we kept seasoning and flavoring our greens with sesame and peanuts and salt fish well into the early 20th century. Why don’t you know about that? Easy..these traditional preparations became less and less popular as we moved further away from the generations born in Africa. I.E., the more acculturated we became the further we moved from some of our healthiest foods…its a cultural tragedy in the age of massive chronic illness among African American folk, my family included.

Let’s talk about collard history though my Newgroes, because we need to break this down…

The collard’s complicated story with African Americans really speaks to the way food can unravel the mysteries of complex identities. In 1781, Captain William Feltman of the Continental Army gave the first documentation available thus far linking Black folks in the Southern U.S. with the collard as he traveled through Hanover County, Virginia:  “The Negroes here raise great quantities of snaps and collerds
(sic) they have no cabbages here.”

Ezra Adams—South Carolina—formerly enslaved said:

“If you wants to know what I thinks is de best vittles, I’se gwine to be obliged to (admit) dat is is cabbage sprouts in de spring, and it is collard greens after frost has struck….I lak to eat.”

Background History

Collards (Brassica oleracea acephala) are not African,  they are temperate and Eurasian in origin, but their consumption, and with them—turnip, kale, rape, mustard and other greens are a healthy blend of tastes—West and Central African, Scottish, Portuguese, German and the like.  Many culinary historians agree that the green craze in the South is supported by tastes for spring greens among Celtic and Germanic Southerners but was really spearheaded by people of African descent.  In tropical West Africa, greens were available year round in gardens and markets and figured prominently

in regular meals.  Unlike Northern Europeans, West and Central Africans had a climate that supported a continuous variety of edible greens from both cultivated and wild plants.  Amaranth, celosia, inine (African spinach), and the leaves of cowpeas, cassava, okra, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables helped make up the 30-60 edible leaves prepared during the age of the slave trade.  Long before America there were varieties of plants botanically cognate to chenopodiums and phytolacca (read lambs quarter and poke) in West Africa.  Often referred to as “relish,” these African greens were made into a sauce to be eaten with rice, fufu or millet and some groups associated them with sacred medicine and vitality.

At some point in the Middle Ages, cabbages and turnips diffused south to what is now Mali from Morocco to feed Moroccan salt traders and scholars visiting Timbuktu.  While the first generation arrival of these plants was not said to spread out of the Moroccan quarter, these vegetables are still grown in the Sahel today as valuable market crops.  As early slave forts sprung up via the Portuguese trade, so did gardens to supply their dietary needs.  Cabbages and turnips enjoyed only measured success and usually depended on microclimate conditions that allowed for cooler breezes and night temperatures.  Kale and colewort (get it?  “collard” comes from colewort —chou vert/couve/cole) were frequently mentioned in letters and records of slave forts and their gardens.  You better believe these seeds and plants left the shelter of the forts and began making their way into the interior of what is now Ghana, Angola, Senegal and Nigeria.

Meanwhile African culture was happily eating greens gathered from the wild, the garden and from trees.  In Chinua Achebe’s classic novel of the pre-colonial Igbo world, Things Fall Apart, Ezinma, the charmed daughter of the main character, Okonkwo prepares “green vegetable” with her mother, noting a folktale where the greens shrink down and cause a catastrophe as a cautionary tale to pick as many greens as are necessary to feed one’s guests.

African and European tastes converged with greens “seasoned” with a bit of meat or salt fish and highly peppered merged with Portuguese caldo verde (greens soup, traditionally seasoned with linguica—or Portuguese cured meat/sausage) and later obtained the spiky taste of the capsicums—the New World “peppers.”  At least one reference refers to Africans adopting the European’s “cabbage soup,” noting that the elites enjoyed more meat with it and that it was highly seasoned with hot peppers.   In Brazil, couve or collards are a staple in the Black diet, and are a classic accompaniment to feijoada, the national dish of Brazil…a blend of African, European and Amerindian influences all under the umbrella of Afro-Brazilian spirituality…since it is a favorite dish of Ogum/Ogun, the Orisha of iron, war and meat.

Back to Hanover County, Virginia and beyond… Collards were not raised everywhere nor were they necessarily endemic to the South.  Coleworts were “sprout” greens…eaten while tender and non-heading, and as the descendant of kale and cabbage, the collard could be raised into the mild Southern winter where it sweetened under successive frosts and provided greens despite the season.  It is highly possible that the first Africans in Virginia, being Afri-Creoles from Portuguese Angola (where peanuts are in everything) (nguba=goobers) would have known the colewort and appreciated it’s cultivation by their 17th century English captors.  The collard was in gardens both high and low, but their popularity was certainly encouraged by the presence of greens-loving cooks of African descent.  Some commentators described enslaved people’s quarters crowded with collard patches.  They were raised at Monticello and sold to the Jefferson family as well as cultivated from time to time in Jefferson’s experimental gardens.  “Sprouts” included a whole family of leafy non-heading greens but the colewort was chief among them:

Lettice Bryan’s Sprout (Read Collard) Recipe, The Kentucky Housewife 1839

Should be boiled in every respect like turnip salad, served warm with bacon, and seasoned at table with salt, pepper, and vinegar.  All kinds of salad should b thoroughly washed in two waters, otherwise it will be gritty. 

Remember that ritual your mother used to do of washing and cutting the greens?  That’s ancient stuff.

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Green Glaze Collards

The variety you see in the picture above is my personal favorite, Green Glaze.  They are pretty, waxy, crisp, tough against bugs and extremely delicious.  They also happen to be the oldest variety we have/know of collard green dating back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the Georgia Southern or Creole collard out of the Deep South going back to the 1860s-1880s.

Slave Food: The problem with being Collard People

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad meant well when he wrote Eat to Live, in fact he presaged a host of health problems in the Black community and their larger detriment to the health and economy of African American communities.  However, he had a few bumps on the way including collards unfit for human consumption.  Actually, cowpeas, sweet potatoes, collards, kale, red peppers, onions, string beans and the like are fantastic natural foods.  Our ancestors ate Superfoods! Their role in preserving and benefiting the enslaved person’s diet—and the diet of those right out of Emancipation was widely noted:

To the inhabitants of the country districts of the South, the collard is a very great blessing; because when boiled in a pot with a piece of fat meat and balls of cornmeal dough, having the size and appearance of ordinary white turnips, called dumplings, it makes palatable a diet which would otherwise be all but intolerable.”  James Patterson Green, North Carolina.

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This food connects us to the globe. It connects us to Africa. It connects us to slavery, to freedom, to sharecropping, to migration, to triumph, to survival. It’s a powerful symbol of our history, our social identity, and the cuktural politics we negotiate our lives by.

We don’t mind cultural diffusion. That’s a natural and important consequence of being human and living in community with other humans. However the “collard is the new kale,”/”ooh look whole animal cooking”/wow isn’t this food so barnyard tasting..” that’s got to end. I don’t think that’s what WF was going for, but we’ve seen it so much it’s untenable and it drives us crazy. You don’t have to be Jewish to eat Levy’s Rye, and you don’t have to be “Colored” to love collards, but this is the key….being culturally aware needs to be a value in our society–for all of us. We need to revisit this collard thing next January when cooler heads prevail, I’ll be happy to give you some reading material.

Posted in African American Food History, African Food Culture, Cultural Politics, Diaspora Food Culture, Food and Slavery, Pop Culture and Pop Food, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Haven’t You Heard?!

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Follow me on Twitter @koshersoul and on Facebook as Michael W. Twitty.

Posted in African American Food History, Cultural Politics, Events and Appearances, Pop Culture and Pop Food, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A New Way With New Years Day/African Black Eyed Pea Salsa

I went to Whole Foods last night.

I actually bought a container of pre-soaked black eyed peas.  Yes I did!

I am not going to be stewing over some stove just because I can get me a lil “change,” and good luck in 2016.

Naw, boo.  I’m making a change in how I do New Years.  So just in time for you to do the same I offer you an alternative without totally re-inventing the wheel.

So I got to thinking about New Year’s as a time to eat .  Does it have to be a completely heavy meal or can it be a sampling of things, like Afrocentric tapas or mezze. New Year’s also coincides with the day of the karamu or Kwanzaa feast on the day of Imani, or faith.

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Let’s keep it simple…sorta 7 or 14 foods–your choice–representing every corner of the African world.  Yes there’s a recipe coming but I’m stalling…

  1.  Rice and peas or beans of some sort.  Or just rice.  Or millet.  Or fonio.  Or grits :)  But really, you need some Jollof Rice in your life and here is the place to find it–The Ghana Cookbook.  
  2. If meat is your thing-and it is certainly mine, you need some lamb, goat, mutton, beef or chicken in your life. Cover of "Senegal" by Pierre Thiam.

I love Pierre Thiam’s recipes.  Click here for something great starters from Pierre.  His roast lamb in his new cookbook with tamarind barbecue sauce is over the top fantastic.  I am hoping to raise enough money to make it to Senegal this year so I can try some for myself.

3.  Fish or Seafood.  For those you need to visit Ms. Dora Charles.  This is hands down my favorite traditonal soul food cookbook of the year.  Her fried fish or shrimp and grits or shrimp gumbo will fill the need for the something wonderful from the sea.

4.  Want traditional and reliable?  Go with the authentic and encyclopedic Southern Soups and Stews by Nancie McDermott for classic recipes for collards with dumplings and stewed black eyed peas.  This is a keeper.

5.  Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs, yes I said it.  2015’s most innovative and fresh approach comes from the beautiful Nicole Taylor with her The UpSouth Cookbook.  

6.  Searching for healthy alternatives to traditonal recipes that still come from tradition?  Look no further than Team Randall.  Soul Food Love is exactly what you’re looking for.  

7. So I want to make collard chips.  No I don’t have a recipe because I’ve never done it before but I’m going to try and I found an awesome recipe for them: Try this one from the blog The Inspired RD.  Alysa Bajenaru–thank you for this healthy alternative snack and a break away from the kale jail.

8.  Ok, Finally that recipe….African Style Black Eyed Pea Salsa

1 can of black eyed peas or field peas, drained—get a brand you trust to be reliably firm and not mushy

2 cups of chopped ripe, juicy tomato–or as best you can find.

1 cup of finely chopped bell peppers–green, yellow and red.

1/2 cup of minced red onion

2 tablespoons of minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon of vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar)

2 tablespoons of chopped up preserved lemon

1 teaspoon or more to taste of coconut sugar or turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes according to taste

1/4-1/2 teaspoon of black pepper according to taste

1 teaspoon of harissa seasoning.  (North African spice mixture)

1/2-1 teaspoon of hot sauce –preferably peri peri sauce from South Africa.

Mix all ingredients together and chill for a few hours before serving.  Stir to combine flavors every now and then.

9.  Going Vegan or Veggie?  I still have to make that Bryant Terry plug because not enough people know about this book—it should be a household staple!!!

10. Cook to impress—-if you want updated Southern classics with a classic French cuisine technical flare—then go with my homegirl Jennifer Booker.  Field Peas to Fois Gras–its all there and its all good.  and its fancy but not fussy.  

11. If you need a last minute Kwanzaa gift–baby–have I got one for you and it has a good number of recipes from across the entirety of African American culinary history including forays into the Diaspora and the Continent–and its the closest thing we have to a family album of African American culinary literature!  This is IT.  IN my opinion the most important book EVER written about the culinary history of African Americans–and I want a sequel.  Toni Tipton Martin’s The Jemima CodeThe Jemima Code.  

12.  Now for the sweet tooth.  We have a new African American dessert classic:  Grandbaby Cakes by Jocelyn Delk Adams who also has a very popular blog. 

13.  Sweet potato chips make an excellent dip for that salsa–besides you need something that looks like “gold coins.”  Here is a great recipe and demo!

14. What’s New Year’s without a cocktail.  My favorite mixologist is Tiffanie Barriere from Atlanta.  Here is a delicious delicious cocktail that will put some pep in your step!

Who am I kidding, I never really keep it simple.

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year 2016! Don’t forget The Cooking Gene in 2016!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

American slaves’ Christmas was a respite from bondage – and a reinforcement of it | Michael W Twitty | Opinion | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/25/american-slaves-christmas-was-a-respite-from-bondage-and-a-reinforcement-of-it

I wish everyone a happy holiday. It’s interesting that for such a straight, matter of fact piece, the first comment was already negative and had to be removed by the Administrator. I never thought that in 2015, even writing about African American history would get immediate hate mail. Yes Virginia, even the enslaved had a “Christmas,” and it had a lot of different meanings for enslaved people. It is important to not forget what that life was like for them and how that we world impacted us today. I proudly and defiantly write their story because it must must must be told. Merry Christmas! Please share this information at your holiday table, social justice is an enduring holiday message.

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The original re-creation of John Canoe at Somerset Place Plantation in Creswell, NC.

Posted in African American Food History, Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Publications, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I’m a TED Fellow

Dear Afroculinaria.com Community,

It is with GREAT pleasure that I announce that I have been selected along with 20 other very talented and creative individuals as part of the 2016 Ted Fellows class.  That’s right, those TED talks you see all over social media that inspire you and get you thinking about the world in a different way—I get to be a part of that in February in Vancouver 2016, and along with my other 2015 class members, deliver a short TED talk. 

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Yep.  If being part of an amazing community of thinkers, doers, activists and shakers wasn’t enough; I’ll have the opportunity to go to Vancouver in advance of the program, meet other TED 2016 fellows and build up to the moment when I get to give a TED talk!

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“The TED Fellows program brings together young innovators from around the world and across disciplines, who display both outstanding achievement and exemplary character, to ignite their careers. The program offers Fellows full participation in the TED or TEDGlobal Conference, a two-day pre-conference of workshops and activities, a biannual Fellows Retreat, ongoing professional coaching and mentoring through the SupporTED program, dedicated PR coaching and active participation in the TED community, including the global TED Fellows network. Founded in 2009, the TED Fellows program now includes 397 Fellows from 86 countries.”

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This is just another step on a very long journey. I never thought when I applied that it would lead to all this.  I’m passionate about my work.  My goal is to move us all beyond clichés about food bringing the world together and bridging differences.  The culinary expression of the civilization our Ancestors brought from West and Central Africa is no small thing. It in many ways is our salvation, joy we can reap despite our mourning. I look forward to taking that message further.  I also want to bring a healing to my native land, the American South, a place stained with regret, pain, and unresolved challenges that have manifested in body and bone.

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The Cooking Gene will be published next year as well. It’s happy fortune that TED, the publication of my first major book with HarperCollins, and the fortieth anniversary of the book that inspired me, Alex Haley’s Roots, all coincide. I hope to finally see West Africa by May. I cannot tell y’all how sincerely honored I am that so many of you have taken this journey with me. I feel as though my sense of kinfolk has grown. Having lost my Mom last year, I can only say this would be better if she were here, but she is spiritually with me. I love all the light she’s sent me, and all the encouragement this blog and it’s community on Twitter and Facebook and I cannot thank you for helping me come to see this day.

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I want to thank all of you for your support in all the forms in which you’ve given it.  I want to thank the people who helped me grow my voice and those who have cast their lot with Afroculinaria and uts mission. Finally, I want to thank the TED Fellows team for their confidence that I would be a valuable member of the TED Community, the 2016 Fellows and that I have a message that a larger audience needs to hear.  I’m truly excited for all the things to come!

Posted in African American Food History, Events and Appearances, Pop Culture and Pop Food, Publications, Scholars, Scholars, Elders and Wise Folk, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

#GivingDecember special: The (Non-Jewish) Black Person’s Guide to Surviving Hannukah

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#GivingDecember is traditionally for non-profits, but it’s a time when the little guy like me has to make a plea too.

Let me share an email with you I just received today:

“​Mr.​T​witty my name is Malik and I would like to know if you can come to my school and teach use how to cook and about African American history ​of​ cooking​. ​Mr.Twitty I am happy that I am about to meet you and l wonder if you can also teach us about being Jewish. PS We are starting a World Religion study next week.

​Good morning Michael,

I greatly enjoyed and was inspired by your workshops and keynote at the CFSA conference in Durham in November. You mentioned that you might soon be in North Charleston. I hope I haven’t missed you already. As you may recall I work at a school for students with behavioral needs and also a great need to connect with the strengths of their history.

The above note is from just one of the many students that would benefit from your straightforward discussion of the history they should be reveling in but are separated from.

Please come share your courage with my students!

I get emails like these all the time from inspired teachers and students. 2-3 times a year we depend on you to fill in the gaps. Great opportunities come up and your donations make it easier to go to schools and communities that otherwise don’t have a budget to bring me out. Sometimes a book is on the market that’s absolutely key to my work. Other times we just need money for copies, postage and other basic office needs. Your donations make it easier to make ends meet and keep moving forward. The Cooking Gene has taken everything I’ve got—all of this to uncover a heritage that was essentially stolen from us over three centuries. And yet I know I am a victor, not a victim. I’m a warrior.

So many of you enjoy what I do here and I enjoy sharing information, recipes and thoughts about the state of the world—from food to racial justice to spirituality to humor. This gives me great pleasure to help make the world a better place. I don’t throw a ball, I don’t sing, I don’t take pictures that earn millions of dollars, I just do the tough work of tikkun olam, and I don’t ask much in return. I appreciate any and all help you can give this #GivingDecember . 5$ buys 50 copies. Even 5$ is a huge contribution to the efforts I am trying to make to not only educate us about the African cultural contribution to American and global foodways but to inspire people of color to gain empowerment through food and push our progress forward as a people. I want this discussion over food to unite people of different phenotypes and heal the current “racial” divides that plague us. See the golden “donate” button, please go to our PayPal and give what you can. Please help me continue to do this sacred work. On to the edutainment of the day:

The (Non-Jewish) Black Person’s Guide to Surviving Hannukah (And Most other Jewish Holidays)

Humor and Satire Trigger Warning

Disclaimer: Written by a member of the Chocolate Chosen (yes there are many Jews who are of color, of African descent or who self-identify as Black or African American) so don’t get it twisted, or as we say in Yiddish, ton nit bakumen es tvisted…Not all Jews are white, many going back to the beginning of Judaism were certainly not, but all colors of the rainbow. So no mutual exclusivity here. Now on to the fun:

This is a great time to see how the other half celebrates. For African American folk who are not Jewish—see above—one of the most interesting things you can do is visit a Jewish family on a Jewish holiday, in this case we are only a few days away from the celebration of Hannukah. If you want to know more about Hannukah see my blog or see these resources. Know before you go! Hannukah is really a delightful holiday and even though it is not my favorite—that would be Passover and Simchat Torah—its message is really beautiful and simple—we can overcome the absence of light by bringing more in and keeping the flame of love and tradition burning. That having been said—you need to do your homework before you experience Hannukah American style.

1. A lot of Jewish ritual stuff takes place in the home because the home is the Mikdash Me’at (a little Temple)—okay its only rule number one and already I got you spitting. Rule #1 is actually buy tissues and an umbrella—both are necessary for speaking Hebrew as a first timer.

2. Gifts: You’re probably a little worried about what to bring to a Hannukah gathering. You’re pretty good as long as you don’t bring gel rings—they are the fruitcake of Jewish holidays—but a lot less practical. Fruitcake you can use in an architectural way or as a fire retardant. Gel rings—well I can think of a few uses but they wouldn’t be very g-rated or modest so let’s just move on.

3. Gelt—when Jews offer you “gelt” its not that thing they offer their children when they don’t call home enough or put mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich, gelt is actually those delightful chocolate coins you probably already buy every December but never knew what they were for. They are a much more acceptable gift than gel rings—see above.

4. Kugel—Kugel tastes a lot better than it sounds. Kugel is like the Jewish macaroni and cheese only it is not but it is, but…look it has raisins in it. Don’t get alarmed the cheese is not of “gubmint” origin—you will have to explain that to your hosts unless of course they are the Chocolate Chosen, its usually cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc. mixed with egg noodles, sugar, and cinnamon. Try it, you’ll like it, its nourishml.

5. Gefilte Fish—there is no good reason to serve gefilte fish during Hannukah unless there is a dare going on. Gefilte Fish is the Jewish equivalent of chitlins in terms of “Keeping it 100%” I guess I’m really not Black or Jewish because I don’t like either lol. They both show a big commonality in Jewish and Black food—people took would they had and made it work—for someone—not necessarily me.

6. Candles—whether they are Shabbat candles or candles in the hannukiyah—it’s not really a menorah like they taught you in second grade—just let them burn—they got this—don’t blow them out. That gets really awkward.

7. Jewish people start the meal with a short prayer that seems very rushed and quick. No diss. Don’t worry—the long winded, fall asleep in your plate prayer that usually takes place in Black households before the meal takes place after the meal when you have ITIS.

8. Please explain to your Jewish hosts who are not Chocolate Chosen that ITIS is not a Black terrorist group they should be concerned about but rather a food induced sleeping coma.

9. Latkes sound like that dude on “Taxi,” for the old school folk, but they have nothing to do with him. Again they sound worse than they taste. They actually taste pretty dang good. Translation of Latke—“hash brown.” No, I’m serious, they’re just hash browns that had a bris.

10. Don’t ask what a bris is. Someone will choke on their latke.

11. Schvartzeh is the attack word. You probably won’t hear it because its really not appropriate but just remember what Uncle John taught you—“Know the word for Black in every language.”

12. Bubbie guide—Bubbie is Yiddish for (Nana/Big Mama/Grammy/Grammah/M’Dear) Bubbies come in various flavors:

a. Stay away from Old School Bubbie—you will know her by the fact the word “colored” may come out of her mouth inadvertently. The rose perfume is a dead giveaway. She’s the lady at the shul I visited that thought I was the coat boy. She’s a dying breed so don’t be too concerned.

b. Matchmaker Bubbie is really nice but she’s probably going to set you up with her zaftig granddaughter. She’s done her homework about Black men. Beware there may be a rabbi and a mohel awaiting in the shadows to perform an expedient conversion. Don’t drink anything she gives you.

c. Matchmaker Bubbie’s pal is Rainbow Bubbie. If you’re LGBT and you’re going over your partner’s family’s house for the first time, she’s your best friend and she will smother you like Sunday chicken in gravy or stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce. She’s the old Jewish lady all the gays love, and she will do selfies with you two, talk about her PFLAG membership and talk about how she wishes a kayn-a-hora on Kim Davis. And no that’s not a character from Orange is the New Black.  She has the same color scheme in her makeup and attire as a Siamese Fighting Fish.

d. Hip Bubbie is probably my favorite. She’s retired but works more now than she ever did when she was working. She docents, is a theater usher just to see the newest philosophical plays, does tai chi, and can salsa dance. She only has one flaw—she once thought Sean Puffy Combs was named “Cohen,” “What Jewish woman names her son, “Puffy?” (Nope not a joke that actually happened…I choked on my latke.)

e. Yiddishe Mama Bubbie is the one who never leaves the kitchen and never actually eats. Of her the Yiddish saying that “a Grandmother needs wheels,” is most appropriate. She will be the most familiar to you because her and Black Grandma are kissing cousins. She’s going to feed you to capacity and watch over you to make sure everything goes down okay.

13. Avoid the celery soda. You won’t like it. You will find it hard to hide the “What the hell is this?” look.

14. Although you may be tempted to do so, evaluate the Black Jewish guest if you are not already in a Chocolate Chosen environment. They are so busy trying to stay Black and prove they got this Jewish thing down that they can be thoroughly annoying.

15. Black child rearing and Jewish child rearing aren’t quite the same. Jewish children are to be both seen and heard. This takes some getting used to. You will see a number of offenses committed that would not be lawful in a Black household, but remember, when in Rome.

16. Mitzi, the poodle will try to kiss you in the mouth. Tell her “Nisht git,” and remind her Black people don’t do that.

17. Master Hebrew expressions and Blessings before you get there. You will be a Boss.

18. Much of Hannukah food is deep fried. If from Down South you will feel right at home—Jewish homes on Hannukah smell like like Black homes on Sunday afternoon. There’s even an ancient Jewish fried chicken recipe.

19. If you’re eating with a Rabbi you will notice something delightfully interesting. Every rabbi is a comedian in the same way every Black comedian is a preacher.

20. Be prepared for the list of Jewish Nobel Prize winners given by Uncle Saul.  Control your eye roll.

21. Just like Uncle James will ask every white guest about white stuff—be prepared to be the ambassador of your people when Uncle Saul asks you about Black stuff—just make sure your host acts as a buffer.

22. Josh, Sarah, Melissa or David will ask you if you know how to duggie or know how to ride the quan…its not their fault…it’s a bar/bat mitzvah thing. Apart from the obligatory hora and chair dance—most b’nai mitzvoth in America are essentially the largest gatherings of white people doing Black dances in America. They will take a selfies with you to prove their coolness and show Mr. Twitty that other Black people other than him have been to their house.

23. Inevitably someone will claim to have participated in a Civil Rights march, protests, demonstration, voting drive. 2/3 of the time this will be the truth.

24. Do not participate in any Mah Jong (Mah zhong) games. This is the Jewish old lady equivalent of bid whist and spades. You will not win. They will hustle you naked. Stay away.

25. Blacks and Jews love to talk about food while they eat, that will pretty much be half of the dinner conversation.

26. Blacks and Jews are also the only peoples I know who use food to talk about their past while they eat it. Back in the Old Country= Back Down South…

27. You might get matzoh ball soup—relax—the rest of the matzoh was sustainably used in other dishes.

28. Gribenes=cracklins or pork rinds only its chicken skin.

29. Just like Black people have pictures of African kings and queens and such on their walls many (Ashkenazi) Jews have pictures of old Hasidic rabbis and scenes from old Eastern Europe. That’s about where the deep connection stops.

30. Guide to most Jewish meat—its chicken—that’s all you really need to know. If its not, its brisket—you know brisket..

31. If you get to go to a synagogue service, the Rabbi doesn’t need your “mmms” and “Amens” “Yes, Rabbi tell it!” and other call and response. Control yourself.

32. Dreidel is essentially a gambling game, don’t hustle the kids of all their gelt. I know you watched the fourth season of The Wire, but…

33. Bring your hot sauce and various condiments but don’t let anybody see them—Ashkenazi Jewish food is not known for its vibrant seasoning. If you are in a Sephardi household this will be unncessary—in fact you will encounter hot peppers, okra, black eyed peas and all sorts of familiar stuff.

34. Jelly doughnuts during Hannukah are the stuff. Eat as many as Bubbie will allow. Challah is also the bomb. Babka is good too—go for the chocolate rather than cinnamon.

35. Jewish loud and Black loud ain’t the same loud, you will see what I mean.

36. There are lots of pretty songs associated with Hannukah that you never get to hear at the store and a lot of nice songs sung around the table. It’s okay to hum and sing the chorus if you catch it. Singing and clapping around the table is like the best part of the meal for me after the chicken.

Have a Happy (first) Hannukah!

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