COTTON IS NOT INHERENTLY RACIST. 

I’m not even linking to the story because it’s that stupid. I can’t be bothered.

Hobby Lobby, which I would never patronize because of their stance on birth control, etc. sells decorative cotton. Once upon a time, so did I. Big deal. It’s not racist to sell cotton. Don’t make me clap it out. And the Nashville situation, nope, miss me with the outrage.

It’s a plant with a tortured history but it’s still beautiful dried and has been used for generations to decorate in the South during and after the autumn harvest.

When I grew and sold cotton it was exclusively bought by African Americans. I never once heard anyone chastise me for selling a racist product. Why? Because it’s one person’s uninformed opinion is getting racial flashpoint attention while the orchestrated plan to take away our voting rights, health care, civil liberties and freedom of speech are on the verge of success, but some y’all wanna gripe about decorative cotton.

We were growing and picking and spinning and weaving cotton long before our Ancestors ever heard of a white man. It’s a plant with African, American and Asian origins. I write about picking it in my book, The Cooking Gene, where I talk about our unique relationship to this plant and what it meant to our people’s history and cultural experience. Many people have no relationship to the material culture of our collective past. This harms us far more than some dead cellulose on a branch.

Symbolics over substance. Done. It’s over. Systemic racism is a lot harder to deal with but symbolic racism feels good when we beat it back. But the heads grow back like a hydra. It’s useless. And some of it isn’t racism, just perception. 

Statues falling while systems remain is not enough.

Racism is an evolving, invisible pathology, an immortal disease, symbolics come and go.

Sessions, Kobuch, Miller, Bannon and the like are far more dangerous than a dead branch with lint on it. 

That sugar on every table in virtually every restaurant in America has killed more Black people than cotton. From being the crop that sparked the slave trade to killing many of its workers within 7 years to diabetes today, sugar is racist AF compared to cotton. Sugar represents five centuries of inequality, but sugar and grits, right?

I don’t ever want to have to write anything that remotely sounds like I support Hobby Lobby in any matter ever again. And by the way, until you’ve done this for 16 hours…

Keep your opinions to yourself.

By the way there are Black companies trying to keep Black farmers on ancestral land like http://www.blackcotton.us/ so check them out. Buy some cotton decorations from them. 

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 About that hot sauce recipe…

I know what y’all want….

So this is not easy. I made a quick hot sauce on the fly from long red cayennes, habaneros, and fish peppers for the Raleigh Tavern Society at Colonial Williamsburg. It was a huge hit. I had 30 minutes to make a sauce that tasted bright, fresh, rich and felt like it had sufficiently steeped. 

The peppers we used came from my African Virginian provision garden! 

Things got serious: 

So here….

I used a Vitamix machine on hand.

I basically pureed a yellow and a red onion, helped along by a quarter cup of Apple cider vinegar each, added about a heaping tablespoon of ginger puree. I also added a tablespoon each of kosher salt, ground cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. I then added a teaspoon each of black pepper and kitchen pepper and a half tablespoon of hot paprika. I added half my apple cider vinegar which was about a cup. I blended this this together. I then took the washed, capped peppers (about 20 ripe, hot peppers) and blended them in the mixer with the previous mix. I added another 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and about 1/3 cup of dark rum and hit blend again and adjusted for taste. A little this a little that. 

They added a tiny bit of xantham gum to curb separation and to each bottle I added a hot pepper cut in half.

At any rate it was a bright edition to our lovely rustic tables: 

The hot sauce went well with the braised greens, chicken, rockfish and rice and pigeon peas. The menu devised between myself and Chef Justin Addison featured Chesapeake and colonial South inspired cuisine. We had cornbread kush, sweet potato biscuits with piped sorghum butter dusted with pink salt, a kale and bacon lardon salad, rockfish over roasted root vegetables, Country Captain–an early Southern curry composed of fried chicken smothered in a spicy sauce and rice and pigeon peas followed by apple dumplings, mini peach cobblers and benne *sesame wafers.

160 were in attendance. They were well satisfied. 

Oh yeah and this just happened:

I am privileged and honor to join so many talented, creative people of brilliant intellect and conviction in The Root’s 2017 list of 100 most influential! Special congrats to all my sistas and brotha dem.  

Oh yeah, you have your copy of The Cooking Gene yet?  Order here

Posted in Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Heirloom Gardening/Heritage Breeds and Wildcrafting, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Work, a Photo Essay

Those hot rolls come from a place of love.

And I can enjoy them with friends in ways the past never allowed.

Soft shelled crabs are a food I don’t indulge in but it’s a challenge to make new local foods from the Chesapeake South sing.

It’s a pleasure to be able to eat with the seasons.

And see the Red Devon cattle in the pasture and enjoy their milk.

And watch a garden come to life that represents the Ancestors.

I love learning about the intersection of nature and culture.

It thrills me to know we had a different relationship with all the species we relies upon.

This has been a good year for okra.

And beans

And melons

For sweet potato greens

And tender cymling squash 

And for hot peach cobbler too..

And for herbs and fresh tomatoes 

YES we fry ribs, but its not a habit.

And we cook as a community

I learn from time alone in the woods:

And from the trees…

We cook the food of Africa too.

Seasoned well

Roasting lamb with hot peppers as they did..

Cooking our way back home…

Posted in African American Food History, Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria, Heirloom Gardening/Heritage Breeds and Wildcrafting, Scholars, Scholars, Elders and Wise Folk, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

AJC Decatur Book Festival | The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

https://www.decaturbookfestival.com/sessions/view/594b2fde81229a5fb60ca5dd

Come see me in Atlanta this weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. 

I will be signing books! 

Posted in African American Food History, Diaspora Food Culture, Events and Appearances, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” A Wake Up Call From a Twitter Thread

Many of you asked me to put my Twitter thread into a blog post, here it goes. If you want to see where all these words really lead, and want to order my book here is a link. Thank you everyone for your support, appreciation and sense of family. No matter what your color we are family. I have edited this thread for clarity.

Get ready for a long thread. I’m feeling something I have to get off my chest. Like now.


“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Drumpf says. Ok.


“Weak weak people,” he says.


Trump, you know you’re Drumpf from Germany, and unproven rumors swirl that your mother was an illegal immigrant from Scotland. You wouldnt know anything about unproven rumors about people’s national origins, even when they are proven. Easy for you to skip on back…to your old country.


I worked for 35 years to produce this.

 Why? Because I didn’t know where we came from. That is a luxury Mr. Drumpf, a privilege to be able to claim where your genes come from. 


Who gives a damn whether you wear leiderhosen or a kilt….


I had to spend thousands of dollars to figure out my family’s story. Hours of archival research. Hundreds of illegible pages to find my people listed with the horses, cows, pigs.


Our story was taken from us by force


I was never supposed to go by any other name than nigger.


I was never supposed to be able to vote.


I was never supposed to read and write



I was never supposed to be in a relationship with a white person that wasn’t exploitative.

I was never supposed to be able to challenge a white man.


I was never supposed to be able to find my way back to my African roots or know the names of my enslaved African American ancestors.


You talk about history and culture as if taking a statue down has more power to destroy a people than the whip and auction block or rape. 


What fucking arrogance on your part. 


To pander to a base claiming unity while verbally assaulting our cause and claiming an assault on a culture that has never known any assault save it’s own hedonism and amnesia. 


Do you know what it’s like, Mr. Drumpf to wait 400 years to hear your real name again? Is it weak to not want cultural genocide celebrated for eternity?


What is it like to never hear your language spoken again until it drains from you like a lifeforce?


What is it like to never be able to honor the Spiritual forces passed down to you from your Ancestors on pain of death?


Or be sold from your parents, your spouse, or your children interrupting memory and the inheritance of heritage?


You better thank whatever deity you believe in other than Mammon that you will never be exiled and turned into property.


The only way I know who my ancestors were is their value as 3/5ths of a person.


When a Native person hears you talk such shit they remember long hair being chopped off


Native ppl remember having to write “I will not speak Pawnee/Navajo/Choctaw” until their hands bled. Hawaiian people remember the missionaries, people of all colors have had their heritage beaten out of them, but you call us “weak,” while you advocate the worship of cheap statues, the American version of the Golden Calf.


You mock the castrations, beheadings, ghastly deaths of thousands of people with your rampage of words, all so you can feel glory while you yet have flesh.


Drumpf you know nothing about having your history and culture taken from you.


My fucking name isn’t Twitty. It’s Ndiaye meaning the Lion (clan). I found a living cousin in Senegal who kept our name alive.


When your Drunpfs were in caves we were building Ghana, Mali and Songhai.


When my Ancestors were predicting the movement of the heavens as part if their religion yours were being blinded by eclipses. And you apparently have continued the tradition.


But…the sad part is this…you don’t realize your lies and bravado are tied to the fact I had to fight my way to recover bits and pieces.


Your power is based on the removal of “history and culture” from people of color. Because of those tortures, you went from being human to being white. We went from human to nigger. 


Your bravado and arrogance are direct results of what was stolen from us. As long as we had no memory we had no weapons with which to fight. 


But I brought our memory back with many others and we will not forget and we will not let this go. Resistance is our heritage.


Posted in Cultural Politics, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Come See Me in San Francisco 8/29-8/30

2017 Diaspora Dinner with Michael W. Twitty

When:
August 29, 2017 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Cost:
$250

Chef-in-Residence

#moad_food
Museum of the African Diaspora and Chef-in-Residence Bryant Terry present the 2017 Diaspora Dinner
An evening with Culinary & Cultural Historian, Michael W. Twitty Celebrating his new book The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South.
Tuesday, August 29
6:30pm The Museum Champagne & small bites  7:15pm Procession to the St. Regis 7:30pm  A dining and cultural experience weaving a multi-course meal created by Chefs Twitty and Terry, inspired by African-American food traditions; lively conversation with Chef Twitty & food writer, Stephen Satterfield; and the musical collage of Jazz and Soul vocalist, Valerie Troutt.
“In addition to Twitty being a brilliant writer, he is a Black, openly gay, progressive Jew – pretty much the reason G-d created the Bay Area – the true embodiment of the diaspora.”
Chef-in-Residence Bryant Terry
$250 Includes signed copy of The Cooking Gene. Seating is limited.
Proceeds benefit the artistic programs of the Museum of the African Diaspora.
TIckets at 2017diasporadinner.eventbrite.com
For more on the Chef-in-Residence program, visit moadsf.org/chef-in-residence/
Cover photo by: Jonathan M. Lewis

MOAD_Twitty_PC_hyperlink-1-960x673

OMNIVORE BOOKS 8/30!!!

Wed. Aug. 30 • Michael W. Twitty • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE
Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who “owns” it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race and appropriation. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.

 

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Enjoyed the art in The Cooking Gene? Meet my illustrator, Stephen Crotts!

When you hear people talk about the enmity of white and Black Southerners you need to understand that everyday that paradigm is being challenged by the generations here and to come. When I wanted a dream team of people for this book and The Cooking Gene project I selected artists and photographers from diverse backgrounds.  One friend of a friend I met in my journeys was Stephen Crotts. I wanted my book to have the rustic feel his art has. I wanted it to communicate the past translated into now. Stephen is my friend, he brought this to book to life and I want you to meet him: 


How long have you been creating your art?


Everyone draws as a child, right? People find other creative outlets along the way. I just kept scribbling.


How does being from the South and especially South Carolina impact your work?


My family raised me to notice and care about the people and places surrounding me, and exposed me to Southern history, nature, food, music and more. My folks shared their faith with me, showing me what it looks like to love your neighbor. They helped me actually see the South for what it is: broken and beautiful, scarred and surviving.



When I started playing banjo in high school, I gobbled up as much as I could find about the instrument’s African origins. At college I got involved with a group of living history interpreters who were all African-American. Seeing eyes opened as we did programs about slavery in museums and on plantation sites made me want to be a bigger part of inviting people to consider the past. An artist residency in the 8th Ward of New Orleans dazzled all my senses, but not without putting my inherited advantages in contrast with the opportunities of my neighbors there. Getting to work with museums in the years since has allowed me to keep telling Southern stories in the community.



How long have you worked in this medium and what other media do you work with?


I started carrying sketchbooks in high school. Sketching from life in ink forced me to pay more attention to the marks I was making. I started and finished several of the ink drawings for The Cooking Gene in my sketchbooks. When I approach drawings loosely, on scrap paper or in my sketchbook, the work often ends up with more spontaneity and life. In addition to drawing with ink, I have also been working more in oils. Painting a landscape outdoors requires working quickly to capture whatever drama there is in front of me at that moment. The light and conditions are constantly changing, so it can be a challenge. Painting places allows me to actively observe and appreciate where I am.




I was really impressed with how you brought the African ancestors to life. Tell me more about that process?


For some of the ancestors, we had photographs to reference. Starting there, we incorporated visual clues to their stories, such as the woven fan Elijah Mitchell holds. Additionally, we worked in botanical ornamentation of the kinds of crops the ancestors worked with. Attempting to draw people for whom we have no visual record was more of a challenge. Because of the genealogy you have done, we know which people groups these individuals belonged to. For me, it was a balance of looking at others from those groups, as well as the faces of their descendants (including yourself).


The illustrations in The Cooking Gene are really poignant because they often bring to life old photographs of my Ancestors. It’s one thing to bring out the realism, but how did you work on capturing the spirit within them?


The habit of drawing faces from life helps me get close to the edge of intangible qualities in people – those things a snapshot may not capture. I’m always hoping for more than a technically accurate rendering. I’m really looking for a sense of the person’s emotion, and I have to lean on what I’ve seen in the eyes of living people when approaching the image of someone I haven’t met.


What was your favorite illustration in The Cooking Gene?


The drawing of Jack Todd struck me. We see the mast of a ship just over his shoulder. He has just arrived in America. My imagination fails to grasp the reality of that moment, but the drawing stared me down and made me consider it. What it would mean for my family and me if I were suddenly removed from our joint pursuit of happiness? What are the consequences of refusing to recognize the image of the Creator in another human being?


You love nature and are a brilliant amateur naturalist. Your images of animals and wildlife are both fun and exact in how they evoke Southern identity. How does your relationship with nature impact your work and your relationship with the South?


Finding wild creatures is so thrilling in part because it can’t be planned, and there’s always a measure of surprise and delight in that. Daddy taught me how to whistle to the Bobwhite quail and wait for its response. My uncle took my cousin and me on weekend adventures, highlighting counties where we observed beetles, dragonflies or snakes in a binder of South Carolina maps marked for each species. Now I get to quiz my daughter on the calls of our backyard birds. Things like the appearance of wildflowers or the emerging of cicadas mark time for me throughout the year, and deeply make this place what it is.


What was challenging about working on this project? What was enjoyable?


It is challenging (and humbling) to try to honor and communicate the lives of people upon whose shoulders we are standing. The heavy lifting has been done in the writing. I hope the drawings serve as a set of eyes looking back, reminding us that what we’re reading isn’t abstract. There’s joy for me in the making of the images, but more in what they invited me to consider along the way. We have not suddenly manufactured the syncopated rhythms and rich tastes we enjoy at our cultural banquet. Every good thing is a gift that has given at great cost. Faithful stewardship begins in recognition and thankfulness.


Stephen Crotts is an artist and illustrator living with his wife and daughters in Rock Hill, South Carolina. See more of his work at scrotts.com.

Posted in African American Food History, African Food Culture, Cultural Politics, Events and Appearances, Pop Culture and Pop Food, Publications, The Cooking Gene | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment