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Delaney Demaret Blog Post for 9/7

This week’s readings cover the idea of ancestral struggle (to track, to resonate with, etc) on a deeply personal level through Michael Twitty. His life follows a winding path of rejection, acceptance, and embrace of his African American identity. His personal triumph of becoming his own self-constructed identity (like his Grammy!) is representative of a larger societal movement towards re-learning the implications of one’s ancestry. The privilege of easily knowing about those who came before you makes the process of forming your own identity much less emotionally pain-staking. 

Moreover, it becomes clear that the privilege of knowing ones heritage in a context not weighed down by violence, slavery, and genocide has not just emotional consequences, but practical ones, too. For Twitty, his experience in the culinary field has long been marked by the search for a personal cooking identity. His career revolves around forming a deeper understanding of who came before him, and what was left out of his history, in order to broaden the palette of what he cooks. For a chef whose ancestry is not so violent and complex, the existing historical palette is a great privilege.

I found Twitty’s descriptions of plantation tourism culture to be most infuriating, it feels to be a disservice to the true history of those grounds. As explained in Dr. Bezio’s podcast, the white supremacist culture exists as a means of othering and exclusion. In terms of historiography, the history of those enslaved on plantations has been told through the lens of white supremacist culture. This was made painfully clear by Twitty’s anecdotes about his time working as a chef and academic in and around plantations. It was painful to read that the ancestry he had struggled with for a lifetime was reduced to consistent disrespect of his career and standing in the field as a historical cook.

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2 Comments

  1. Sofia Adams Sofia Adams

    I really like how you brought up the point of why it is that Twitty struggles with his cultural identity. I think for a lot of people it is taken for granted knowing who our ancestors are and where they came from. I think because of this it is important to understand and appreciate the significance ethnic food holds. For so many African Americans and other ethnic groups their cultures food is what connects them with their family, friends, people, and cultural identity. Food has more meaning than I think most people give it. Food is what strengths cultures and brings different cultures together.

  2. Maggie Otradovec Maggie Otradovec

    Plantations are definitely controversial pieces of history. The beautiful appearance and grandeur hides the truth of what life was like for those forced to work it. I agree that it was upsetting to read about. I visited a plantation in Louisiana on a school trip several years ago and, while the history behind it was distressing, seeing a place where so many terrible things happened gives you a better understanding and appreciation for the slaves that lived through it.

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