The Cooking Gene: A Discussion with Author Michael Twitty

The Cooking Gene: A Discussion with Author Michael Twitty

Tomorrow May 25, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the day that George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Already in the midst of the global Covid-19 Pandemic and an incredibly divisive presidential campaign year, this event ignited a firestorm of moral outrage that spanned the world with public demonstrations and protests. In the spirit of the Black Lives Matter Movement,  many of us took the time to educate ourselves on issues of social justice by reading books written by Black authors or titles that explore the topic of systematic racism and discrimination. The Joy Trip Reading Project was created to help readers better understand the intersection of racial diversity, equity and inclusion and the disparities of privilege that often limit access to the outdoors and the natural environment from those who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). This week we’re excited to welcome our 5th author to discuss his book The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty.

Throughout much of the last year, many of us have dedicated ourselves to being better informed on the critical issues that define much of our modern culture. Now that Derek Chauvin has been convicted of Floyd’s murder and the other officers involved in the crime will soon stand trial, we can take small comfort in the knowledge that justice has been served. As vaccines for Covid-19 are more widely available and the general public is becoming more comfortable with the idea of going outside their homes to interact with others, I think it’s important never to forget all that has occurred over the last 12 months and not allow ourselves to slide back into a state of complacency that negates much of the progress we have made toward social equity and cultural inclusion.

Today on National Public Radio’s Marketplace Morning Report the program shared that Black-owned bookstores are seeing a bit of the demand for their titles begin to wane. As we head into the summer months with heightened activities of outdoor recreation, cookouts and getaway vacations, I hope we’ll continue to read, learn and discuss more about these incredibly important subjects that will continue direct the course of our daily lives for many years to come.

On May 26, 2021 at 5PM Central Time, I’m excited to invite you to join the Joy Trip Reading Project for our fifth online discussion with Michael Twitty author of the Cooking Gene. This remarkable book is the story of Michael’s personal mission to document the connection between food traditions and family history from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom.  Begun in 2011, this writing project successfully garnered funding and significant media attention in 2012 to initiate a journey known as The Southern Discomfort Tour.  The project and tour continue as Michael visits sites of cultural memory, does presentations on his journey, and visits places critical to his family history while conducting genealogical and genetic research to discover his roots and food heritage.  Michael believes that Terroir is in Your Genes. Food is also extremely culturally connected and inherently economic and political.  It is a proving ground for racial reconciliation and healing and dialogue.  The Cooking Geneseeks to connect the whole of the Southern food family–with cousins near and far–by drawing all of us into the story of how we got here and where we are going.



Michael W. Twitty (born 1977) is an African-American Jewish writer, culinary historian and educator. He is the author of The Cooking Gene, published by HarperCollins/Amistad, which won the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Book of the Year as well as the category for writing. The book was also a finalist for The Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, the Art of Eating Prize and a Barnes and Noble New Discoveries finalist in nonfiction.


Author discussions on the Joy Trip Reading Project are made possible thanks to the support of the University of Wisconsin Madison Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, the National Geographic Society Seirus Innovationsand Outdoor Research. If you have questions or need any additional information write to