Food, Community & Government

Facing Your Pain

Michael W. Twitty

Lesson time 09:53 min

Researching family foodways requires facing a complex past that is often rooted in pain. Michael explores how he’s been able to tackle the pain that comes with confronting the past with vulnerability and shows how you can too.

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Topics include: Handling Critics • Writing as Therapy


[MUSIC PLAYING] - You have to be willing to go into the positive and negative aspects of your family history and journey if you really want to do this work. If you're going to go there and look at it, eyes open-- remember-- [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] Open mind, open stomach, open eyes-- you have to confront some things. And for us, you know, I remember growing up with a grandmother who was the color of my palm and understanding, ostensibly, that she was Black, but we didn't look like other Black people. I remember asking my grandmother when I was very little, Grammy, are you white? And my grandmother was thoroughly pissed off at me. And I was little. I didn't understand. She didn't say a word to me for two days. And I cried because my grandmother was my best friend, the person, I think, other than my mom and daddy, who I loved the most. And I didn't understand, and no one would explain to me, why that question hurt her. It's because I didn't understand that every time my grandmother looked in the mirror or pictured her mother or her mother or her mother, she saw sexual violation. When you're little, you don't know what these things are, and you shouldn't. But, you know, I noticed that for other people, they paint us with a broad brush as Black people. They don't even understand what's it like to look in the mirror and know that you've been genetically modified because somebody had no impulse control, because somebody looked at their human property and saw them as a sexual object, and then looked at their own child and decided, you are not just a child I made, you are a product, you are a commodity. I can sell you and make money off of you. That's something we can't just ignore and shove in the "I don't know if I want to talk about this" drawer. So in a world where we talk about valuing family, what does it mean that there are these millions of descendants of the Europeans who went to not just the Black community, but the Indigenous community, the Asian community, other spaces, who made these children, these descendants, who are also their personal commodity? You know, the human race is not just skin deep. And to know the foods of those places, as well, there's a part of me that goes, OK, I guess I have to tell these stories. And there's another part of me that goes, I'm glad I come from the people that invented pasta, right? And if they're all my family, then despite the past, which I still have expect-- I wrestle with and I expect others to wrestle with and do justice and be just to each other, then I have to treat everybody I meet-- stranger, friend, and foe-- as if they could be my blood. And that, for me, is the ultimate meaning of "love thy neighbor as thyself." [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the things that I deal with in being so vulnerable is that you have to have pushback and feedback that doesn't always valorize what you do. And this is a very tough subject. So for example, people will respond in...

About the Instructor

Through years of unearthing his African American heritage, bestselling author of The Cooking Gene Michael W. Twitty discovered undeniable ties between his ancestors’ past and his own palate. Now he’s teaching how you can get a taste of your family history through food. Explore the migrations that informed the ingredients in your kitchen—then re-create the dishes that helped shape who you are.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Michael W. Twitty

James Beard Award–winning author of The Cooking Gene teaches how to trace your culinary roots through the food your ancestors ate.

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