When Michael Twitty accepted the 2018 James Beard Award for The Cooking Gene, his memoir and history of Southern cuisine, he took to the stage wearing kente cloth . . . and recited the shehecheyanu.
It was a signature Twitty moment, reflective of the collard green stuffing he uses in his kreplach and the peach cobbler, rather than breadcrumbs, he proposes casting into the water during the Rosh Hashanah tashlich ceremony. Food, after all, defines a people – and as a Black Jew, Michael Twitty belongs to multiple peoplehoods. Why should he confine himself to just one?
So for decades, he’s explored the parallels, overlaps and intertwining of his identities, discovering in food the commonality of the tragedies and traumas of stateless people who clung doggedly to tradition, passed along memory in every morsel and drew strength from the power of gathering. His latest book, Kosher Soul, is the culmination of that work, simultaneously a meditative love letter to being Black and Jewish, a memoir and a collection of his Black-Jewish fusion recipes.
Twitty joins us in conversation with Gabriella Gershenson, James Beard Award–nominated food journalist and an editor of The 100 Most Jewish Foods and On the Hummus Route, to discuss deconstructing Jewish and Black food history, marrying two of the world’s most distinctive culinary cultures and navigating both the food world and the wider world as a Black Jew in a fraught American moment.
A writer, food historian and former Hebrew school teacher, Twitty is a popular speaker, blogger and author of three books. He has received two James Beard Awards, was named Colonial Williamsburg’s first Revolutionary in Residence and was one of 20 people selected globally as a 2016 TED Fellow.
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