‘Afroculinaria’ chef coming to cook at Durham’s Stagville

jwise@newsobserver.comAugust 31, 2013 

Michael Twitty


  • If You Go

    The Historic Stagville State Historic Site holds a Harvest Festival, featuring African American food historian Michael Twitty, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

    Admission is free.

    Stagville is at 5828 Old Oxford Highway in northeast Durham County.

    Twitty gives a talk on Cooking With Kids at 11 a.m. and on The Cooking Gene at 1 p.m. The festival also features children’s games, wagon rides and tours of the site. Historic Stagville is a portion of the antebellum Bennehan-Cameron plantation, where 900 enslaved blacks worked on 30,000 acres. The historic site includes an 18th-century plantation home and the 1850 Horton Grove slave quarters.

    Information: stagville.org

Michael Twitty is doing some cooking Saturday, and he wants everybody to come. He’s even posted an open invitation on his blog “Afroculinaria.” ( bit.ly/15o6F6j)

Twitty is an authority on African American cuisine, and Saturday he is headlining a Harvest Festival at Historic Stagville State Historic Site in northeast Durham County. He and fellow chef Clarissa Lynch are going to prepare a meal as it would have been done by “enslaved North Carolinians and Free Blacks in antebellum times.”

His appearance is a “big thing” for Stagville, said Ernest Dollar, president of the Historic Stagville Foundation board. It’s part of the board’s plan to “bring the spotlight” on the site’s Horton Grove slave quarter and the people who lived there, and their descendants.

The meal Twitty and Lynch are cooking is for a festive benefit dinner Saturday night that is already sold out, Dollar said; but they’ll be working on it all day, and talking to visitors about what they’re doing and why and what sort of food nourished the 900 slaves who lived at Stagville.

Here’s how he describes it, in part:

“We will be making a pit covered with saplings and will barbecue all day over oak, hickory and fruit woods ... and we will turn fresh produce and fruit into cast-iron cooked delicacies. ... Nearly all the food will be cooked according to 19th-century methods and the recipes will reflect the celebratory foods as eaten by enslaved North Carolinians and Free Blacks in antebellum times ... from little green and white cymling squashes to rich red and pink heirloom tomatoes to golden sweet potatoes and gleaming collard greens.”

Twitty has led classes, given lectures and demonstrated and African American cooking and the African cooking it developed from since 2006, when he published “Fighting Old Nep: The Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders 1634-1864.”

He has given talks and demonstrations at Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian, Columbia and Oxford universities, the N.C. Museum of History and Somerset Place Historic Site in Washington County, N.C. Last week, Dollar said, he was doing demonstrations in Europe.

Besides Afroculinaria, he writes a blog called “The Cooking Gene,” dealing with his 2012 Southern Discomfort Tour – a trip through the Southeast from Maryland to Louisiana, visiting places where his enslaved ancestors lived and places of significance in the development of Southern cooking.

He is giving a talk on the tour Saturday at 1 p.m., and one on Cooking With Kids at 11 a.m. Stagville board member Jerome Bias, a historical interpreter at Old Salem, knows Twitty and made the invitation for him to come to the Harvest Festival.

Twitty’s made an invitation to the blog-viewing public at large – and even to Paula Deen.

After a scandal erupted over the Georgia celebrity chef’s use of a racial epithet, Twitty published an Open Letter to Deen on The Huffington Post ( huff.to/14sIyEE). It dealt largely with the little-acknowledged black role in creating Southern cuisine, and with reconciliation, and closed with the invitation for Deen to come cook with him at Stagville.

Dollar said he isn’t expecting that Deen will show up.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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