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.


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:


Or this:


Or this:


Or this:



About michaelwtwitty

I am a Judaics teacher and Culinary Historian focusing on the foodways of Africa, enslaved African Americans, African America and the African and Jewish diasporas.
This entry was posted in African American Food History, Cultural Politics, Elders and Wise Folk, Food and Slavery, Pop Culture and Pop Food, The Cooking Gene and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Taking the Cake

  1. Alisa Boyd says:

    Your Guardian piece about George Washington’s Birthday Cake was thought-provoking. I find that I am unsure how I feel about this issue and that I need to give it considerably more thought. Thank you for your measured and considered article.

  2. You were spot on with that Guardian article. I was enraged when I saw the book, and thankfully, most of my friends understood why. It was particularly problematic that people of color were essential to the creation of the book. I’ve since read Scholastic’s statement, which seemed to get to the heart of the matter. But I’d like to see whether the author has since learned better.

  3. kelley says:

    Forgive me, I haven’t been following you very long. Just curious to where your cooking demonstrations are held? Or where I can view a schedule.

    Thank you. Awesome post on The Guardian.

  4. Perhaps a birthday cake with a black hand placing the last frosting swirl on the cake would be more satisfactory. No faces shown.

  5. Leslie says:

    Thank you, Michael. I am so glad you could write about this so eloquently. Your comments about “us being more engaged in greater cultural and historical literacy” is so, so crucial.

  6. Sara Streett says:

    Thank you for your Guardian article–I really appreciated your insights.

    We have A Fine Dessert at home right now; I took it out of the library without knowing what it was about. (It’s easier to just grab books and get out sometimes!)

    I have mixed feelings about the book. I’m a white parent to white children (2.5 and 4) and the book gave me a good way to bring up the subject of slavery with them and talk to them about why it was evil. That was really helpful. But the presentation of the slaves within this larger narrative about social progress for upper-class white women (and cream-whipping technology??) was troubling–as if slavery was morally on par with the wealthy white woman having to serve the men in the family first. The final “everything is good now” story is also problematic.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about children’s books and race lately and your article was really helpful to me. Thank you!

  7. One of my favorite things I’ve read of your writing. Takes me back to my aunt’s cooking. All day. Greens, beans, cornbread, the most amazing flavors imaginable ever. Mystery in every delicious morsel. And this was when I was 9, 10 and into teens, super picky eater. Her food was always so died and went to heaven good.

  8. Well fooey I replied on the wrong article but the comment is in appreciation of the article that says we have to talk about collards.

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