Renowned author, educator and historian Michael Twitty hosted a lecture centered on his latest publication “Koshersoul,” a testament to his expert combination of cuisine and ancestry, in Crawford Hall Tuesday night. Although at first glance the subject matter of the book might seem confined to recipes, “Koshersoul” is a gumbo of genres, as exemplified by Twitty’s self-identification as a “…storyteller, teacher, researcher. Last, I’m a chef.”
After an introduction from Dr. Eli Rosenblatt, Drew University and Drew Theological School’s Director of Jewish Studies, Twitty provided an overview of his academic and artistic mission: to not only reconnect with his own ancestry with food as a medium but to help others do the same. Rather than restricting his anthropological study to methods like DNA testing, which are often exclusionary, Twitty proposes a new path for storytelling.
Twitty’s background as a gay Jewish African-American man lends to an interesting mix of cultures, a trait of which he is immensely proud. When asked by a member of the lecture’s audience what his favorite Jewish holiday was, Twitty replied, “Pesach” (Passover) immediately. The main reason? Twitty has his own tradition of setting out multiple Seder plates—traditional, African, etc.—as a way of incorporating all aspects of his identity without giving one more credit over the other.
After the lecture, Twitty participated in a panel discussion led by Rosenblatt and Dr. Tami Navarro, chair of Drew University’s Pan-African Studies Department. During this discussion, Twitty reiterated the importance of his mission to assist other multicultural Americans in discovering their identities and history through culinary exploration. “I don’t want to be the last one,” said Twitty. “I want other people to tell their stories.”
This event, co-organized by the Drew Theological School, Drew University’s Pan-African Studies Department and Drew University Hillel, also featured an early afternoon cooking demonstration led by Twitty.
Annabelle is a first-year currently exploring her major.