The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

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2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year | 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting | Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction | #75 on The Root100 2018

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. In this unique memoir, culinary historian Michael W. Twitty takes readers to the white-hot center of this fight, tracing the roots of his own family and the charged politics surrounding the origins of soul food, barbecue, and all Southern cuisine.

From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.

As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.

Illustrations by Stephen Crotts

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About the author

Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian and the creator of Afroculinaria, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacies. He has been honored by FirstWeFeast.com as one of the twenty greatest food bloggers of all time, and named one of the “Fifty People Who Are Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by TakePart.com. Twitty has appeared throughout the media, including on NPR’s The Splendid Table, and has given more than 250 talks in the United States and abroad. His work has appeared in Ebony, the Guardian, and on NPR.org. He is also a Smith fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance, a TED fellow and speaker, and the first Revolutionary in Residence at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Twitty lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Aug 1, 2017
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9780062379283
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Cooking / Essays & Narratives
Cooking / History
Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / American / Southern States
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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After the tremendous success of her novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and the beloved movie that followed, author Fannie Flagg received thousands of requests from all over the world asking for recipes from the little cafe of her Alabama childhood that was the model for the cafe in her novel. Now, she joyfully shares those recipes, in what may well be the first cookbook ever written by a satisfied customer rather than a cook! Inside you'll find wonderful recipes for:
* Skinless Fried Chicken * Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes * Baked Ham and Pineapple Rings * Baked Turkey with Traditional Cornbread Dressing * Black-eyed Peas * Fried Okra * Creamed Onions * Broccoli Casserole * Southern Cream Gravy * Fried Catfish * Scalloped Oysters * Down Home Crab Cakes * Beaten Biscuits * Corn Pones * Lemon Ice Box Pie * Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie * And much more!

The recipes in Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook are all for delicious hearty happy food that comes with all sorts of things, from gravies to hot sauces (very often the secret's in the sauce). But most of all this food, and this book, comes with love.

"If you liked her novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and if you liked the movie they made from that novel, you'll like this cookbook....It's funny, just like Flagg."
--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Recommended...All the traditional dishes are here, along with the author's irreverent, irresistible commentary on Southern cooking and culture."
--Library Journal

Note: This edition does not include photos.
 This down-to-earth kitchen companion “for frugal and economical housekeepers” was designed to help reconstitute the rich cookery traditions of the region that had been interrupted by the Civil War, and adapt them to the new requirements for thrift and “making do.” The cuisine reflects that time when a new generation of southerners began to reach out beyond their borders and incorporate other regional and foreign dishes into their homes. The hundreds of primarily southern recipes also include dishes from all over the United States—a new feature for a southern cookbook—that appealed to a mass audience rather than the elite class. Mrs. Porter appears to have been determined not to offend anyone, so “Yankee Fruit Cake” is joined by “Confederate Fruit Cake,” and “Wine Sauce” is balanced by “Temperance Foam Sauce.” The list of entrees confirms the promise of frugality, and indicates what ingredients were available at the time: fresh seafood was plentiful, as were beef, mutton, and game. The chapter on vegetables is diversified and long with many recipes for potatoes (another chapter contains what may be the first printed recipes for Potato Bread), tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, beets, turnips, and cucumbers. Half of the book is devoted to cakes, puddings, and sweets. This edition of Mrs. Porter’s Southern Cookery Book was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.
Although Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery claims the title, Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife is often cited as the first American cookbook because the recipes originated in American kitchens, having left behind British traditions, ingredients, and methods. Virginia Housewife is also recognized as the nation’s first regional cookbook with a focus on southern-style specialties, some appearing in print for the first time (Ochra Soup, Curry of Catfish, Gumbo, Chicken Pudding, Apoquiniminc Cakes). But Randolph also includes local variations of recipes from the West Indies, New England, Spain, and France, all reflecting the influence of many cuisines on Southern cooking. Diverse offerings from far-away places include Dough Nuts, Gaspacho, Ropa Vieja, as well as a number of delightful ice cream recipes including, black walnut, quince, pear, citron, and almond. An immediate success, Virginia Housewife was republished at least nineteen times before the Civil War.

For Mrs. Mary, “The grand Arcanum of management lies in three simple rules: Let everything be done at a proper time, keep everything in its proper place, and put everything to its proper use.” To this end, much more than just a cookbook, The Virginia Housewife is a complete lifestyle reference providing an introduction to the food, culture, and manners of the antebellum South, as well as housekeeping instructions on topics ranging from soap making to herb drying and silver cleaning—everything that a woman of the nineteenth (or the twenty-first) century might desire to know.

This facsimile edition of Mary Randolph’s Virginia Housewife was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.
Southern food is America’s quintessential cuisine. From creamy grits to simmering pots of beans and greens, we think we know how these classic foods should taste. Yet the southern food we eat today tastes almost nothing like the dishes our ancestors enjoyed, because the varied crops and livestock that originally defined this cuisine have largely disappeared. Now a growing movement of chefs and farmers is seeking to change that by recovering the rich flavor and diversity of southern food. At the center of that movement is historian David S. Shields, who has spent over a decade researching early American agricultural and cooking practices. In Southern Provisions, he reveals how the true ingredients of southern cooking have been all but forgotten and how the lessons of its current restoration and recultivation can be applied to other regional foodways.

Shields’s turf is the southern Lowcountry, from the peanut patches of Wilmington, North Carolina to the sugarcane fields of the Georgia Sea Islands and the citrus groves of Amelia Island, Florida. He takes us on a historical excursion to this region, drawing connections among plants, farms, growers, seed brokers, vendors, cooks, and consumers over time. Shields begins by looking at how professional chefs during the nineteenth century set standards of taste that elevated southern cooking to the level of cuisine. He then turns to the role of food markets in creating demand for ingredients and enabling conversation between producers and preparers. Next, his focus shifts to the field, showing how the key ingredients—rice, sugarcane, sorghum, benne, cottonseed, peanuts, and citrus—emerged and went on to play a significant role in commerce and consumption. Shields concludes with a look at the challenges of reclaiming both farming and cooking traditions.

From Carolina Gold rice to white flint corn, the ingredients of authentic southern cooking are returning to fields and dinner plates, and with Shields as our guide, we can satisfy our hunger both for the most flavorful regional dishes and their history.
"Dora Charles is the real deal, and hers may be the most honest - and personal - southern cookbook I've ever read." - John Martin Taylor

In her first cookbook, a revered former cook at Savannah's most renowned restaurant divulges her locally famous Savannah recipes—many of them never written down before—and those of her family and friends

Hundreds of thousands of people have made a trip to dine on the exceptional food cooked by Dora Charles at Savannah's most famous restaurant. Now, the woman who was barraged by editors and agents to tell her story invites us into her home to taste the food she loves best.

These are the intensely satisfying dishes at the heart of Dora's beloved Savannah: Shrimp and Rice; Simple Smoky Okra; Buttermilk Cornbread from her grandmother; and of course, a truly incomparable Fried Chicken. Each dish has a "secret ingredient" for a burst of flavor: mayonnaise in the biscuits; Savannah Seasoning in her Gone to Glory Potato Salad; sugar-glazed bacon in her deviled eggs. All the cornerstones of the Southern table are here, from Out-of-This-World Smothered Catfish to desserts like a jaw-dropping Very Red Velvet Cake.

With moving dignity, Dora describes her motherless upbringing in Savannah, the hard life of her family, whose memories stretched back to slave times, learning to cook at age six, and the years she worked at the restaurant. “Talking About” boxes impart Dora’s cooking wisdom, and evocative photos of Savannah and the Low Country set the scene.
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