The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African-American Culinary History in the Old South Book Cover
The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African-American Culinary History in the Old South

A culinary historian travels the routes of his ancestors in the Old South, immersing himself in a complex weaving of food history and politics, genealogy and genetics, and discovers on the way surprising truths about family, identity, and the destiny of the Southern table. 

My first baby food was cornbread and potlikker, the broth from a pot of collard greens; the first taste of the world given to multiple generations of my family going back to the time of slavery.  However, growing up in a world of flashing color TV’s with kid-seducing  pizza, chicken nuggets,  juicy burgers and crispy fries led me astray.  Like many African American kids the search for identity and a sense of place put me through mental contortions before I found a way into our story through food. In the process I went on a journey that would lead me back through the Old South to our Ancestor’s origins in Africa, tasting from the pots of Southerners of all colors and in turn I got a lesson in the real meaning of the word family.   The Cooking Gene is a genealogical detective story, a culinary treasure map, a blueprint for finding your roots, a series of history lessons, a revealing memoir and a spiritual confessional sprinkled with recipes.

August 2017

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(B&N Discover Great New Writers , Summer 2017 Discover Great New Writers Selections)



Advance Praise for The Cooking Gene:

Talking tobacco seeds with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. during the filming of Many Rivers to Cross for PBS.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“Slavery made the world of our Ancestors incredibly remote to us. Thankfully, the work of Michael W. Twitty helps restore our awareness of their struggles and successes bite by bite, giving us a true taste of the past.”

Toni Tipton-Martin

“Written in Michael W. Twitty’s no-nonsense style and interlaced with moments of levity, The Cooking Gene is gritty, compelling, and enlightening – a mix of personal narrative and the history of race, politics, economics and enslavement that will broaden notions of African-American culinary identity.”

Carla Hall

The Cooking Gene is a revelation. Michael W. Twitty approaches his ancestral and culinary history from Africa to America, and occasionally back to Europe, with the precision of a surgeon and the passion of an artist. His adept storytelling carried me away to another time and I am deeply moved by the experience.”

Hugh Acheson

“Michael W. Twitty shines a stunningly bright light on the state of Southern food with this quest to find himself. He is a clarion, focusing our minds on what this state of sustenance really means, where it comes from and the impacts it has had and still has. The Cooking Gene is a much-needed addition to the culinary perspective of American food.”

Matt Lee and Ted Lee

“Michael W. Twitty’s culinary and linguistic gifts are beautifully intertwined in The Cooking Gene, but it’s Twitty’s agency here – the way his journey through the South’s cultural history tackles race, gender, faith, morality, and sexual orientation in a way earlier historians ignored – that makes this volume essential reading for all Americans. Twitty leaves no stone unturned – and no ingredient uncooked! – in his riveting quest to chronicle the African-American roots of Southern cooking.” 

Product Details

    • ISBN: 9780062379290
    • ISBN 10: 0062379291
    • Imprint: Amistad/HarperCollins
    • On Sale: 08/01/2017
    • Trimsize: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x 1.425 in (d)
    • Pages: 464
    • List Price: 28.99 USD

  • BISAC1: COOKING / History
  • BISAC2: COOKING / Regional & Ethnic / American / Southern States