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The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African…

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in… (2017)

by Michael W. Twitty

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173499,881 (4.4)9



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his was on my "must-read" list ever since I heard the promotional marketing well before it was released. Thought it would be a great read about the history of the American South through the lens of food. From slavery to Jim Crow as well as a look at the culture and how the food in this region is different from other places in the US. I had never heard of author Twitter but found his story very intriguing. Waited and waited for the library and finally, I had it. From tobacco (which is not a food but whatever) to sugar to and more it sounded like it could be in the vein of 'Soul Food' by Adrian Miller.

Alas, this book is not that. The marketing and synopsis also wasn't correct. It's really less about the food but Twitty's search for his family history and what he could find. From DNA to genealogy to family lore passed down from generation to generation. Yes, food is important and food plays a big role in his life. But it's really not a "journey through African American culinary history in the Old South" as the cover purports. It's really Twitty's story and family history with how food has played a role in it or what particular foods have a place in his life and why.

Overall, I think the book is a mess. It's interesting at first and sometimes Twitter has some really beautiful writing and or insightful things to say that I had not thought of (I'm not familiar or interested in tracing my family's genealogy or taking those DNA tests so this was interesting). But it gets lost by too many tracts, too many storylines, too many names of ancestors and/or family members. I do understand that there is a fascinating story to be told with a rich history behind it. But I was expecting a *culinary* history as the cover says and what the marketing said it would cover.

Still, I think there is tons of value for the book and Twitty sounds like an interesting guy. But as noted by other people, more resources would have been helpful: maps, maybe a family tree that highlights who he'd be talking about in a particular chapter (there's one at the beginning of the book but I didn't want to keep flipping back and forth), a glossary or index, etc. More recipes (there are some but they are scattered so you'll be disappointed if you think this resembles a cookbook in any way) would have been nice.

I'm glad I waited for the library to purchase it for their collection and didn't buy it. It could be a good pick or gift for the right person but ultimately this fell short of my expectations/had misleading marketing. Would recommend perusing at the library/bookstore before deciding if this is a book you want to purchase or wait for it at the bargain bin. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
I won this kindle version in a GOODREADS giveaway! ( )
  tenamouse67 | Jan 6, 2018 |
Twitty tells the story of his family and African American food culture through a series of chapters that read like connected essays, centered on topics like rice, corn, sugar, and cotton. It's a compelling and well-researched narrative that few others have explained so explicitly about the African origins of American Southern food. It is also just as much a testament to the fortitude and perseverance of his African and enslaved ancestors, and strangely, an embracing or at least acknowledgment, of his European-descended ancestors as well. Twitty also heartbreakingly illustrates the brokenness of African American genealogy as well as food culture, and his own inspiring journey to reclaim both. ( )
  SpaceStationMir | Jan 4, 2018 |
Michael Twitty is a very eloquent young man who has invited himself as a food historian for the black Southern culture. I didn't know that was thing, but kudos to him. Michael seems like the kind of person it would be fun to hang out with. As a cook, I would have liked to seen more recipes included in the book, but I enjoyed the mysticism, political and cultural aspects of the book. ( )
  kerryp | Nov 30, 2017 |
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"A memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces the paths of the author's ancestors (black and white) through the crucible of slavery to show its effects on our food today"--

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