I stumbled upon the video above the other day and found it fascinating. In it, culinary historian Michael Twitty shows off an 18th-century style of barbecuing beef ribs, along with two BBQ sauces from the same time period. It turns out he has a book. The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South traces his ancestry and the culinary history of the American South:
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. 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.
From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.
Twitty is a great storyteller and his willingness to confront America’s troubled early history in plain terms is refreshing. Enjoy the video above and then pickup this book. You will undoubtedly come away with some new perspectives on race through an experience we can all share, the love for good food.
Get The Cooking Gene: