Food, Community & Government

Food Storytelling

Michael W. Twitty

Lesson time 11:50 min

Michael divulges his step-by-step process on food writing, going beyond the palate and into the deep meaning and history behind a dish or ingredient.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Start at Your Table • Connect the Narratives • Storytelling With Ingredients


[MUSIC PLAYING] SUBJECT: You may ask well what is food writing? How do we define that? Food writing for me is basically non-fiction narratives and memoirs. It's cookbooks. It's culinary history which is a major part of my career food writing can be writing about social issues in food-- so for example, cultural appropriation or access to food, food justice, culinary justice. It can also be talking about food and gender, which is a subject that is sorely needed to be discussed further. Food writing is anything you really want it to be as long as food is somewhere in the nexus of what you're talking about. Food writing is this-- one of many ways to talk about the world. Food democratizes. So it makes it possible for you, if you want to be a food writer, to really talk about it. But you have to talk about it in a responsible way. You have to be accurate. You have to be clear. You have to look at food and talk about it as if the person was right there. But you know they're not. So your words have to do the work of sitting at the kitchen table with them the way you are with me right now. So that's what food writing is. Food writing is engaging with people through words about food in a way that moves them to think about this thing that is in their life every day, several times a day and constantly around them that forces them to think about who they are on every single level. OK. So how do you go about some kind of massive project like this? So some of you may just sit here and go, I don't even know my great grandparents' names. Or I know roughly where they came from. Let's say someone was Croatian, but never had been to Croatia. They knew a little bit about the food or whatever. And they knew, maybe, someone who came over on the boat. But nothing about the family in Croatia. So it's incumbent upon you to learn everything you can about Croatia and where Croatian Americans went and what kind of jobs they had and where they lived and the foods that survived. People don't let go of certain things. Food is a huge and important element. [MUSIC PLAYING] So you start with whatever was at your table. For some people, their ethnic heritage consists of five to 10 dishes. And that's about it. Usually, these are very comforting dishes, very rich dishes, dishes you would have on special occasions-- not necessarily the everyday food. Then sometimes the everyday food, which is really the soul food of a people, survives. So you start there. You start researching those dishes. And you ask the question, why did my family-- why did my group make those things? Here's an assignment for you. Sketch your life out in meals. It doesn't have to be every single year. That would be nice if you could do that. For some of you, that may be a bit of a test, not just in terms of memory, but in terms of giving away all your tea. So what I want you to do is say, for example, you know, this year was such and such I remember. And...

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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