A few weeks ago at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello/Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s Heritage Harvest Festival I taught a class on cooking with heirlooms. Thanks to my 20 odd students–we had a great time! It was great to meet back up with a new/old friend, Sandor Katz, the “fermentation fetishist” himself. Good fortune led us to meet at Oxford University’s St. Catherine’s college the previous summer for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Between teaching and catching up with Sandor, I had to go do a book signing for Fighting Old Nep: The Foodways of Afro-Marylanders 1634-1864, (a book I wrote–which you can order anytime–just email me!) So of course I start thumbing through the books…and I come across Chasing Chilies: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011)
I’m in this sucker! All humility implied! I DO remember talking to this guy named Kraig Kraft in 2009! So out of nowhere I pick up the book, get a huge shock and there I am in chapter six..talking about the fish pepper. Hhem Hhem…clears throat–turns to page 153:
“Kraig had the good fortune of catching up with Michael Twitty, a culinary historian of “Afro foodways” during the slavery era in the South. By any standards, Michael is an impressive figure and memorable storyteller. He was chosen to curate the African American Heritage Seed Collection for the D. Landreth Seed Company of New Freedom, Pennsylvania. That’s no small honor, since Landreth is the longest continuously operated vegetable seed home in North America; it’s also the fifth-oldest corporation in the United States so it knows whats good for business. Since 1784, Landreth has featured myriad heirlooms like the fish pepper, which Michael regards as being among the true prizes in Landreth’s “hall of fame,” for vegetable sees rooted in African American cultures….”
For more about the book:
Now onto how the fish pepper and I first met…and our relationship since then… And how I discovered a master teacher, scholar and cook named William Woys Weaver.