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Michael Twitty, Culinary Historian


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This guy is so remarkable that I'm embarrassed not to have heard of him until now. Check out his work.

A recent Google search led me to the AfroFoodways website of Michael Twitty, an extraordinary local culinary historian with a particular interest in the food traditions of enslaved Africans, and their impact on the regional cuisines of the east coast and particularly the mid-Atlantic. His website hasn't been updated recently but contains are a few recipes with commentaries, and he's self-published an 80-page book: Fighting Old Nep: The Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders, which surveys the topic and includes 31 recipes for period dishes.

Twitty curated the "African-American heritage collection" for the Landreth Seed Company (founded 1784, and reputedly the country's oldest seed company), which mostly consists of heirloom varieties used in antebellum Southern cooking. He's also coordinated and conducted demonstrations of African-American foodways for local historical societies, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC.

The WaPo's Bonnie Benwick profiled him in an article about two months ago around Rosh Hashanah; Twitty converted to Judaism and teaches Hebrew school as well.

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