The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

Michael Twitty

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I first became aware of Michael Twitty through the YouTube video of Jas. Townsend. Townsend, an 18th-century reenacter, cooks using authentic tools and techniques, while wearing historically correct costumes. If you haven’t seen any of his YouTube videos, you’re in for a treat. Among his videos, Townsend did a series on food of the enslaved people in America, with Michael Twitty as his guest.

That was enough to get me interested in his book, but it turned out to be so much more. Using his research into his own antecedents and what they ate, he developed what he called the Southern Discomfort Tour. He traveled through the south finding evidence of his ancestors, white and black, to fill in the gaps of his knowledge.

Along the way he writes about himself with a rare honesty. It isn’t easy being a Jewish, gay, black man in our society today.

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