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How one man’s DNA results influenced his work as a culinary historian and a food writer.

What do food and family heritage have in common? Well, for Michael Twitty, a lot.

How one man’s DNA results influenced his work as a culinary historian and a food writer.
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AncestryDNA

What did you have for dinner last night?

Do you think your great-grandmother — or great-great-grandmother — ate the same thing for dinner? Chances are, you probably haven't given much thought to why your meal is what it is — or whether your great-grandparents ever ate the same thing.

All images via Michael Twitty, used with permission.


But ever since he was a child, culinary historian Michael Twitty has thought about these kinds of questions. So when Twitty became curious about his own ancestral roots, food was always going to be a part of his research journey.

When he combined these two passions — culinary history and genealogy — it led him on an incredible trip exploring the food and history of the old South, one that would change how he saw his family's role in history and culture forever.

Twitty decided to embark on a journey to learn the truth about his heritage by taking an AncestryDNA test.

"For African-Americans, the desire to know what makes up your conglomerate blackness is deep," Twitty says."It's in every one of us, and we take that journey very seriously. We want to know who we are and where we come from ... because of slavery."

Not only did he want to know where his family came from but also whether some of the stories passed down in his family were true — including the stories about his white ancestors, the people who had once held his family in bondage.

"We had an incredible oral history that said a lot of things about who we were," he says, "and quite frankly, we couldn't always prove those things."

For example, he had been told that his ancestor was a captain, and his family believed they knew his name and the story of how his great-great-great-grandmother was born, but there was no way to prove it, no birth certificate to name him as the father, because she was born a slave.

Twitty not only wanted answers, he wanted to understand what it was like to live his ancestors' life. So, he embarked on a journey from Maryland to Texas and back again.

During that time, he immersed himself in old records, bills of sale, and other historical documents on Ancestry.com.

He also visited restored plantations, farms, and battlefields.

He met with a 101-year-old man who had lived through the Jim Crow years, he spoke with Civil War re-enactors, and he spent a lot of time eating and cooking alongside black, white, Native American, Latino, and Asian chefs to understand their role in the shaping of southern history and culture.

To better understand his ancestor’s experience, he picked cotton for 16 hours, primed tobacco, plucked Carolina rice, cut sugar cane, and sucked on red clay.

He also took an AncestryDNA test to get to his genetic roots.

The results revealed that his origins were 69% African and 28% European. His ancestors had come from such places as Ghana, Senegal, Congo, and Nigeria while his European ancestors were largely from Scandinavia and the Iberian peninsula.

Michael Twitty's AncestryDNA results.

He encouraged others in his family to take the tests too — including his grandfather, an uncle, and his cousins — and because his AncestryDNA results allowed him to compare his DNA against a large population of others who had also taken the test, he was able to slowly piece together a much clearer picture of who his family was, where they came from, and how they moved around the United States.  

In fact, with the help of his AncestryDNA results and records from Ancestry.com, he was able to identify and name at least a dozen new ancestors, black and white, going back two centuries — helping him prove that a lot of those old family stories were, in fact, true.

"When you can actually take your genealogy — your genetic genealogy — and see that yes, indeed, you are a part of these historical practices, migrations, journeys. When history is a narrative … all of the sudden, you're real," Twitty says. "You're real in a way that a book can't tell you that you're real."

This trip also showed him how much his family's story overlapped with the history of today's "southern cuisine."

The forced migration of domestic slaves transformed food in the region because cooks brought their tastes for certain food with them. And his family was a part of that story.

For example, he says, "soul food was a cuisine, a memory cuisine brought by people who were migrating to other parts of the country from the South, but it was based on that survival cuisine that we made in the old South that kept us going for generations."

Twitty's quest to learn more about himself and his roots had a dramatic effect on his work as a culinary historian and food writer.

It changed how he saw the role of food both in his family and in the old South as a whole — and it changed how he felt about history. Knowing who his ancestors were, seeing the records of their lives, learning where they were from, and discovering the role that they played in the history of food and the South brought that history alive for him in a way nothing else could.

This led him to write a book called "The Cooking Gene," which will be available this August.

"I wanted to take our entire country on a journey, and I wanted to use that information from the ancestry test to backup my claims," Twitty says.

"This is where soul food comes from in Africa — look at my genes. My genes show that yes, it did come from Nigeria and Senegal and Congo and Ghana and other places. That story is in our blood — it's in our bones."

Twitty believes others might find themselves creatively inspired by their results too. "Your AncestryDNA results can be a new way into whatever your creative passion [is]," he says."A memoir or cookbook is just one outlet, it could be a quilt, a garden, a social media group, a novel, you might travel ... your results are an infinite invitation."

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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