Researching, celebrating and supporting African American food culture is Michael Twitty’s way to honor and heal those who came before.
To chef and blogger Michael Twitty, a plate of stewed okra is much more than a popular soul-food dish — it’s a form of African American history. For many years, people in New Orleans referred to okra as salade du fevi, and it was thought thatfevi was a corruption of French for fava beans. “I was like, I know this ain’t right,” says Twitty. For starters, fava beans and okra are different vegetables. “I researched it, and fevi is the word for okra in Fon, the main language of Dahomey,” an ancient African kingdom that is now part of Benin. The first shipment of Africans brought to New Orleans came directly from the Dahomey slave port of Ouidah, from which a million Africans were dispatched to the New World between the 17th and 19th centuries. In one dish, he says, “you can see a story of the movement of people and culture from one place to the next.”
Twitty, a TED Fellow, is an active practitioner of the traditions of antebellum, or pre-Civil War, cooking. He is striving to reclaim and revive this lost heritage withThe Cooking Gene, a project that connects African Americans with their ancestral food ways in order to remember the importance of the lives of enslaved people. It also represents his attempt at culinary justice.
This is an excerpt of an article originally published on 30 March 2017. To read the full article, visit the TED Ideas blog >>>