Period The Cooking Gene:A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South- 2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year!

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#1
This book is by the same man in the Food of the Enslaved - Barbecue video I posted today- James Beard winner is an honor in the "foodie" world! Available on Amazon.
"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."
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AshleyMel

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#2
I've seen interviews with the author and a few of the videos.
in my opinion, seems silly to fight over who "owns" a particular food or recipe. Southern cooking is wonderfully diverse and has many, many influences. There is enough love to go around! Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed and celebrated! But then again, I know my Grandmothers were extremely fierce when it came down to whose cornbread was the best and I've seen church ladies break out in screeching fits over who made the best Hummingbird cake!
:bounce:
 

Anna Elizabeth Henry

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#5
I think it's tough to put ownership on certain recipes. Many traditional recipes that are quintessentially Southern and even American have been around for well over a 100 years. You can claim ownership to your variation of the recipe that may be passed down. I think that's where ownership ends. It does sound like an interesting read. I'll pop it on my to read wish list, thanks @BelleMontgomery!
 
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#6
Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed and celebrated!
Agreed. And I'd say the same about most cultural things -- you don't have to be Irish to wear an Aran sweater, or Scottish to wear clan tartan! (Although I will mention here that my grandmother was an Armstrong... :wink: )

My family has always been generous with recipes -- which just serves to show that having the recipe doesn't mean you can make it taste like grandma's! Although the one time I requested a recipe and was denied (for a foamy peanut brittle), I just faked up a recipe based on what I knew of the chemistry of the thing, tasted fine and when someone else later gave me the official recipe, my guess was nearly identical. Secret recipes were maybe meaningful back in the day when people didn't understand the chemistry of food (or the chemistry of the brain, when it comes to brand loyalties), but nowadays they're kind of pointless.

That said, family recipes and family traditions undoubtably create a cuisine that can't be copied. Most people probably couldn't identify their mom's recipe in a blind taste test any more than rabid Starbucks drinkers can identify Starbucks, but the social connection adds something intangible that cannot be copied (by stimulating a separate pleasure center, scientifically speaking, but I kind of think it goes deeper than that on a spiritual level).

Sounds like an interesting book, though.
 

Belle Montgomery

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#7
Agreed. And I'd say the same about most cultural things -- you don't have to be Irish to wear an Aran sweater, or Scottish to wear clan tartan! (Although I will mention here that my grandmother was an Armstrong... :wink: )

My family has always been generous with recipes -- which just serves to show that having the recipe doesn't mean you can make it taste like grandma's! Although the one time I requested a recipe and was denied (for a foamy peanut brittle), I just faked up a recipe based on what I knew of the chemistry of the thing, tasted fine and when someone else later gave me the official recipe, my guess was nearly identical. Secret recipes were maybe meaningful back in the day when people didn't understand the chemistry of food (or the chemistry of the brain, when it comes to brand loyalties), but nowadays they're kind of pointless.

That said, family recipes and family traditions undoubtably create a cuisine that can't be copied. Most people probably couldn't identify their mom's recipe in a blind taste test any more than rabid Starbucks drinkers can identify Starbucks, but the social connection adds something intangible that cannot be copied (by stimulating a separate pleasure center, scientifically speaking, but I kind of think it goes deeper than that on a spiritual level).

Sounds like an interesting book, though.
I disagree with the pointlessness of a secret recipe. Many cooks, such as myself, have learned how to tweak something through the years that make certain ordinary dishes taste different than the norm. Only my son knows my special potato salad recipe and I haven't shared my Southern beans or even my chili recipe etc with him yet. They all have a different "secret" ingredient or plural in them. Usually all cooks have at least a few in their arsenal.
Having lost my mother at the age of 3 and then my grandmother who took her place when I was 17 I learned from all those around me and always kept my ears open to secret tips. My dad's girlfriend of many years who eventually became his wife even took a lot of things from the house including my grandma's large book with her handwritten recipes and I never saw it again! Of course I was only 19 and recently married at the time (anything to get away from her) and didn't go out of my way to confront her so I've listened and watched the cooks around me and fused what I thought were the best elements from each of them together! I even received a written thank you note from my hubby's female co-worker who loved my stuffed cabbage that he took to the Christmas pot luck lunch and she stated she never even liked stuffed cabbage! Another man came up to me at my father in laws funeral and pointed out how wonderful it was too.
So I guess being an "orphan" home cook (however I do remember grandma's fried chicken &milk gravy recipe I used to help her make) eventually gave me an edge in the culinary sense. :smug:
 
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#8
Many cooks, such as myself, have learned how to tweak something through the years that make certain ordinary dishes taste different than the norm.
When it comes to young cooks, or to cooks who haven't experienced many cuisines, I agree. But older cooks with experienced palates and a good background in the science of cooking can usually "break" a secret recipe pretty easily. Professional cooks do it all the time. But "pointless" was too strong a term. I'm sure plenty of secret recipes remain secret for decades -- or forever (although at the same time, when it comes to food, a secret tip in one place can be the standard in another!). Most people aren't going to figure it out just by tasting it. But in my experience, if someone who knows what they're doing is determined to figure out it out, they probably can.

What can't be shared is skill or technique. I've had people who didn't quite believe I shared my recipe with them, when I totally did, because theirs didn't turn out like mine. And, as I said initially, social connection makes a difference. Comfort food in a restaurant is all good and well, but comfort food made by someone who loves you is on a totally different plane.

To get back to the book that started the conversation, I have been reading a lot of stuff by abolitionists and people defending slavery written in the years leading up to the Civil War, and while I'd known for a while that many abolitionists were woefully racist, that intellectual knowledge was not the same as reading some of this stuff! What got me started was Mark Noll's The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (going slow because I keep tracking down his sources), and he makes the point that Europeans could clearly see how Americans were conflating slavery and race, while Americans -- even Christian Americans debating the pertinent Biblical passages -- were completely blind to it. Fascinating.

The library has The Cooking Gene, and, even though I've got a stack of Christmas present books to get through, I'm seriously considering toddling over to get it. Very timely recommendation for me!
 

Belle Montgomery

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#9
When it comes to young cooks, or to cooks who haven't experienced many cuisines, I agree. But older cooks with experienced palates and a good background in the science of cooking can usually "break" a secret recipe pretty easily. Professional cooks do it all the time. But "pointless" was too strong a term. I'm sure plenty of secret recipes remain secret for decades -- or forever (although at the same time, when it comes to food, a secret tip in one place can be the standard in another!). Most people aren't going to figure it out just by tasting it. But in my experience, if someone who knows what they're doing is determined to figure out it out, they probably can.

What can't be shared is skill or technique. I've had people who didn't quite believe I shared my recipe with them, when I totally did, because theirs didn't turn out like mine. And, as I said initially, social connection makes a difference. Comfort food in a restaurant is all good and well, but comfort food made by someone who loves you is on a totally different plane.

To get back to the book that started the conversation, I have been reading a lot of stuff by abolitionists and people defending slavery written in the years leading up to the Civil War, and while I'd known for a while that many abolitionists were woefully racist, that intellectual knowledge was not the same as reading some of this stuff! What got me started was Mark Noll's The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (going slow because I keep tracking down his sources), and he makes the point that Europeans could clearly see how Americans were conflating slavery and race, while Americans -- even Christian Americans debating the pertinent Biblical passages -- were completely blind to it. Fascinating.

The library has The Cooking Gene, and, even though I've got a stack of Christmas present books to get through, I'm seriously considering toddling over to get it. Very timely recommendation for me!
"Comfort food in a restaurant is all good and well, but comfort food made by someone who loves you is on a totally different plane."
I couldn't agree more!!!
 



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