Why this Blog?

Why this Blog?

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I wanted to create a new cultural vocabulary around food that would draw on our best yearnings to make the politics of food work for everybody not just a few.  I don’t have much to say about flavor profiles, buzz words, textures or references to the sensations food causes in my mouth.  I don’t come from connoisseurs, I come from survivors and people who have never been able to sit still long enough to assess anything beyond the joy that food can give them or the pain it can assuage.

I was challenged early on when I started www.Afroculinaria.com to not focus so much on the people and their stories, and my story and to instead give up the secrets of soul—to open up our collective chest and let people play with our heart—and I couldn’t do it.  I didn’t want to smile when I needed to cry and I didn’t want to cry when all I wanted to do was smile. I wanted my emotions to be in sync with my spirit.  I knew that couldn’t happen if I did what everybody else was doing.

At some point I realized that there was passion and there was obsession and then there was the need to speak to the needs that everyday people had when it came to food.  There are starving foodies.  There are people whose food cultures are gold but they aren’t collecting the interest on the cultural capital of what their Ancestors have brought to the fore.  There are people who are not content to see their neighbors lack and there are people for whom they need more from their food than just temporary satisfaction—they need it to be a vehicle—an emotional, intellectual, cultural, spiritual vehicle—and they want more connection when they come to the table.

I really do believe in the idea of a “cooking gene,” it is of course not the “gene” of biological predestination, but gene in its earliest sense—a word fraught with connotations of genealogy, descent, heritage and pedigree-something you can grasp—if you seek it with all you’ve got.  Your full self needs to be at stake.  I don’t think that cooking genes are black or white—I think they are neutral.  I think they are colored with and full of potential for us to learn from each other and grow beyond our bubbles, boxes and boundaries that we put up because the thought of putting up our grievances scares us more than the consequences of connection.

I want people to know that Afroculinaria is not just Black, its many colors.  It is however, unashamedly based in the idea that people of African descent have a unique and undeniably important story to tell the rest of the human family about food—and we love this race that our most ancient mothers gave birth to—and love the planet we share with our cousins across haplogroups and phenotypes, ethnic groups and languages.  There is a place for the “Universal,” in us, a center, a wellspring, a mirror for the humanity of all.  I say with great pride it is not my goal to end that celebration here but make you, my reader, a participant, a fellow devotee of the idea that the story of our gifts and the revelations we have to share have only just begun.

I don’t want to be like the rest, although I celebrate and honor them for bringing beauty into the world through pictures and words.  Their job is to further the passion we all have for food and to add to our lives by being grateful and celebrating the opportunity to live and eat—on our own or together.  The human stories that many food bloggers bring are humans in search of bettering their craft, loving some ingredient or dish or complex of foods so much that every secret is squeezed out, and the love and pain we face as we try to perfect our product for the brief moment before it is devoured and lingers only on palates and the brain.  Yes, other food bloggers—forging the tradition—I salute you and love you because you inspire me despite my lonely niche.

There’s something special about choosing not to be like the rest but knowing that it’s not as easy, knowing the limitations, facing the voices that tell you not to “be,” not to exist.  This blog has not always been my best friend. It is often a very nasty reminder of my own intellectual claustrophobia, the blog captures the attention of people who think I’m a snake-oil salesman, people who need to exercise overt racism, and people who simply don’t get me and don’t want to.  I’ve had to learn that all of this is part of the act of blogging and that nobody should feel sorry for me—especially me.  Appreciating your followers and readers means loving them so much that the disses don’t matter and that your immunity comes from how much you acknowledge the necessity of your journey.

Food bloggers unite.  We all have self-doubt. We all have the thrill of knowing we have inspired someone to be fearless in the kitchen, or in my case—cook on a plantation.  We know the blank-outs and mind-wanderings, we know what it is like to be so full of inspiration that you can’t sleep, and we are irritated when the perfect shot is just shy of unattainable. We do this because we are more than inspired, more than passionate, more than alive, and more than hungry. We do this because we are called to ingest by nature, and called to make it meaningful by nurture.

I am necessarily and painfully excited.  There are really more things we need to cook, argue about, discuss and revel in our rivalries.  I have managed—some say successfully-some say not—to cut out a little mouse hole in a vast architecture of worlds about a four letter word.

“Food.”

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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 Elders and Wise Folk, Food and Slavery, Food People and Food Places, Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria, The Cooking Gene and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Why this Blog?

  1. JRLL says:

    Continue to push the envelope and be uniquely you. The passion flowing from within you must not be stifled. Let people say what they must but don’t allow them to bring you down. Look up, move forward, and do what has been placed within you to do. Best Wishes!

  2. Angela Burke says:

    Michael,

    I adore you and the work that you are doing. Sometimes, I feel hesitant to use the word “passion,” but really, it’s the perfect descriptor for you. You have a passion and you’ve seized it regardless of popularity, click rates and buzz. For that — cheers! Keep it up!

    I’ve already voted for you and have spread the word. If you’re ever in Chicago, I’d love to chat with you.

    Until then, best of luck and keep on keepin’ on!

    Best always, Angela Burke @angeladburke

    — ANGELA BURKE Chef Groupie Food + Drink Marketing/PR chefgroupie.com ⎮ 312.835.1433 ⎮ Twitter Check out our favorites in food + drink! >

  3. foodinbooks says:

    I always enjoy your posts, find them entertaining as well as educational, but this is the first that has truly spoken to my soul. Food, and the desire to eat well, has no racial, ethnic or cultural boundaries. We want to feed our bodies, and cooking allows us to also feed our souls. You seem to understand this very well, and express it in such a unique and wonderful way. If people don’t like you because you are coming from your own personal background of experiences, that’s their problem, not yours. You have a passionate voice for your culture, as well as for food and cooking, that SHOULD be heard. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  4. Anonyplgrim says:

    I really enjoy this blog. Thank you so much for your hard work and vision.

  5. Wow! What a beautiful writer and thinker you are! Thank you so much.

  6. The Millers Tale says:

    You’ve pushed me to ask questions of my own beliefs and assumptions through your work. I really, truly, appreciate that. I like the fact that your own experience has encouraged me to also delve deep into oral history and its written anals and not be too intimidated by the fact that I do not have a Phd. It’s very easy as a British person who is drawn to the culinary history and culinary genealogy of the American south to get caught up in the push-me-pull-me of nostalgia and imagery without fully understanding that this is excluding to so many people. Your insights (and I use that word in its fullest meaning) are invaluable.

  7. Leslie says:

    Thank you for another soulful post! I’m still hungrily awaiting my pre-ordered copy of The Cooking Genie😍

  8. Crackling Bread says:

    Just an organization question/comment – is there no Twitter or other social media acct for the blog? Just an acct to follow that gives updates /links to new posts, book updates, etc would be huge.
    There is great content here that seems a bit tucked away and can be hard to “share”.

  9. Donne Elbert Mills says:

    I wish I had something more pithy, coherent, inciteful to say…to add…

    Instead, I will just say…THANK YOU!

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