7 mouthwatering dishes that show the African origins of Southern soul food.

Michael Twitty is a southerner, a Jew, a cook, a gay black man, a TED fellow, a historian, and an all around cool dude.

I first discovered him in a Washington Post article about his work uncovering and illuminating the African-American origins of southern cooking.


OOooh!

He’s a man who spends his time trying to deeply understand, uncover, and then share the roots of the food he loves. And he goes to great lengths to do it — he once spent 16 hours picking cotton to get the experience of his ancestors.

Another time, he met with the white descendants of the family that once OWNED his ancestors to compare recipes of their families!

He writes about these experiences and more on his hugely popular blog, Afroculinaria.

Through food, Twitty sees a way to heal old American wounds.

Twitty is on a mission to bring attention and appreciation to the true roots of our favorite Southern dishes.

He calls it "culinary justice."

As he wrote in an open letter to Paula Deen (that later went viral):

"In the world of Southern food, we are lacking a diversity of voices and that does not just mean Black people — or Black perspectives! We are surrounded by culinary injustice where some Southerners take credit for things that enslaved Africans and their descendants played key roles in innovating. Barbecue, in my lifetime, may go the way of the Blues and the banjo... a relic of our culture that whisps away. "

As a semi-Southern white person, I've often looked at Southern food, culture, history and been like, "There's a lot more here that I don't know about."

Well, turns out there is!

Here are some of Twitty's favorite authentic dishes, all of which went on to have a huge influence on Southern soul food.

I dug through Twitty's Twitter account to find these gems. And now I am hungry. Join me.

1. Fried chicken and sweet potatoes

A true classic!

Many people see these dishes as classic Southern fare, but there's a LOT more to Southern culinary traditions, as you'll see below.

Here's a nod to the so-called classic, with a very authentic twist — prepared over open coals! #impressive.

2. Kush, aka the original cornbread stuffing

Twitty's recipe was featured in Vice magazine's Munchies:

“Kush was a cornbread scramble made from the basic elements of the antebellum ration system, which spread from the enslaved person’s quarters outward to the Big House and the kitchens of whites high and low.”

The kush above is prepared with quail. You can find the recipe for Twitty's kush here.

3. West African stew

Any Southern person has a special relationship with okra. Trust me.

Twitty (and this stew below) is no different. He prepares an authentic West African stew featuring the mythical okra, a tropical plant native to Africa.

Here's the recipe (with links to the tweets!):

  1. Heat the palm oil.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes.
  3. Add the onions and okra and fry over high heat.
  4. Add soaked salt fish and a few chopped tomatoes, maybe garlic.
  5. Add fresh greens and stir gently; salt to taste.
  6. Add red pepper and stew until vegetables are done and salt fish is flaked and hot.
  7. Watch out for bones. Eat stew with your favorite starch.

And if you're wondering what that fluffy mashed-potato-like substance is, it's...

4. Fufu

Twitty recently collaborated with Colonial Williamsburg to illuminate the culinary traditions of slaves during that time period. The dishes are nothing if not period appropriate at Colonial Williamsburg, and this highlight is just one of many that serves to bring the stories of American slaves into the light.

Fufu "is to Western and Central Africa cooking what mashed potatoes are to traditional European-American cooking."

Oh, and high-five for Colonial Williamsburg not shying away from acknowledging America's legacy of slavery!

5. Akara

Akara are black-eyed pea fritters!

Black-eyed peas, or Vigna unguiculata, are actually native to Asia and the Mediterranean, and they were first domesticated in West Africa.

6. Gullah Geechee winter greens and rice

As Twitty stated in a cooking video with ChefsFeed, "Gullah and Geechee were colloquial names for the Africans that were brought to the [American Southern coastal] area to grow rice"

The dish is essentially collard greens simmered in a homemade ginger-peanut butter-coconut milk. This recipe is vegan and gluten free, just FYI.

Feast your eyes.

I want to go there. You can learn more about the recipe by watching the video here. Image via ChefsFeed/YouTube.

And as for the plain and simple rice? Let's remember its origins.


7. Guinea yam fried in palm oil


The Igbo people are an ethnic group of Africans that still exist today. During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, though, many Igbo people were brought to the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland colonies, making that particular ethnic group the largest in the region.

So naturally it follows that these folks would've had a huge influence on the way food was prepared — bringing their own traditions and methods with them. Including dishes like this one.

To find the origins of these dishes, Michael Twitty sought out recipes not just from his family, but from the descendants of the family that once enslaved his ancestors.

And yes, he's related by blood to some of those descendants of slave owners, too. It's a whole mix of history and food, shame and love.

It's crazy to think about ... but so is America.

It's about time we recognized that the folks who profit off Southern food — like Paula Deen and Colonel Sanders — aren't necessarily the only ones who made it what it is today.

Michael Twitty's job isn't just to whip up fantastic looking dishes. It's to make sure everyone knows that Southern food has deeper roots in black American culture than we ever realized.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.