BHP is spotlighting African American chefs and culinary historians each Tuesday in February to celebrate Black history month. Last week, we shared with you the life and talents of the Grand Dame of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis. This week, we highlight Michael W. Twitty, an African American and Jewish culinary historian, the creator of the blog, Afroculinaria, and author of The Cooking Gene.
Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian who advocates Culinary Justice and advances Identity Cooking, concepts he developed as a student at Howard University studying Afro-American studies and anthropology. In 2010, to share his work, Mr. Twitty launched, Afroculinaria, a blog which highlights and addresses food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it. Mr. Twitty defines Culinary Justice as “honoring the food past and providing for the food future.” In other words, it is the idea that historically oppressed peoples (particularly African Americans) should be recognized for their contribution to national and global food traditions and can prosper from this knowledge. In promoting culinary justice, Mr. Twitty has immersed himself in Colonial and Antebellum recipes, visited dozens of restored plantations, cooked, and lectured across the nation and has met with other culinary professionals, Black, white, and Native American.
Mr. Twitty explains Identity Cooking as the ways we construct complex identities and then express them through how we eat. He mainly applies this theory as he considers his own heritage, understanding the overlap of African American and Jewish cooking. “Blacks and Jews are the only peoples I know who use food to talk about their past while they eat it,” says Twitty.
Twitty further advanced his work toward culinary justice with his 2017 James Beard Award-winning book The Cooking Gene, which explores his own African roots and the African roots of Southern cooking. To Mr. Twitty, the book is “a recipe of who I am and where I came from.”
Jessica Kaplan, Bucknell University Class of 2021, Intern