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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 9/7

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Michael Childress Michael Childress

    I really liked your first comment in the last paragraph, where you mentioned Twitty’s remark that food acts as a vehicle between generations. It reminds me of Dr. Bezio’s first comment about how history is always interconnected, and we need to know the past in order to know ourselves. I thought that Twitty did a great job talking about how he understands the desire to modernize soul food, but struggles with it because this food is a part of his identity that he has cultivated as he grew up, and does not want to see it changed. It also reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking too.

  2. Henry Groves Henry Groves

    I also noticed that African Americans used food as a way to discover more about their history. I think that this was a key point that Twitty was trying to make in all three of the readings that we read. Twitty constantly reminds the reader how he connects with his culture through the traditional food that he and his family make.

  3. Maggie Otradovec Maggie Otradovec

    I like how you related the importance of meals in Twitty’s life to your own. Sharing a meal is a universal sign of community, and is important in every country, culture, religion, etc. Mentioning the quote “Food is often a necessary vehicle between one’s ancestors or the spiritual forces that guide their destiny” (59) also shows how a meal can connect those who lived before you as well as those sitting physically next to you.

  4. Mohamad Kassem Mohamad Kassem

    I really enjoyed reading your post, the way you related what the Author said to you life is really engaging. Food with no doubt is a tool that bonds people together and shapes their identity as individuals and groups. We can also see that Twiddy tries to explain to the reader how food can help people (African Americans in this case) understand more about their history and culture.

  5. Michael Stein Michael Stein

    No other culture in America connects more to their ancestry through food than African Americans. This is because, as you note, food is the only bond that is passed down from generation to generation. The life of Twiddy’s great grandfather, who was a slave, was so drastically different to his own; however, food is able to link their ancestry. I find this particularly interesting because white Americans, like with all other aspects of African American culture, tried to prevent slaves from creating a culinary culture by depriving them of food. Still, African American slaves managed to create recipes with the small amounts of food they had which, when passed down through generations, creates a bond between slaves and their descendants.

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