Finding Yourself Through Food

Although the 2022 Jewish Book Festival does not officially begin until Sunday, October 23, the Jewish Federation has been given the opportunity to present a pre-Festival virtual event for for our local Jewish community. On Thursday, September 15 at 9:30 a.m. (Pacific) on Zoom, chef Michael Twitty (author of Kosher Soul and The Cooking Gene) will be in conversation with Adeena Sussman.
    Twitty was one of the top authors on this year’s Jewish Book Festival committee’s wish list. Because this chef, historian, and author is in such high demand, he and his team decided to have one large virtual interview and presentation that all of the communities who requested him could join.
     Twitty sparks inspiration. In any interview, talk-back, or filmed special you find him in, his energy is palpable and makes you want to not only follow what he is doing, but to get up and do it yourself. This culinary historian highly recommends trying to trace your own ancestry through its cuisine. He recommends sitting down and enjoying food together when discussing the big issues. He suggests using the power of food to discover the real America. Twitty continues the discussion of cuisine appropriation and culinary injustice that he has been bringing since he wrote the acclaimed “The Cooking Gene.”
    In a 2017 interview he said, “Saying the slaves ‘contributed’ to the Southern cuisine we read about is like saying upper- and middle-class Jews between the World Wars ‘contributed’ their art collections to Hitler.
    It is not a contribution; it is theft or cultural appropriation, and we need to know that before we can properly appreciate the food we’re eating, or even have a conversation about it. His way with words helps others who do not yet understand how to have this conversation begin to actually get it. You can find all of this in his previous works, but his new book moves it into a unique conversation.
    “Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew,” marries two distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora.
    What is it like to survive in a culture that does not yet fully celebrate intersectionality? Michael Twitty is Black, Jewish and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He discusses how important it is not to make the first thing you say to a Jew of Color something that makes them have to defend their Judaism or have to feel that their Judaism is invalid. According to a recent study, there are between 100,000-200,000 Jews in the U.S. that also identify as Black and come to Judaism in every way that non-black Jews do, showing us how diversity is the new norm.
    Twitty takes us through the histories of where Judaism and Southern Black histories have come together. From ancient Middle Eastern recipes to Black and Jewish cultures living next to each other in Lisbon in the 1500s, to Brazilian black-eyed pea cakes that are directly related to Nigerian cuisine, to current recipes he created himself while growing up in a Black and Jewish Cincinnati community, Twitty whips it all up, and brings us in to try it, too. According to Twitty, “We forget about the ethics of how our food gets to us and the history behind it that tells us about how we are connected to everyone else on the planet Earth.” He tells us what the food represents in each culture and teaches us how to appreciate it.
    Twitty represents exactly what Judaism in the United States is today: passionate, diverse, and finding his own way to understanding his history and how to connect to it. In “Koshersoul” he explores how African American and Jewish traditions can mediate “otherness” and oppression.
    Join in a live interview between Michael Twitty and Adeena Sussman at on Thursday, September 15 at 9:30 a.m. (Pacific) by registering at  


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