In the opening three chapters of The Cooking Gene, Michael W. Twitty, explores African American culinary history in the South, and illustrates the major role that food plays in the identity of a culture’s makeup. In these three chapters, Twitty uses his passion for food in order to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of his African American identity. In the chapter “No More Whistling Walk for Me,” Twitty mentions that for him “…food is in many cases all [he] ha[s] [to] go to in order to feel [his] way into [his] past.” (21) as his heritage and ancestry is largely unknown due to slavery in the United States. Twitty discovers the unspoken pieces of African American history by studying the food that his family eats.
In the chapter, “Hating My Soul,” Twitty describes the significance of his families’ kitchen in his childhood. Twitty recalls the numerous meals that his family cooked together, which played a major role in the understanding of his family’s identity, and the various important conversations that took place at his kitchen table, such as when he came out as gay to his family. Twitty’s description of his family’s kitchen table as a place of “…argument, and resolution,” (40) resonated with me because a lot of important conversations and debates within my family take place at our kitchen table. Every night my family gathers for a family dinner at our kitchen table, where we talk about each other’s days’ and events that are taking place in our lives. A lot of really important information within my family is talked about at our kitchen table, such as when my parents told my siblings and I that our two new cousins were being born.
Furthermore, Twitty’s remark that “Food is often a necessary vehicle between one’s ancestors or the spiritual forces that guide their destiny,” (59) really connected with me because there are a few recipes within my family that have been passed down from my great-grandparents that symbolize my family’s history. For example, every Thanksgiving my grandpa cooks home-made blueberry pies that his grandmother used to cook for him when he was a child. The first three chapters in Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, made me realize the immense insight that food offers into families’ identities and history.