How Black Culinary Historians Are Rewriting the History of American Food

Historians in the News
tags: African American history, food



Much of American cuisine is fusion food. Yes, even apple pie. European colonists brought apple trees, which originated in Asia, to these shores. And other foods came from other lands. Hamburger, pizza, and tacos, we know, came here from Germany, Italy, and Mexico, respectively.

Generally left out of the discussion of American cuisine, though, are the Indigenous foodways, which enabled early settlers to survive, as well as the influence of enslaved Africans that shaped our culinary heritage, particularly in the South. The latter is something Black food historians such as journalist Donna Battle Pierce, and James Beard Award-winners Michael Twitty and Adrian Miller, are helping to change. 

The narrative that emerges is complex and inextricably tied to place.

In his book, The Cooking Gene, Twitty explores these complexities, while sharing how his personal ancestry intertwines with American and African food traditions.  He cites the research of historian Stephen D. Behrendt, who documents the relationship between those who were enslaved and the crops they planted grew and harvested that contributed to the wealth of the United States.

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