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The Cooking Gene
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South | Michael W. Twitty
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 ancestryboth black and whitethrough 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 He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia.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 deepthe 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.
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Auntynanny
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Pickpick

I haven't read a lot of food memoirs, but this one was really interesting. Twitty explores the origins of soul food and finds its roots in West Africa.

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Julsmarshall
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Pickpick

Finished this examination of race, history, geography and food on #audio while walking this morning and then running errands. It was fascinating narrative non-fiction, well researched and full of heart. It was long and maybe a bit repetitive but I think the context of uncovering the story made that inevitable. Great read! #integrateyourshelf #ownvoices #BookspinBingo #MountTBR @TheAromaofBooks #20in4 @Andrew65

SamAnne I wasn‘t familiar with him until I read this book. Enjoyed it. 1y
TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!! 1y
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Julsmarshall
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SamAnne I really enjoyed this one—although it gets repetitive in parts. Fascinating chef. 1y
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Julsmarshall
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My April #BookspinBingo is looking good! Excited for both the #Bookspin and #Doublespin books!

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bnp
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For anyone who is interested, check out https://www.feastafrique.com/2021-reading-challenge/introduction/blog-post-title... (Challenge is being run on storygraph.)

#foodandlit

Butterfinger Oh my. I'm glad I found this post. I will tag everyone tomorrow morning. I left my list at school. 2y
11 likes1 comment
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thatotherlisa
Bailedbailed

This one makes me sad. I was really excited to read this book, which purports to be a “Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South.”

This book is severely in need of editing, and, quite frankly, I‘m mad that the publishers didn‘t do their job. It‘s such an important, interesting topic, and Twitty is clearly very knowledgeable, passionate, and compelling. Very disappointing.

ValerieAndBooks Hmm. I had this stacked. Maybe I‘ll try borrowing rather than buying. 2y
thatotherlisa @ValerieAndBooks I feel so bad because I want to support the author and his work, but.... 2y
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Cinfhen
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Mehso-so

I have tremendous respect for chef and food historian, Michael Twitty. The amount of research he did to write this book is remarkable. While I think the premise and material is fascinating it felt over seasoned and overcooked. Some serious editing was needed. I struggled to read the last 150 pages. Looking forward to discussing this one with my bookclub next week.

SamAnne I gave it a thumbs up but I agree with the criticism. Lots of repetition. 2y
Cinfhen Glad to know it‘s not just me @SamAnne Seeing texts from our bookclub‘s WhatsApp group it seems like others are feeling the same way, too!! 2y
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Cinfhen
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I‘m at a stalemate with our September bookclub choice. I flew through the first 150 pages completely charmed and smitten by food historian, Michael Twitty but now... I‘m struggling to stay engaged. While truly fascinating, the book has become redundant and it‘s a DEEP DEEP DIVE into the author‘s personal genealogical ancestry going back to the 1600‘s. No offense, but I don‘t really need to know ALL of his family history.

TheAromaofBooks That's a lot of history in one book!!! 2y
Cinfhen I don‘t even know my own family‘s history @TheAromaofBooks it‘s too much info!!!!! 2y
Megabooks I was kind of wondering how dry this would be. 2y
Cinfhen I feel bad @Megabooks but I‘m really STUCK! I just don‘t want to move on with this book BUT I‘m in charge of discussion questions since this was my suggestion 😫 2y
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BeaG
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Pickpick

We walk 6 days a week (I‘m wearing red). After my walk I listened to The Cooking Gene on my way home. I enjoyed it because there were lessons (for me anyway) in the book. Knowledge intertwined with great recipes. I loved it.

wanderinglynn Walking 6 days a week is awesome! 🙌🏻 I‘m trying to get back into a good walking habit. 2y
BeaG @wanderinglynn my doctor told me to exercise 30 minutes a day. I had high blood pressure and was on two medications for it. Now I‘m not taking any. My migraine shot (amovig) was causing the bp. I still walk to keep it down just in case. My family has a history of it. The lady in the picture with me is 67 years old and has been walking daily ever since I‘ve known her. 2y
juliekay Good for you ! Maybe you‘ll give me the incentive I need to get myself off the couch. I‘m glad it‘s helping so much with your health concerns , and that you have a walking friend. You guys can keep each other motivated. 2y
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BeaG @MissinginAction Yes, having a walking partner makes it easy. There are 2 other ladies that walk with us, but they don‘t walk 6 days. It doesn‘t even seem like exercise because we walk and talk before you know it we are done. Typically 3 miles, but today we walked 4 miles. 2y
NikkiM5 ❤️ love this ❤️ 2y
BeaG @NikkiM5 Thanks 2y
25 likes6 comments
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SamAnne
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Pickpick

What a great combo of food history and Black Lives Matter. Twitty is a southern food historian who has also traces his genealogy back to Africa as well as his white ancestors. It is a difficult history. Twitty also shares his own history and has a great sense of humor. Readers should also google his open letter to celebrity chef Paula Dean. And it was my #bookspin! @TheAromaofBooks

TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!! 2y
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effani
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Pickpick

This is technically a book about food, but it's really more than that. It's a book that uses food as a lens through which to examine the legacy of slavery and what it means to be Black in America. It had me making a lot of mental connections, and I have to imagine it's a book that will reward rereading. It took me some time to get into the lyrical, nonlinear writing style, but it was worth the effort.

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Cinfhen
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Hurray for #BookMail and it arrived in less than 10 days 🥳These are my September/ October IRL bookclub choices 💕I‘m looking forward to reading both books 😁

Kalalalatja 84 Charing Cross has been on my tbr forever! I‘m excited to see what you think of it 👍 2y
Cinfhen I‘ll keep you posted @Kalalalatja 😊 2y
Booksnchill Love both of these- The cooking gene is a tome but I was very engaged with the history of it- 5⭐️ 2y
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KarenUK 84 Charing Cross road is just lovely! 💕. Not read the cooking gene, but saw him on Padma Lakshmi‘s taste the nation show on Hulu and he was wonderful.... 2y
Cinfhen I recommend both books for bookclub @Booksnchill @KarenUK so I‘m feeling a little nervous about the choices 🥺 2y
Leftcoastzen 84 Charing Cross Road is among my all time favorites! 2y
SamAnne I'm listening and reading The Cooking Gene right now and am loving it. 2y
Cinfhen Ohhhh, I hadn‘t thought about the audio.....good to know @SamAnne 2y
Cinfhen 84 Charing has SO MUCH #LitsyLove @Leftcoastzen I‘m really looking forward to reading it 2y
Reviewsbylola You‘ll enjoy 84CCR I think. I‘m surprised you haven‘t read it before! (edited) 2y
CarolynM Helene Hanff❤️❤️❤️ (edited) 2y
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SamAnne
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I won‘t make a nice Bingo card until this weekend but here is my #BookspinBingo card! In some squares I have two books—depends on either my library holds come in. Looking forward to this reading month. Tagged book is my #Bookspin book! @TheAromaofBooks

LitStephanie How does bookspin work? 2y
TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!! Love it!!! 2y
TheAromaofBooks @LitStephanie - Actually, I host #BookSpin lol To participate you make a list of 20 books you've been meaning to read & tag me when you post it. On the 2nd of every month I draw out 2 numbers & everyone tries to read those numbers from their lists. The bingo part is for people who want to read more than 2 books from their list - I draw out all 20 numbers (plus 5 free spaces) & arrange them randomly in a bingo card. People match their titles to ⬇ 2y
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TheAromaofBooks (cont'd) the numbers & try to score a bingo!! I have more details on this post - https://www.litsy.com/web/post/1989556 - just let me know if have any questions or want to join!! You can still make a list of books & jump in for August if you're interested!! @LitStephanie 2y
SamAnne @LitStephanie it kind has grown from a challenge by @TheAromaofBooks to make a list of 20 books off your shelves you‘ve been meaning to read and haven‘t gotten to yet. She pulls two numbers from a hat and the universe chooses for you. And then it had grown and expanded with a associated bingo card. I‘ve read some books on my shelf Wouldn‘t have gotten too because of the numbers drawn! 2y
LitStephanie @SamAnne and @TheAromaofBooks that sounds awesome! I may be in for the pick two list part. 😃 2y
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SamAnne
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Glad that my #Bookspin is the tagged book which I started yesterday! Have both the print and audio from the library. And loving it so far—I wasn‘t expecting so much humor and the author is a good narrator. #Doublespin is Sundown Motel by Simone St. James if my hold comes in, Stephen Kong‘s On Writing if it doesn‘t. Will do my #BookspinBingo card tomorrow! @TheAromaofBooks

TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!! 2y
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SamAnne
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Looking forward to this one!

CoffeeK8 This book is amazing! It really sticks with you 2y
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effani
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I'm really enjoying this book so far, but unfortunately the family tree is completely illegible in the Kindle edition. If I were reading it in print I would be flipping to the front frequently to see which of his ancestors he's talking about, but that's not an option here.

BarbaraTheBibliophage Have you thought about using the Kindle Cloud Reader and looking on your computer? Might be less frustrating... 2y
SamAnne I just picked this up from the library on a friend‘s recommendation. Looking forward to the read. 2y
effani @BarbaraTheBibliophage I thought about it, but I don't like being tied to the computer when I read. Eventually I realized I could pull it up and zoom in on the kindle app on my phone. It takes some scrolling but at least it's portable. 2y
effani @SamAnne It took me a few chapters to get into it, but now I'm really liking it. I hope you enjoy it too! (edited) 2y
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CoffeeK8
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Hey Litsy friends. I saw this on the tagged author‘s instagram. A great way to support #BLM #blackpublishingpower #blackoutbestsellerlist #blackbooks. Also I highly recommend the tagged book if you‘re looking for a history of slavery through food.

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CoffeeK8
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#7books7days again a little late. This book floored me. I had never realized the extent food and the recipes of enslaved cooks are tied up in our idea of how we see ourselves as a country.

Amiable This looks really good! Stacking 3y
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CoffeeK8
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📚 The Cooking Gene
💻 Alyssa Cole
📽 Cinema Paradiso
🎼 Cake
🎧 Cannonball - Damian Rice
#manicmonday #letterC @JoScho

JoScho Thanks for playing 💕😊 3y
36 likes1 comment
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CoffeeK8
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This was a tough challenge. #Top10oftheDecade #NonfictionEdition. I love seeing everyone else‘s choices.

Cinfhen I forgot about WAVE. That book was sooooooo sad 😭took a screenshot as I want to add titles I haven‘t read. A few are already on my #TBR / thanks for sharing 💕 3y
Mdargusch I‘ll be Gone in the Dark! I forgot about that one. Great list! 3y
CoffeeK8 @Cinfhen I had forgotten too until I looked through my lists and then I was like OMG how could I forget it! So amazing and sad 3y
CoffeeK8 @Mdargusch thanks! 3y
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brandybear22
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I thought I was going to a cooking talk, but then I soon realized it was a talk about the intersectionality as seen through cooking, African American and Jewish histories entwined. All by a queer southern author. Afterwards I engaged him around his roots and queerness, because it is so important to see and be seen, and to acknowledge that when we can be in invited and respected spaces, whether lecture halls or in print.

With @kgriffith

CoffeeNBooks This is such a good book! I really like Michael Twitty. 3y
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Well-ReadNeck
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Pickpick

This book has been recommended to me several times. I don‘t know what took me so long to read it. It‘s a cookbook, a memoir, a family history/drama/saga, a genealogy primer, a manifesto. I loved every word. #MountTBR

howjessicareads I tried this on audio, and just could NOT get into it. Maybe I should try again in print. 3y
76 likes3 stack adds1 comment
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Well-ReadNeck
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#TBRTuesday

Here‘s what‘s on deck for me this week. I have several of these in process, so I may actually finish this pile. 😂📚🙌🏼

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Christine
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I adored this book and am happily taking advantage of this deal for rereading and digital highlighting purposes. ❤️

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suzisteffen
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Pickpick

Incredible book that I listened to via Hoopla even though I own the print book & have since it came out. I need to track down quotes that I tried to bookmark while the audio was going, but basically, it was just genius, start to finish. I had a lot of “Southern food” knowledge from one of my parents, who grew up in Texas, but I didn‘t know they were mostly from Africa. DUH!?!? Fantastic book. I only wanted MORE. Culinary #history FTW. 5⭐️

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suzisteffen
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(2/2) “It was not just the spices, ingredients, and cooking methods that Africanized the diet; it was the spirit imbued in this preparation. Its vocabulary snuck into the language of the South; its flavors pushed the preferences of Britain and Germany to the rear. Its manners determined the flow, and its communalizing nature brought the West and Central African influence together ... “ ⬇️ #history #cooking #AmericanFood

suzisteffen “to allow that touch to masquerade as if Europe still had the upper hand.” 4y
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suzisteffen
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(1/2): “The cooks on the Chesapeake plantations shifted between the worlds of the cramped, drafty cabin and ruling the kingdom of the big house kitchen. ... What took place in their hands was a dance of cultural blending and cultural resistance that was almost too civilized and graceful to notice. It was not just the spices, ingredients, and cooking methods that Africanized the diet; it was the spirit imbued in this preparation.“ ⬇️ #history

suzisteffen Its vocabulary snuck into the language of the South; its flavors pushed the preferences of Britain and Germany to the rear. Its manners determined the flow, and its communalizing nature brought the West and Central African influence together to allow that touch to masquerade as if Europe still had the upper hand.” 4y
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suzisteffen
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I am loving this book so much. Michael Twitty is a damn genius, as were so many cooks who were enslaved and made South Carolina, Virginia, and much of the rest of the South a culinary blend of West Africa, Europe, and the “new” world. I actually take a 15-minute-longer (two-lane hwy) road to and from work on days I commute so that I can hear another 30 minutes of the book. SO GOOD. (That‘s a backup spice rack in the photo.)

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suzisteffen
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“The American plantation wasn‘t the quaint village community you saw depicted in your history textbook. It was a labor camp system for exiled prisoners of war and victims of kidnapping.”
DAMN, Michael Twitty. So real.

kgriffith This book is so, so good. 4y
suzisteffen @kgriffith I‘ve been wanting to read it SINCE PREORDER DAY. I finally realize that even though I had owned the book for a while, the only way I would really read it would be either as an e-book or an audiobook. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 4y
Weaponxgirl Another book I‘ve owned for ages and been meaning to read! 4y
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suzisteffen @Weaponxgirl I‘m not giving my print copy away, but I just can‘t hold that heavy-ass book the way I can my phone. 😂 4y
Weaponxgirl @suzisteffen I‘m with you on that! Big books put me off now. But seriously you are always reminding me of awesome looking books in my tbr! 4y
suzisteffen @Weaponxgirl haha! Twins! 4y
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suzisteffen
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Finished listening to Isabel Wilkerson‘s The Warmth of Other Suns, and dove directly into this one, which I remember kickstarting years ago. Twitty‘s writing is just tremendous. #history #cooking #audiobook (I own this book, but I‘m listening to it right now on Hoopla Digital.)

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Nitpickyabouttrains
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Pickpick

This book followed Twitty‘s family, the history of food in the south, and a ton of info on slavery. It covered a ton of ground.

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mspixieears

White privilege is an obscene thing. It takes everything, quietly, until there is only silence left. Then it takes that too and fills it with noise.

(quoted from Tunde Wey & John T. Edge, Oxford American) p 407

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mspixieears

There are no heroes here, just varying levels of power and responsibility.

p 384, re. British, English and Irish history and oppression and how it relates to African-American history.

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DebinHawaii
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Pickpick

It took me weeks & some library renewals to work through this one for my virtual foodie book club-but I enjoyed it. Twitty makes his homage to the culinary history of his ancestors & tracing of the impact of African-American soul cooking on the food of the South both entertaining & informative. At times a sobering, discomforting look at US history, race & prejudice, at time humorous with stories of his relatives & life. Link to review/recipes👇🏻

DebinHawaii Recipes for (Vegan) Grit Cakes with Caramelized Onion, Garlic & Thyme & Spicy Smothered Cabbage from Vegan Soul Kitchen: http://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/2018/11/pan-fried-grit-cakes-with-caramelized... 4y
gradcat This sounds really good 👨🏽‍🍳😋 4y
tjwill Looks good! 4y
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kgriffith
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Pickpick

I love that, in the afterword, the author acknowledges that this is a complete mishmash of genres, though he is apologetic about it, while I find it to be one of the book‘s greatest strengths. Few non-fiction titles can claim to be “something for everyone” and deliver. This book doesn‘t claim to, but delivers just the same.

saresmoore I want this in my life! 4y
kgriffith @saresmoore it was a good listen, and would be a speedy read! 4y
suzisteffen What WAS that apology for? I thought it was amazing. 🤔 WHAT IS GENRE ANYWAY 4y
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kgriffith
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“Rice has a long history with culinary justice.” #trafficjam #audiocommuting

jmofo My favorite rice quote: “Rice is great if you're really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.” Mitch Hedberg 4y
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kgriffith
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Commuter house #audiocooking

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kgriffith
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“Cooking from a place of heritage, identity, and belonging is a powerful thing, fraught with class and cultural politics.” This book wrapped up in one sentence.

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kgriffith
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“Traditional African religions have a complex understanding of food in the service of faith. Food is often a necessary vehicle between one‘s ancestors or the spiritual forces that guide their destiny.”
(and my dinner)

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kgriffith
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“The kitchen table was also the place where
I came out to my mother at the age of
16. The kitchen table to us was a place of worry, argument, and resolution, and I had no idea where else we should have the conversation.”
I just found him on Instagram (@thecookinggene) and his obsession with purple tights (which he dyes himself!) makes me so happy.

CoffeeNBooks I really enjoyed his book! 4y
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kgriffith
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“There is no chef without a homeland. To be a chef today is to center yourself in traditions of your roots, and use them to define your art, and speak to any human being about who you are. Your plate is your flag.”

JSW I love this book. 4y
celtichik This book was amazing, I thought it was gonna be one thing....but then it turned out to be so much more. Definitely needs more than one read through to absorb it all 4y
CoffeeK8 This books is amazing! I read it over a year ago and it continues to stick with me 4y
kgriffith @JSW @celtichik @CoffeeK8 I‘m enjoying it, and picking up some new vocabulary as well! Now to find ways to work “eudaemonia” into conversations... 🤔 4y
kgriffith Tagging @jmofo for the #lasagnahoggiveaway as I‘ve has several opportunities to discuss this new addition to my vocab tonight 😊 4y
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mspixieears
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and then there was music. It‘s not an exaggeration to say that art and creativity saves lives, or that it saves us when food can‘t, in ways that food can‘t quite.

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mspixieears

A heartbreaking reflection on slavery and surviving the trip to America from the African continent:

Maybe smallpox was a mercy compared with what was to follow. There is no place else to go but down when you are already in hell.

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mspixieears

All across the African diaspora in the Americas, there is a ritual of going to places where the sea meets the land. In these spaces homage is paid by the descendants of those who survived long enough to cross the water and make new lives — and create new life.

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Wife
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Pickpick

“There is a lot of beautiful and a lot of ugly mashed together” - Michael W. Twitty

I‘ve always wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg. The author is a Revolutionary in Residence there and now I‘m even more determined to visit. He‘s a culinary historian and this book has tons of information as well as a touch of memoir and a few recipes. I pulled up a PBS newshour video featuring him on YouTube. I recommend both the book and video. 3⭐️s

IamIamIam Wow, this looks amazing!!!! 4y
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mspixieears
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Going to try a thing for Black History Month where I priorise authors with any African heritage or Indigenous Australian authors (Blak).
Been looking forward to reading this for ages and only reading for pleasure before bed :)

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Wife
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#31bookpics I‘m at work and my eyes (and my brain) are tired. There is a lot of info in this book that I‘m #currentlyreading I don‘t want to miss anything important, so I‘m putting it away for now. @howjessreads

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MoniqueReads305
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CoffeeK8
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📘The Cooking Gene
💾Zen Cho
📽Clueless
🧀Cheese (any cheese, really)
#manicmonday

JoScho Clueless 💕 4y
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CoffeeK8
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1 Turquoise/teal range of colors
2 so much I never knew about our history
3 The 4th Estate about the NYT, it was amazing!
4 Onions, ketchup and mustard
5 Dinner with friends, shopping for plants and a goodbye dinner from cousins moving to London
#friyayintro