Michael’s forthcoming book: The Cooking Gene

cooking gene cover

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. 


In search of a culinary homeland, Michael W. Twitty decided to retrace the steps of his family’s journey from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom, using food as his lens.  The Cooking Gene Project garnered international attention as Twitty searched for not only his own food story, but that of all Southerners and the ties of the table that bind.  He wondered, like many before him, who really owns Southern food?  But also: How had food been changed by and changed the story of the African and African American experience—and what culinary justice exists for the descendants of enslaved people whose contributions are celebrated and mass marketed but enjoy little of the fruits of their heritage in the face of poverty, food deserts, chronic illness and enduring racial tensions.

Dialogue with Hugh Acheson at Stagville Plantation, North Carolina  wpid-IMG_5005890714877.jpeg


IMG_2414 IMG_6484_1

The narrative journey takes Twitty through his development as a historic chef and culinary justice activist to his Southern Discomfort tour retracing his ancestor’s food-steps—from places to ingredients.  He visits the graves of ancestors both white and black on the grounds of their former plantations, cooks and shares meals with the descendants of his family’s former slaveholders and journeys to West Africa to explore his direct ethnic ties through DNA research, all in the effort to discover his culinary “(R)oots” in a personal and moving way.   From dinners with Confederate re-enactors on historic battlefields in Virginia to community based farmer’s markets in Atlanta’s inner city to kosher soul food cooking classes at a synagogue in Birmingham, he opens up the conversation to engage Southerners of all stripes in dialogue about how food and family stories shape the regional self.  He looks at this journey from every angle, mixing it up with scholars and chefs who help him in his culinary-genealogical detective story to uncover a fresh and unfiltered part of the American table in all of its glorious complexity.  Twitty emerges from his confrontation with his—and the American–past—with a new sense of what “family” means, with hope and directives on a greater vision for our collective culinary future.

In the 1760's my direct paternal and maternal ancestors arrived here at Sullivan's Island near Charleston, South Carolina.

In the 1760’s, Twitty’s  direct paternal and maternal ancestors arrived here at Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, South Carolina from Sierra Leone and Ghana.  

The Cooking Gene, forthcoming in 2016 from HarperCollins

28 Responses to Michael’s forthcoming book: The Cooking Gene

  1. 2016??? We have to wait until 2016??????? xxx

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  3. Great for you! So glad I am discovering your work. Keep on keepin’ on!

  4. Kimberly says:

    Awesome Work Michael!

  5. Rachael says:

    is there any possibility that you will be publishing excerpts from the book/related articles prior to 2016? Does anyone reading this have links outside of this blog to share?

  6. This looks amazing. I’m so looking forward to buying it

  7. This sounds like an amazing read – I really look forward to your trip to Africa ( Ghana and Sierra Leone) love to be in your luggages!

  8. Karen Kogod says:

    It’s funny, I’ve followed you on Twitter but didn’t know the name of your book. I’ve always felt I inheritly know what foods and flavored go together. I wonder if there’s a food gene?

  9. Dola Cook says:

    Keep doing what you doing. I will miss you . Your favorite window clerk in Twinbrook.

  10. Gary Allen says:

    2016 is such a LONG time to wait, Michael… can you tease us with a few little tastes before then?

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  12. hopechanel says:

    I love you and the work you’re doing. Carry on, carry on.

  13. Of all the “Husky”, Black Gay, Jewish chefs I know you are my favorite

  14. Alexandria says:

    I absolutely cannot wait for this book!

  15. Stephanie Hardy says:

    Michael, first of all, I do love the way you write. And second, as a foodie, archivist, and amateur genealogist, I am really looking forward to this book! A book with food, history, AND genealogy? It doesn’t get much better.

  16. Just discovered your work after listening to the History of American Slavery symposium, and I’m so glad I did. I very much look forward to buying and devouring your forthcoming book!

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  22. Hi: I’m looking forward to reading this family history. I thank you for your blog.

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  25. Esteban Rodriguez says:

    Very excited yo, i love the Culinary arts and i love the study of how each cooking method, style culture and dish came to be and fed the people who would keep the tradition going. please hurry, i’m currently warming my skillet ^,^

  26. The Millers Tale says:

    This is the kind of book we need. I am so looking forward to reading it.

  27. jonathantn says:

    I have pre-ordered my copy!

  28. That last photo on the shore is devastating.

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