Whose Cuisine Is It Anyway? White or Black or Native? The Cooking Gene responds…


One of my favorite reviews because it comes from the heart. It is written by a white Southern writer, Patricia Haynes,  who knows her hometown of Richmond, Virginia and put her sense of place and heritage into this review. I love that she compared my grandmother’s fried apples to her own…she likes country sausage drippings for her own dish! There is so much to unpack in this review of my new book, The Cooking Gene.

My favorite part: 

Hey if you want to see what the good hype is about see here

Thank you everyone for your support!

Posted in African American Food History, Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Publications, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

COLUMN: ‘The Cooking Gene’ enlightens on soul food, southern history, African American culture | Indiana Daily Student


This was an awesome review that I’m happy to share with you. The quote below says a lot. 

The knowledge of our Ancestors and our stories is critical to the true history of our food. Writing about one’s genealogy is not easy but she got exactly why I did it. That meant a lot, it was a sign of a true critical reader who stuck with a dense text. 

Thank you for all the shares and retweets family! Enjoy The Cooking Gene

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Welcome to #TheCookingGene Journey: A Photo Essay with a Recipe 

I started writing this book on paper plates and paper bags. 

I walked around with an entire book in my head from my years.  Paula Deen happened, my response went viral, agents started calling and asking if I had a book in mind. Two years of journeying around the South, supported by Y’ALL 😊finding my food roots and family routes and the foundation was laid for The Cooking Gene.  From finished chapters, to rough drafts to proof copies to the day the books arrived, I kept having the moment of arrival. Except I was wrong. 

Every time y’all engage with this work and add your own stories, recipes and narratives or speak to your Ancestors, the book continues. This is the point this book is community property. No matter what your origins or identity, we are family now.

I love each and every one of y’all.

I met a lady in the Bay Area who scraped the funds together to come to the MOADSF dinner. Another couple drive 60 miles. A mom in Atlanta brought her three daughters out to see me and they were in tears. I’ve had people find out we were cousins as a result of reading this book. It’s so beautiful to see the human family come together with something positive.

I am grateful.

I appreciate every moment of this dream unfolding into reality. 

I am excited to see how I can use my journey to help other people and flourish.

I am so glad I can share this with you my friends. You are loved. 

When I first started doing this, I had my own intellectual interests at heart. Meeting everyone out there in the world has transformed me. My heart is bigger. I know we can strive for better. I know everyone has a story to tell. 

Keep on with me, the journey isn’t over.

Country Captain a la Hazel


This was my Grandmother’s version of Country Captain, a dish strongly influenced by contact with India put through the lens of enslaved cooks in the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry plantation kitchens.  You can use bacon fat or you can use canola oil to start the sauce, but essentially this a smothered chicken that is delicious over rice, millet, grits or mashed sweet potato. You can try to serve this to six people but I bet you that you won’t get past four folks. 

8 pieces of chicken, with the breasts cut in half

1 tablespoon of Kosher salt

1 tsp of kitchen pepper (see page 24 of The Cooking Gene)

1 tsp of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of Fish Pepper Sauce (see page 24 of The Cooking Gene) or 1 tsp of red pepper flakes

1 tsp of Sun Brand, Madras Curry Powder

1 tsp of Bell’s poultry seasoning or another brand


Mix the spices and season the chicken pieces in a large glass bowl.  Get deep in there.  Get under the skin, rub tidily. Wash your hands—those spices will kill your eyes, nose, etc. Cover with plastic and set in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Best done in the morning or even overnight.


Πcup of canola oil or bacon fat

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger

1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon of Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder

1-2 tsp of kosher salt or seasoned salt

2 tsp of kitchen pepper (see page 24 of The Cooking Gene)

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes with juice

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

4 cups of vegetable broth (make your own with 2 carrots cut into rounds, 1 onion studded with cloves, 3 pieces of mashed garlic, 2 parsnips cut into rounds, 1 cubed turnip, 1 bunch parsley, 3 chopped celery ribs and 1 small cubed sweet potato covered with water, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and simmered for 3 hours)

Saute the vegetables in order after heating your oil to a medium high heat in a stockpot.  Let them sizzle and talk. Cook together for five to seven minutes or at least until the onions are clear. Put in the spices then tomato product. â€œFry,” for a few minutes, stirring well, then add the broth and allow this to come to a boil and then reduce heat and allow it to cook together for about 30 minutes on a low heat.  Taste and adjust before you put the chicken to bed after frying it as below. 


1 cup of all purpose flour or gluten free substitute like rice flour or cornmeal

1 cup of vegetable or canola oil or a cup of oil heated with a half a cup of clean bacon fat heated on a medium-high setting.

Flour the pieces of chicken and fry on both sides for about 5 to 7 minutes each.  The chicken will not be done but will be golden brown on the outside. Set on paper towels on a plate or platter to drain.  Put pieces of chicken into sauce mixture and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a low heat and cook in stockpot for about 35 minutes, covered.  Turn off heat and allow this to mellow for about 20 minutes before serving with cooked rice, millet or mashed sweet potatoes. Rice is of course, the best thing in the world with country captain—Carolina Gold or basmati are perfect. 


When my Grandmother made “curry,” or Country Captain there were always relishes with it. I don’t mean chopped pickle.  Ours were little glass bowls of thinly sliced scallions, golden raisins that had been plumped with a little hot broth or water, thin carrot shavings, chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh coconut flakes, slivered almonds, fresh parsley etc. If you so choose, you can feed the eyes and the mouth with the rich color of these garnishes on the table. 

One of the secrets to our cooking is making sure every single layer of the recipe is seasoned well and has a complicated and beautiful flavor.  I do not season my flour because it tends to burn with things in it—so all of the spices go into the meat being fried.  I also make a broth that is really rich. You can use a ready made broth and that’s better than water, but a homemade broth with tons of vegetables makes things so much more savory and tasty. 

Posted in African American Food History, African Food Culture, Cultural Politics, Diaspora Food Culture, Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria, Heirloom Gardening/Heritage Breeds and Wildcrafting, Jewish Stuff, Publications, Recipes, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kosher/Soul Collards 

The Green Glaze, the most beautiful of American old variety collard greens. 

Kosher/Soul Collards

(partly based on Matt’s Four Pepper Collards, from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen) 2013.

Πcup of canola oil

1 cup of red onion cut into thin slices

1 long red cayenne pepper cut into thin rings or 1 tablespoon of Fish Pepper Hot Sauce (see The Cooking Gene, page 24)

1 tsp of crushed garlic

1 tsp of crushed ginger

1 tablespoon of powdered PAREVE kosher chicken broth (also called consommé by some brands)

1 teaspoon of kitchen pepper (see The Cooking Gene, page 24)

2 tablespoons of lime juice

2 tsp of coconut sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

3 cups of vegetable stock (make your own with 2 carrots cut into rounds, 1 onion studded with cloves, 3 pieces of mashed garlic, 2 parsnips cut into rounds, 1 cubed turnip, 1 bunch parsley, 3 chopped celery ribs and 1 small cubed sweet potato covered with water and slow simmered for 3 hours)

4 pounds of collards, stemmed, trimmed and cut into long thin strips.

  1.  Heat oil in large pot over medium heat, after a few minutes toss in the onion slices, and hopefully they will make the telltale light sizzle and begin to sweat.  Add the red pepper, garlic, ginger, the broth powder and kitchen pepper and slowly sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring when necessary.

  2. Raise the heat to medium high. Add the thin strips of collard green handful by handful, stirring and adjusting as necessary.  With each batch of 3 handfuls quick cook for about 5 minutes.  When all the collards have been incorporated, add the vegetable stock, allow the collards to come to a boil, but then lower the heat so that the pot settles into a slow bubble and add lime juice, coconut sugar and smoked paprika. 

  3.  Cover and cook on a low simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and serve over cooked rice or grits. 

Serves 8. 

Posted in African Food Culture, Diaspora Food Culture, Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria, Heirloom Gardening/Heritage Breeds and Wildcrafting, Recipes, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Nothing much to see here except, NIGELLA LOVES MY BOOK!


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Southern Guide to Tashlich

Tashlich is an ancient symbolic ritual among Jews where we scatter crumbs from our pockets into a body of water with fish. As our friends below nibble it’s symbolizes parting ways with our sins. We say a few psalms, make personal commitments to change for the better and then shift to atonement in preparation for Yom Kippur.

If you are anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line, I invite you to a special Southern tashlich service. Bring your appropriate baked good tomorrow afternoon:

If you gossip too much: deep dish peach cobbler

If you are too affectionate and cause your partner to be late: spoonbread

If you are way too Lowcountry for your own good: rice waffles

If “it’s always complicated” and you have layers of issues: Smith Island cake

If you’re Always getting in trouble: Hot water cornbread

If you are too New Orleans for your own good: beignets

For bland sins: water challah

For really tasty sins: extra egg challah

For hardheadedness: beaten biscuits

For sins of cultural appropriation and overall racist b.s.: Aunt Jemima pancakes 

For sins that even G-d doesn’t understand: gluten free buttermilk biscuits 

For the sin of looking at somebody else’s form: Apple dumplings

For the sins of addiction: Krispy Kreme fresh off the conveyor belt

For the sins of going to funerals just for the food: caramel cake

For the sin of driving people crazy: pecan pie

For the sin of having bad taste in recipes: Frito pie

For the sin in having bad taste in presidents: Cheetoh pie 

For the regret over a Stein vote: Grasshopper pie

For the sin of always judging the hats ladies wear to services: lemon meringue pie

For the sin of being too Conch: key lime pie

For the sin of being too damn good: peanut pie

For the sin of being too eastern Kentucky for your own good: stack cake

For the sin of killing people with kindness: sweet potato pie

For the sin of writing this and laughing at my own jokes: cornbread

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Posted in Cultural Politics, Jewish Stuff, Pop Culture and Pop Food | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

‘Cooking Gene’ Follows History of Food, Family | Atlanta Jewish Times


Some people just get it. 

I don’t know what to say other than you’re welcome. 😊✡Shana Tovah U’metukah! Have a happy and sweet New Year, filled with happiness and joy. 

It’s been a swirling two days….time to rest before the next chapter. 

Posted in African American Food History, Cultural Politics, Jewish Stuff, Publications, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment