This is the first day of a long journey for me; to document and reveal our culture through its gastronomy. My name is Michael W. Twitty and I’m a culinary historian and historic interpreter interested in African, African American, African Diaspora, Southern, and Jewish foodways–reflecting all different parts of my identity. This blog, meant to connect with my websites, is a place where I want to show the process of delving into the history, aesthetics and knowledge systems of African-based food traditions and where possible, recreating the foods of the past. Some of my work is about tracing the history of African American foodways from West and Central Africa to early America through slavery to the Civil War. Other aspects of my work deal with the protection, preservation and re-imagining of African American heirloom crops and heritage foods revitalizing their use responsibly in the contemporary kitchen A third aspect is what I coin “identity cooking,” or the way what we cook and what we eat says about who we are and how it connects us to other people. Everything I do is built on a foundation of ethical documentation, spiritual respect, ecological awareness and social justice Thank you for coming on this journey with me, my ancestors, and all those who are passionate and empowered by this incredible tradition and its powerful legacy.
Michael W. Twitty is a recognized culinary historian, community scholar, and living history interpreter focusing on historic African American food and folk culture. He is webmaster of www.afroculinaria.com, the first website/blog devoted to the preservation of historic African American foods and foodways. He has conducted classes and workshops,written curricula and educational programs, giving lectures and performed cooking demonstrations for over 100 groups including the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Library of Congress, and the Oxford University Symposium on Food and Cookery. He has been profiled in the Washington Postand interviewed multiple times on NPR including the acclaimed food program, The Spendid Table. He is well known for his expertise in the history and heritage of enslaved African Americans and their foodways and his expertise in growing African American heirloom crops, open hearth cooking, heritage breed livestock, and wild flora and fauna utilized by enslaved Africans and their descendants. His new project is The Cooking Gene; a journey through the Old South in the food-steps of his ancestors linking his genealogy with the history of African American foodways. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to checking back frequently and seeing this site grow!
I love your blog! I’m still getting the hang of things but I hope to do a lot of cross pollination so to speak! I love your very simple but profound message package about food–its excellent–Know it, save it, share it…that could have been said on an 18th century plantation as well as in a 21st century home–how validating to know that we’re just educating people in whats timeless about food, whats classic–it sustains us, we must sustain it, and we must sustain from generation to generation what we know about it–especially best practices–from culture to culture.
Thanks, Michael! I’m glad you enjoy it. I really am looking forward to seeing more on the topics you’ve outlined… and let me know if you’d ever want to collaborate on a post or series of posts! ; ) In addition to my interests in food history and activism, I’m also a Jew from the deep south and can totally get behind collard greens and kugel!
Are you still in the DC area? If so, you might be interested in exploring Kayam Farm and Pearlstone Retreat Center in Baltimore County– they do hands-on food advocacy and education inspired by Jewish tradition and interpretation.
Congratulations on your new blog!!
I’m a Master Gardener for Baltimore County, MD and contribute on occasion to the Grow It Eat It blog. While I am up to my hairline in seed catalogs, maybe you can make some recommendations as to what kind of okra to plant. I know it sounds a little stupid but as a child I was always intrigued with those little slices of okra in Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo soup and never was sure what they were. It would be great to have some authentic recipes to experiment with. At the moment, I am leaning towards dramatic okra ( the 7 – 10-foot tall varieties) and red-podded okra and okra with evocative names ( Cowhorn, for instance). A little chefly input might be useful. Thanks. TiiuGardens
Cowhorn is definitely the way to go–its the variety that I use and its one of the oldest variety we grow in North America and has a definite history here in the Chesapeake region. In fact I wrote a piece in Edible Chesapeake about it being one of the central African vegetables of the Chesapeake/Upper South/Tidewater! Red okra is great I’ll post my okra pics soon for you guys!
I’ve also decided to use a tall variety this year along our fence in our front yarden (garden/yard). I’ve never grown it as an adult, but we had okra coming out of our of our ears when I was a kid! Mom pickled it, put it in soups, and fried it in cornmeal like a corn cakes or in rough cut pieces.
Lookin’ forward to more pics and more recipes. And, of course, warmer days so I can start my seeds…
When you plant tall okras, try growing them with cowpeas. If you have a tall plant, might as well grow something that can climb up the stalk. I’ve also grown it with peppers and when they need a little shade, the okra does it work. For the chefly input–I love okras that are not as mucilaginous (sticky) as the crop can often be. Fresh, crisp, green, meaty–that’s a good okra.
please help me. when i plant okra the plant dead. tryed many time without success. about germination its ok ,when the plant about 6 cm dead. what i can do ?
I’m sorry about your okra problems! There’s still time!
Please re-plant your okra seed! Scratch it a little with sandpaper, let it soak overnight. The seeds
that float–get rid of them. The seeds that stay, plant them. Sew regularly until you have enough
strong plants to guarantee a crop. Some will not be as nice as you want them to be. Others will
provide nice strong plants and you will have to thin them to an acceptable stand. You can companion
plant okra with hot pepper and tomato–its culinary companions.
The site should warm, sunny and well-drained.. Plant okra directly in the garden when the nights stay above 50-55 degrees F and the soil has warmed to 65 degrees F to 70 degrees F. Sow the okra seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart. When the okra are about 3 inches tall, thin to stand 1 to 2 feet apart.
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I was so excited to find this blog! I heard about Michael when I visited Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville, FL, yesterday and am “hungry” for more information about research, lectures, etc. I first became interested in foods of the African diaspora while studying Afro-Atlantic religions at Harvard in the mid-90s (in fact, I’m interested in the culinary syncretism process with all transplanted cultures). Michael – you are doing some fascinating work! I look forward to hearing more!
starting at the beginning and reading all the way through. so excited, food, cooking, plates as archaeology. write on!