Food, Community & Government

The Mosaic of Genealogy

Michael W. Twitty

Lesson time 10:32 min

Hear how Michael has come to terms with his own DNA story as he delves into the importance of speculative and genetic genealogy when researching his family history and ancestral “foodsteps.”

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Topics include: Speculative Genealogy • Genetic Genealogy • We Are All Connected


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I will never forget, y'all, going to a space-- I think it was in Capernaum in Israel-Palestine. And it was one of the villages in one of the towns that Jesus walked through. And there was a Roman household, right, with the mosaic, and these patrician Romans would have a mosaic on the floor that, counterintuitive to what we might think, was an artistic representation of them throwing all their scraps in the floor. You know, I'm so bling, and I'm so rich that I can afford to have lobster and murex shells and bones of animals and scraps of vegetables. And they would put it actually in the mosaic on the floor to show their status. I look at that, and I said, that's just like our history, right? As diaspora people, as oppressed and marginalized people, like I may not be able to tell you that these are all the different parts of the elephant in the mosaic, but there's a tusk, and there's a leg, and there's a that. So I know there was an elephant here. And in the same way, that's how I approach piecing together the genealogy and family history and oral history and oral tradition and our folklore, as well as the documents, what people wrote and they saw. But it's like a mosaic. You only get-- it's broken, or it's interrupted, destroyed. You know what the mosaic is depicting, what some of the parts are, but you don't always know what the full picture is. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you approach this through the lens of genealogy, and you want to include that in your food writing and your story making and just finding out more information about yourself and your family's culinary traditions, and some people really don't ask that many questions. They just accept it on surface value. So for example, if I knew nothing else, I would tell you, OK, I guess I'm Black American. My grandparents were from Alabama, South Carolina, and Virginia. That's all I know. You know, some were landowners. Some were sharecroppers. And then they went to work in the city. Then they went to the great-- went to the Great Migration to other parts of the country. And I guess that's it. They were Protestant Christian in the Black church. They said they were part native. They knew they were part white. And I guess they came from Africa. Some of them, I don't know when, blah, blah, blah. Now I know the answer to these questions. So I have a very different perspective. So I'm speculating on where they come from, whether or not their stories are true. That's speculative genealogy. I guess we are from-- you know, we live in Paramus, but we're actually from Sicily. OK, what does that actually mean? You know, when? Why? Who came over? You know, acknowledging, for example, that for Italian-Americans, a number of Italian immigrants actually came here, worked, and went back to Italy, another state. Why did they make that choice? Why do American Jews from Poland-- which wasn't just Poland, it was Galicia. It was Russian Polan...

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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