The Cooking Gene

By Michael W. Twitty,

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

Book description

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…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

4 authors picked The Cooking Gene as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved this book because of Twitty’s fearless and honest voice and how, as a gay and Jewish Black man, he reached for his innermost self through Southern travels, finding his culinary family along the way. Twitty has pieced together so many components–cooking, history, memoir, genealogy, discoveries as he travels to research, and even religion and sexual orientation issues.

Reading it, I was educated and entertained. I learned how much our American culinary culture contains influences from African Americans all the way back to the beginning of slavery. I also loved that it is a book of triumph as well…

There is a reason my book starts with a quote from this very book. It’s the collection’s rallying cry!

Twitty took me on such a journey of history and identity through food. The deeply historical and regional cooking and agricultural methods of the enslaved detailed in this work were the intersections and the canvas for revisiting historical timelines.

This is a nonfiction book, but it embodied my aspirations for making food in literature a forefront topic. I’ve never done any serious ancestry profile surveys, but this may be my favorite version – as a child of Jamaican immigrants wholly descended…

I’m a sucker for culinary history books, and this one is an absolute must-read, weaving together both food and race history as it spotlights what is, perhaps, America’s greatest culinary contribution to the world: southern cuisine. Twitty uses his own family’s story to highlight the significant contribution African Americans have made to American cooking, addressing the question of who ‘owns’ soul food, barbeque, and other Southern staples, and how that struggle reflects on race tensions and relations today. 

From Brianne's list on mouthwatering reads for foodies.

I am recommending this book because it delves deep into a people’s connection to land, plants and animals, food, and ancestors. Even without the privilege of written history, the powerless can find a power in the past.

From Kara's list on power and the powerless.

Want books like The Cooking Gene?

Our community of 10,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like The Cooking Gene.

Browse books like The Cooking Gene

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American cuisine, the South, and African Americans?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about American cuisine, the South, and African Americans.

American Cuisine Explore 23 books about American cuisine
The South Explore 177 books about the South
African Americans Explore 727 books about African Americans