Afroculinaria is a food blog authored by Michael W. Twitty, (Twitter: @Koshersoul), a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian , and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa and her Diaspora and its legacy in the food culture of the American South. Michael is a Judaic studies teacher from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and his interests include food culture, food history, Jewish cultural issues, African American history and cultu ral politics. Afroculinaria will highlight and address food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it.
Michael’s work is a braid of two distinct brands: the Antebellum Chef and Kosher/Soul. Antebellum Chef represents the vast number of unknown Black cooks across the Americas that were essential in the creation of the creole cuisines of Atlantic world. The reconstruction and revival of traditional African American foodways means seed keeping, growing heirlooms and heritage crops, raising heritage breeds and sustainably gathering and maintaining wild flora and fauna that our ancestors relied upon. The responsible exploration of the Southern food heritage demands that the cooks of colonial, federal era and antebellum kitchens and enslaved people’s cabins be honored for their unique role in giving the Southland her mother cuisine. It is important that we not only honor the Ancestors but provide a lifeline to contemporary communities and people of color looking for a better life in the new economy, a way out of the health and chronic illness crisis, and a way to reduce the vast food deserts that plague many of our communities. To honor the food past and provide for the food future is what Michael calls, “culinary justice.”
Kosher/Soul is the brand that deals with what Michael has termed “identity cooking.” Identity cooking isn’t about fusion; rather its how we construct complex identities and then express them through how we eat. Very few people in the modern West eat one cuisine or live within one culinary construct. Being Kosher/Soul is about melding the histories, tastes, flavors, and Diasporic wisdom of being Black and being Jewish. Both cultures express many of their cultural and spiritual values through the plate and Kosher/Soul is about that ongoing journey.
The Cooking Gene is Michael’s personal mission to document the connection between food history and family history from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom. Begun in 2011, the project successfully garnered funding and significant media attention in 2012 to initiate a journey known as The Southern Discomfort Tour. The project and tour continue as Michael visits sites of cultural memory, does presentations on his journey, and visits places critical to his family history while conducting genealogical and genetic research to discover his roots and food heritage. Michael believes that Terroir is in Your Genes. Food is also extremely culturally connected and inherently economic and political. It is a proving ground for racial reconciliation and healing and dialogue. The Cooking Gene seeks to connect the whole of the Southern food family–with cousins near and far–by drawing all of us into the story of how we got here and where we are going.