Afroculinaria is a food blog authored by Michael W. Twitty, (Twitter: @Koshersoul /Instagram:@thecookinggene/Michael W. Twitty on Facebook), a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian , and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa and her Diaspora and its legacy in the food culture of the American South. Michael is a Judaic studies teacher from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and his interests include food culture, food history, Jewish cultural issues, African American history and cultu ral politics. Afroculinaria will highlight and address food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it.
Michael’s work is a braid of two distinct brands: the Antebellum Chef and Kosher/Soul. Antebellum Chef represents the vast number of unknown Black cooks across the Americas that were essential in the creation of the creole cuisines of Atlantic world. The reconstruction and revival of traditional African American foodways means seed keeping, growing heirlooms and heritage crops, raising heritage breeds and sustainably gathering and maintaining wild flora and fauna that our ancestors relied upon. The responsible exploration of the Southern food heritage demands that the cooks of colonial, federal era and antebellum kitchens and enslaved people’s cabins be honored for their unique role in giving the Southland her mother cuisine. It is important that we not only honor the Ancestors but provide a lifeline to contemporary communities and people of color looking for a better life in the new economy, a way out of the health and chronic illness crisis, and a way to reduce the vast food deserts that plague many of our communities. To honor the food past and provide for the food future is what Michael calls, “culinary justice.”
Kosher/Soul is the brand that deals with what Michael has termed “identity cooking.” Identity cooking isn’t about fusion; rather its how we construct complex identities and then express them through how we eat. Very few people in the modern West eat one cuisine or live within one culinary construct. Being Kosher/Soul is about melding the histories, tastes, flavors, and Diasporic wisdom of being Black and being Jewish. Both cultures express many of their cultural and spiritual values through the plate and Kosher/Soul is about that ongoing journey.
The Cooking Gene is Michael’s personal mission to document the connection between food history and family history from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom. Begun in 2011, the project successfully garnered funding and significant media attention in 2012 to initiate a journey known as The Southern Discomfort Tour. The project and tour continue as Michael visits sites of cultural memory, does presentations on his journey, and visits places critical to his family history while conducting genealogical and genetic research to discover his roots and food heritage. Michael believes that Terroir is in Your Genes. Food is also extremely culturally connected and inherently economic and political. It is a proving ground for racial reconciliation and healing and dialogue. The Cooking Gene seeks to connect the whole of the Southern food family–with cousins near and far–by drawing all of us into the story of how we got here and where we are going.
Would love to interview you!
Sure–whenever you’d like!
I met you when you gave a presentation last fall here at the Dorchester County Historical Society in Dorchester County, Maryland. I graduated with my bachelors in history and now I’m working on my Masters concentrating in African-American history. I hope everything is well with you and hope to see you again soon. I have shared your link with my sister Peggy, a PH.D candidate in Agro-ecology and sustainable farming at the University of New Hampshire. I expect she’ll send you a reply as well! Best of everything to you!
Michael, wanting to re-connect with you.
I’m now working as a research associate at UDC’s College of Ag, Urban Sustainability and Enviro Science, still with WPFW and the enviro show EcoShock. I also have a new website and blog. Please contact. Peace and blessings.
Are you still selling “Fighting Old Nep?”
Yes I am!
I just happened upon your blog and boy what treat! I look forward to following your yummy entries.
I read an article about you and your culinary adventures in South Carolina and I was wondering if you came across any work by Seawright ’55. I have a set of beautiful note cards that have pen and ink drawings of slavery times and life around the living quarters. Each card has a different scene and recipe. I would like to know more about the artist.
What a wonderful piece of work! I certainly hope to meet you or discuss with you one of these day. I have launched Afro Fusion Cuisine, a concept to share and discuss food culture and cooking recipes from a West African Perspective. http://www.learnafricancuisine.com and http://www.afrofusionbrands.com. I hope to connect soon!
A wonderful friend sent me your letter to Paul Deen and I thought it was one of the best pieces of writing that I have read in a long time. I am a graduate student in Education and a chef and culinary historian and instructor. I graduate in August and plan to design a course I’ve been trying to do for 5 years about the migration of food from Africa, South America and the Caribbean and how it all connects in North America. I am beginning my history in the 1st century and moving on from there. I am calling it the Caribbean Connection, connecting the foods of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. Culturally I am half Bengali and half African American/German. My mother’s parents migrated from India and settled in Trinidad just before she was born so I cook from an Afro-Indo-Caribbean perspective. I would love to meet you some day and just sit and “shoot the breeze” about culinary history and food stuff. I am going to check out your website and I look forward to reading more from you.
Dinner At Eight
Your response is as complicated and interesting as Southern cuisine and humanity itself. Thank you for calling Ms. Deen out in proper context, while keeping your heart open and offering a gracious invitation. That’s the way things get better.
Maybe we could, across this country, have some good meals together and talk about how to fix this voting rights act mess.
You are a genius and I am so grateful that I have discovered you and this blog!
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Hello Michael, I am looking forward to seeing you at Swarthmore College. I am interested in food and religion (I teach a course on this topic) and have written about African American religious diversity, including magic, Judaism, Africana traditions, etc. I’d like to learn more about religion and diaspora foodways. Thanks to Prof. Dorsey for inviting you!
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Harambee Brother, Glad to know you are out their.Our ancestors always find a vessel for expression.Let us honour them with food.
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Hi Michael! What a fascinating and rich career you’ve forged!
I am interested in your Guardian story about ice cream. It’s extremely well-written and seems to include all the research that would likely be available. And since you grew up in DC, you know how HOT it gets in them thar parts.
Which leads to the question — how much refrigeration was there in 40s-50s south? I’m from Chapel Hill, and I think the first ice cream shop to open was around 1967-70, a HoJos in Durham.
Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember the separate restrooms, etc. it has horrible to see — I was in one of our town’s first integrated elementary classes, and although none of us gave it a second thought — as little kids — all the parents were freaked out at what might happen. Nothing happened.
I say this because even in the 60s, races shopped in different stores, still segregated — bus station restrooms, all the usual stuff that was most definitely real. In the unlikely event anyone found ice cream cones, it would have been whites selling to whites; blacks selling to blacks, I’m sorry to say separate stores, literally the other side of the street. So why would a black shopkeeper refuse to sell a vanilla to a black customer? It’s unlikely such a merchant would wield prejudice against someone of his or her own race — what would that accomplish, except to diminish earnings?
And have you met any kid who prefers vanilla over chocolate ice cream? I haven’t :-)! Really, think about it.
Anyway, perhaps the story is true, but it seems unlikely given the primitive technological and business climate of the time. I think Ms. Angelou was making a poignant metaphorical point, not a factual scenario, but we can no longer ask her, alas.
The photo — which I realize you didn’t choose — appears to be modern and recent, albeit black and white.
Anyway, congratulations on your writing skill and interests, and I look forward to reading more. I don’t think this story is true for the reasons above. Unfortunately, I have seen southern white folks do unforgivable things over my lifetime — but I doubt ice cream is among them, mostly because we didn’t
have any — and it just got hotter farther south. Not a lot of cows around or fresh dairy in stores either. I remember tasting my first scoop from an ice cream parlor around 1972. The opening of that place, in University Square, was a biiiig event.
Keep up the good work!
Warmly, Blair Tindall
Hi Mike I am a Chef from Memphis, Tn that now lives in Baltimore it is amazing how alike and disconnected we are to our foodways. I find food evokes conversation help me use it as a vehicle to help young brothers and sisters who wouldnt otherwise give counseling or rehabilitation any thought at all to see they are our future and the next generation is counting on them. I am my brothers keeper. Peace and blessings
I just discovered you, in a round about way. I was watching Maryland Farm & Harvest and they did a segment on 5 Seeds Farm. I looked the farm up and the owner mentioned your blog on his webpage. Just love your blog. My family use to farm in Maryland and your blog brought back so Many memories. My sister and I have been eating patty pans forever. They are hard to find now.
Thanks and keep it up, I’m learning 🙂
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Hi there Michael, how are you? Just tuned in to some WordPress-suggested blogs and decided to give yours a follow; Modern Orthodox Jew here, born/raised in MD currently living in WI. If you’d like to return the favor or see what’s up in my world, visit me at http://www.thatssojacob.wordpress.com. Happy 2015!
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Michael, wonderful to meet you at the Uriah Levy Chapel at the USNA. The most magnificent nosh ever after the Shabbat service. Let me know if you ever venture back to New Orleans. You must try Casablanca in Metarie Let me know email@example.com
In his most recent post Bobbie
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Mr. Twitty, i would love to find out more about your research of “culinary injustice” this topic or my culinary fundamentals course and encouraged me to seek more knowledge about your research– future Culinary historian and chef
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I would love to interview you for a film I am making with the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Center for Environmental Filmamking about collard greens and their history in African American culture and heritage.
Please let me know if that would be possible.
Thank you in advance for your time.
I,too, just discovered your blog, and looking forward to following you on a regular basis.
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Your blog is beautiful. I think I learned of what you’re doing on one of the travel shows and ever since then my sons (ages 8, 6, and 4) and I have been checking this site out. Thank you so much for inspiration!
Interested to know if you can identify any local black farmers in the DMV that we can support?
Please text or call me at: 240-354-1919
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I would love to meet you on my food travel journey
I happened to be doing a long drive one night, turned on the radio, and heard your interview about barbecue on radio q. What a fascinating and beautiful piece of history you shared about the roots of barbecue and the etymology of the word! Thank you!
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