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The Cooking Gene: Southern Food’s Deepest Roots

S. Dillon Ripley Center
Thursday, August 10, 2017
6:45 PM — 8:00 PM
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Washington DC, 20001 United States

Ticket Required Metro-accessible

For culinary historian and cook Michael Twitty, his ongoing investigation of American Southern food is an exploration of both national and personal legacies, each of which is marked by complexities. Twitty’s research focuses on identifying and bringing to light the often-overlooked roles that Americans of African descent played in shaping Southern cuisine from pre-colonial times and beyond. It also is part of his process of claiming a place within that food tradition for a man who is a descendant of both African and European ancestors—and a convert to Judaism.

Southern food is an integral part of American culinary heritage, yet the question of who “owns” it is linked to wider issues of race and history. Twitty discusses how he traced the roots of his own family, as well as the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and Southern cuisine as he wrote The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South (HarperCollins). 

He reveals how the foods of his ancestors and his immediate family provided the foundations for much of his investigation, as well as how he used stories, recipes, genetic tests, historical documents, and travels that took him from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to black-owned organic farms in Georgia as he researched the book.

He also discusses the main insights that emerged from search for his ancestral culinary history: that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past, and that food holds the power to bring the descendants of the enslaved and their former slaveholders together at the table.

Copies of The Cooking Gene are available for sale and signing, and a tasting follows the talk.

Cost: $55