Food historian and ‘Koshersoul’ author Michael Twitty coming to JCCSF J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on August 4, 2022

The cover of Michael W. Twittys new book shows the dapper culinary historian and chef sitting at a table with several multicolored challahs in front of him. There is a rainbow Pride one, a blue-and-white Israeli flag one and a red-black-and-green Pan-African flag one. The largest loaf includes all of the colors of the other three.

The challot on the front are done purposely to represent all parts of me, Twitty told J. in an interview. I wanted people to understand that this is how all of us are. Were all a braid.

He added, Im kind of blatant about the idea that being American is by default being intersectional.

Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew is the second part of a trilogy of autobiographical books by Twitty, who identifies as Afro-ashke-phardi and gay. The first installment, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, won the 2018 book of the year award from the James Beard Foundation.

The new book goes on sale later this month, and on Monday, Aug. 15, Twitty, 45, will be in the Bay Area for a book talk and signing at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Koshersoul a term that Twitty uses to mean the nexus of the essence of Blackness and Jewishness is part memoir, part history of Black Jewish customs and foodways, and part cookbook. There are vignettes from his life, including when he attended synagogue for the first time in Maryland, his first trip to Israel on Birthright, and his experiences as a Hebrew school teacher. He also writes about the alienation he has felt in Jewish spaces. For example, he notes that he carries his conversion certificate which he refers to as his freedom papers to prove his Jewishness whenever it is called into question.

When someone claims they cant see my Jewish soul, I can throw the papers in their face and tell them to get their soul checked, he writes.

The book also contains interviews with other prominent Black Jews, including Tema Smith and Rabbi Shais Rishon aka MaNishtana, as well as dozens of original or adapted recipes organized by Jewish holidays. There are recipes for koshersoul collards, yam kugel, black-eyed pea hummus and brisket prepared with the berbere spice used in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.

It is in many ways a love letter to Jewish peoplehood, Twitty said of the book. But its also a reminder to [non-Jewish] Black folks that we [Jews] are Black, too.

Twittys star has been rising in recent years. He has appeared on episodes of Padma Lakshmis Hulu series Taste the Nation and Michelle Obamas Waffles & Mochi, a cooking show for kids. Earlier this year, he launched a MasterClass in which he teaches online lessons on researching ones culinary roots. He also sells his own Cooking Gene collection of spices through Spice Tribe.

Twitty said he feels a strong sense of responsibility to use his growing platform he has more than 156,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter to celebrate what it means to be Black and Jewish and to speak out against ignorance and bigotry. Gratefully, theres many others of us out there who also shoulder this burden, he said.

I want people to know that being Black and being Jewish is not an anomaly or a rare thing, he writes in Koshersoul. I want people to know how these two identities have such a rich history that the lessons weve learned across time and space complement each other and have so much to teach us about community, self-determination, diaspora, nomadism, and collective liberation.

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Food historian and 'Koshersoul' author Michael Twitty coming to JCCSF J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

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