The Millions

The Unforgotten: On Michael W. Twitty’s ‘The Cooking Gene’

When the first recipe appears on page 24 of The Cooking Gene, it arrives as a kind of unmerited gift, a gratuitous offering to us, the community of readers. It’s a simple recipe for “Kitchen Pepper,” but it is as if Michael W. Twitty is giving away something into which an entire history has been condensed. It immediately follows the question, “How exactly did I get here?” and so does not arrive simply as a try-this-at-home kind of recipe, but as an invitation. Twitty is inviting us not so much to theorize about cultural foodways and to sample the flavors of ancient cultures, as to do. This simple recipe for Kitchen Pepper comes with an implicit interrogative force: are you just going to sit there, an armchair culinary historian, or are you going to cook—and not just for yourself but for your neighbors? And while you do, ask yourself too: how exactly did you get here?

To publish a recipe can be—especially in the world of rock-star chefs, cooking-themed reality television, and the general atmosphere of cooking as a variety of warfare—an act of self-conscious display of culinary erudition or imagination. It can have the effect of dangling before the reader the lure of the possibility of participating, however briefly, in the ex nihilo genius of a famous chef who somehow thought of putting ingredients together in a way designed to wow and astonish our dinner guests.

There is another way in which a recipe can be written, however, and more importantly, received. It can be written as an invitation into a reality that you did not recognize was possible before, an invitation into a kind of fellowship or communion. A recipe can be the transmission of a tradition, and to cook from such a recipe is not to “try this at home” but to enact a performance of that tradition, and thereby to participate in it in a mysterious and unrepeatable way. This is the way that recipes operate in.

Vous lisez un aperçu, inscrivez-vous pour en lire plus.

Centres d'intérêt associés

Plus de The Millions

The Millions6 min de lecture
The Craft of Jennifer Clement’s ‘Gun Love’
I am always interested in how language can bring beauty to ugliness and despair. Language can enlighten the divine within the profane. The post The Craft of Jennifer Clement’s ‘Gun Love’ appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions6 min de lecture
Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Russell, Wang, Hanif, Greene, and More
The books we're looking forward to reading next, including stories of contemporary China, Karen Russell's latest, and a stunning memoir about loss and love. The post Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Russell, Wang, Hanif, Greene, and More appeared fi
The Millions6 min de lecture
The True Crime Story That (Might Have) Inspired Nabokov to Write ‘Lolita’
What if the young girl from Camden was the model for the nymphet from Ramsdale? Who was Sally Horner? Who is Dolores Haze? The post The True Crime Story That (Might Have) Inspired Nabokov to Write ‘Lolita’ appeared first on The Millions.