Chatting with the esteemed Michael Twitty
“America without its Jewish culture, without its Black culture, without its gay culture, isn’t really America anymore. Especially from a culinary standpoint.”
Today’s guest on Food with Mark Bittman is the writer Michael Twitty, who I met a few years ago at a dinner cooked by Omar Tate, our mutual friend. We had a great time together, and I’ve admired Michael ever since — mostly via Twitter, where he posts smart musings that are, shockingly, considering the platform, actually in line with who he is as a real-life person.
So when I found out that Michael was publishing Koshersoul, which is, as he calls it, a food memoir with recipes, having him on to talk about it was an obvious and lovely way to reconnect.
A few things about Michael: His previous book, The Cooking Gene, won a James Beard Award. He’s a Black Jew; he converted to Judaism when he was 25 and has spent a lot of time explaining to people that this is not as strange as they think. He’s got some Irish descent; his Irish ancestors were enslavers, which Michael wrote about in the Guardian. With his efforts to change the food and culinary injustices that have plagued African Americans for hundreds of years, plus his work in helping the public understand how African American food shaped American cuisine, he’s become a real role model for many people. Michael is also a beautiful soul, and a beautiful writer. Kate and I both read some of the passages in Koshersoul more than once.
These are just a few of the things that make Michael interesting, as you’ll see from our conversation. Plus, please enjoy Michael’s Black Eyed Pea Hummus recipe, from Koshersoul, below.
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Thank you, as always. — Mark
Black-Eyed Pea Hummus
Serves 4 to 6
Black-eyed peas are a strong link between the two Diaspora cuisines, probably meeting in the Nile River Valley and the Fertile Crescent. Originally from ancient West Africa, black-eyed peas are a significant part of the cuisine of the Levant to this day, moving with African people throughout the region. Hummus, emblematic and beloved by many cultures in the Levant—is a dish that relies on the staple legume of the Arab farmer and ancient biblical standby, the chickpea. Here the black-eyed pea, loaded with mystical symbolism and its own honored place in West and Central Africa, replaces the chickpea. — Michael Twitty
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup tahini
1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown or turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons minced parsley, for garnish
1. Throw everything but the parsley into a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more spice, hot sauce, or whatever you think it needs. To serve, sprinkle parsley and drizzle olive oil on the top.