Skip to content

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

in stock, ready to be shipped
Original price $16.99 - Original price $16.99
Original price $16.99
$16.99 - $16.99
Current price $16.99
2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year | 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting | Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction | #75 on The Root100 2018

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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.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

ISBN-13: 9780062379276

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 07-31-2018

Pages: 480

Product Dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian and the creator of Afroculinaria, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacies. He has been honored by as one of the twenty greatest food bloggers of all time, and named one of the “Fifty People Who Are Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by Twitty has appeared throughout the media, including on NPR’s The Splendid Table, and has given more than 250 talks in the United States and abroad. His work has appeared in Ebony, the Guardian, and on He is also a Smith fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance, a TED fellow and speaker, and the first Revolutionary in Residence at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Twitty lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Table of Contents

Family Tree viii

Preface: The Old South xi

Chapter 1 No More Whistling Walk for Me 1

Chapter 2 Hating My Soul 25

Chapter 3 Mise en Place 43

Chapter 4 Mishpocheh 65

Chapter 5 Missing Pieces 81

Chapter 6 No Nigger Blood 91

Chapter 7 "White Man in the Woodpile" 99

Chapter 8 0.01 Percent 119

Chapter 9 Sweet Tooth 141

Chapter 10 Mothers of Slaves 161

Chapter 11 Alma Mater 199

Chapter 12 Chesapeake Gold 219

Chapter 13 The Queen 239

Chapter 14 Adam in the Garden 265

Chapter 15 Shake Dem 'Simmons Down 283

Chapter 16 All Creatures of Our G-d and Kind 297

Chapter 17 The Devil's Half Acre 321

Chapter 18 "The King's Cuisine" 337

Chapter 19 Crossroads 365

Chapter 20 The Old Country 381

Chapter 21 Sankofa 401

Author's Note 417

Selected Bibliography 423

Acknowledgments 439