The Cooking Gene is not a cookbook but it does have treasured family recipes and reconstructed recipes from history.
The Cooking Gene is not a diatribe on race and food nor is it about how you have to be Black to be a great cook, but it does talk about great cooks past and present that are Black. 🙂 It is a food memoir that incorporates genealogy, genetic research and culinary history into a conversation on the complexities of Southern food. This book is about having awareness of our common history and making commitments to stem systemic racism’s long term effects owing to racial chattel slavery using food as a vehicle for change.
Me and The Cooking Gene’s illustrator, Stephen Crotts.
The Cooking Gene is not a regurgitation of other histories of Southern or African American vernacular cuisine. It focuses on my family to give a lens into the very specific journeys taken by our Ancestors to arrive at this cultural moment. It also gives folks looking for a way to trace their own lineage in slavery and West&Central Africa a blueprint and discusses ways to turn our findings into a culinary narrative that can be passed down through the generations.
The Cooking Gene is for a diversity of readers from African Americans, African Diasporans, and Southerners of all types, living history and reenactment enthusiasts, museum professionals, genealogy buffs, culinary historians, foodies of every stripe, readers interested in Jewish culture, readers interested in LGBT narratives (especially the G lol), it’s for people exhausted with our current national exhaustion…its a birthday present to my people and friends alike, two years shy of the 400th anniversary of African arrival in British North America (1619-2019). It’s a table for all people to have a seat and feast.
Be a part of this moment. See you August 1, 2017, the release date for The Cooking Gene. 🙂
I recently attended a conference – actually, nothing so grandiose, more of a get together of like-minded people interested small-scale diversifited urban agriculture and food-systems.
I live in Vancouver, on Canada’s West Coast. We (the dominant settler culture) bear a horrific historical shame regarding the treatment of aboriginal people by European settlers. In a few short centuries, entire civilizations that had flourished for thousands of years were decimated by disease, greed, racism, and criminally evil and stupid government policy.
An aboriginal woman was one of the conference speakers, ostensibly to talk about local aboriginal food systems. She opened her talk by saying something like: “I can’t talk about my people’s traditional food systems because they’re gone. We have lost the knowledge. But I’m not interested in talking about $15 / pound organically grown micro-greens sold at farmers markets.
“Most of my people are poor; many also struggle with addiction and mental health issues caused by the poverty and abuse we have suffered for generations. You folks mean well, but what you’re doing isn’t meaningful to us.”
She went on to talk about the ways that aboriginal people use food – cheap, regular food like pots of chili and loaves of Wonder Bread and Costco muffins and coffee and Kool-Aid – to gather people together and provide friendship and camaraderie. It doesn’t happen at the farmers market or the community garden or the university or in the chambers of city council. It happens in the soup kitchens and the aboriginal drop-in centres and the needle exchanges in Vancouver’s slums.
It was a barn-burner of a talk. Many of the audience members were in tears at the end. With one shot she busted down the self-righteous self-congratulatory ivory tower that we urban foodies were comfortably perched upon. I think it made many of us re-align our thinking, because we forget so easily that it’s not the food that’s on the table – it’s the people sitting around it.
I love your blog posts and I am enthusiastically looking forward to your book, Mr. Twitty. In the last few years Canada has embarked on a path of reconciliation with its aboriginal first people. While it is easy to be skeptical about this government-driven process, I think that your approach of using food as a prism to look at people (historically, culturally, economically, and culinarily) provides a mechanism that could help us (settlers and descendants) gain understanding, compassion, respect, and appreciation for our aboriginal first-nation people. It would be wonderful if someone in Canada’s aboriginal community could do something here similar to what you do for your communities.
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Now, I’m hungry. For the food and the history.
I can’t wait to consume The Cooking Gene!