As a black Jewish writer, I obviously want to read books written by and highlighting the stories of Jews of color. That’s easier said than done, though. It’s not that these stories don’t exist — Jewish literature is an amazing, rich genre of diasporic Jewish stories.
One might not expect to find a chapter titled “Mishpocheh” in Michael Twitty’s memoir chronicling his “journey through African-American culinary history in the Old South.”
Black history matters. Why? Because if black lives matter, so do our history.
From black-eyed pea hummus spiked with homemade horseradish harissa to matzoh-meal fried chicken cooked in shmaltz, to peach noodle kugels touched with garam masala, Afro-Ashkefardi is my way of cooking Jewish.
Twitty’s embrace of all the various parts of himself — African, African American, European, black, white, gay, Jewish — sometimes raises hackles, as does his habit of speaking his mind.
I've always mixed my African-Americanness and Jewishness on the Seder plate, a ritual dish with six foods that symbolize the story of Passover.
Twitty is Orthodox-Jewish, African-American, and gay, in no particular order. He is a man of many dimensions: a culinary historian, food writer, historical interpreter, and teacher who employs all parts of himself into every thing that he does.
Black, Jewish and gay, Twitty is devoted to exploring the culinary history of his African and Afro-American roots, but equally interested in Jewish cooking.
When Michael Twitty was growing up outside Washington, D.C., the treat in his house every weekend was challah—a taste his Lutheran mother developed during her childhood in Cincinnati, where the only baker open on Sundays was Jewish.