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

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

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.

As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.

Illustrations by Stephen Crotts

Title:The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
ISBN:9780062379283
Format Type:

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

  • Petra-X Off having adventures

    Finally a review, of sorts. 10 Star book! The author is gay, black, white, Jewish and a historian and a writer, an amazing writer. With all that background, was hoping for a book that was really out o...

  • Brown Girl Reading

    My rating for this book is actually 3,5 stars. The Cooking Gene was quite the challenge for me and for the ladies I buddy read it with. The Cooking Gene is an exploration of African-American culinary ...

  • Alexandra

    I heard Michael Twitty speak on a panel a few years ago, at an event on interpreting African-American history today. Twitty, a gay black Jewish man who passionately talked about culinary history, spar...

  • Monica **can't read fast enough**

    Unfortunately, The Cooking Gene was a bust for me. I think that I was expecting a reading experience from Twitty that he wasn't really promising in the synopsis. I may have read more into what the boo...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I have been wanting to read this book for quite a while, and the summer Reading Envy Picnic challenge helped push me into it. "This taste in my mouth is the flavor of black folks taking their country ...

  • Gabriella

    I think it’s most fitting to begin at this book’s end: “It is no sin to go back and fetch what you have forgotten.” In The Cooking Gene, Michael W. Twitty helps us rediscover a vast and influe...

  • Jessica

    This is a troubling book is many ways. Needless to say the subject of slavery itself is a difficult one. While Twitty frames his entire book in terms of himself and his family/ancestors, it's not hard...

  • Kelly

    I've been following Twitty's blog, Afroculinaria, ever since I heard an interview with him on local Washington, DC radio a few years ago. He is a really interesting guy--and just reading his recipes w...

  • Leslie Reese

    "My mouth had been watering to read Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South ever since I learned about it from reading Twitty’s bl...

  • Gail

    I had a complicated experience reading this book. On the whole, it rates 4* for the important and fascinating information on the history of enslavement in America, the culinary history of Southern foo...