Drew University Mixes it Up with Michael Twitty

The renowned culinary historian and food writer explores food and history with the Drew community


Twitty interacting with students during the cooking workshop

February 2023 – Drew University welcomed Michael W. Twitty, renowned culinary historian, public scholar, and author of Koshersoul and The Cooking Gene.

As a Black, Jewish, and queer man, Twitty describes his existence as “complicated.” He is passionate about the amplification for Jews of color and strives to educate by providing a space to talk about food, culture, and culinary history. “It’s helping people reconnect to food memories that make them feel whole and part of something bigger,” said Twitty.

“The food part fits the diagram,” he said. “Food is a love language, a form of resistance, maintaining memories of the bad and good for marginalized people. We have a history, we are global people, My way of resistance is using food to tell our stories. As long as we are united as a family, we are unstoppable.”

“Some of the recipes I have in Koshersoul are derivative,” said Twitty of his bestselling book. “They are the product of learning about people who were in Jewish communities that were side by side with African culture identities.”

Twitty’s well-attended appearance fittingly coinciding with Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrating family and community, was made possible by Drew’s Jewish Studies Program, the Pan-African Studies Program, the Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study, Drew Theological School, the Center for Religion, Culture and Conflict, the Russell Berrie Foundation, and the Pincus Family Foundation. 


An impromptu class takeover in the 1867 Lounge

“Michael Twitty’s presence on campus marks a fresh, cutting-edge reboot for the Jewish Studies Program at Drew,” said Eli Rosenblatt, Wallerstein Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies. “Twitty’s electrifying, global interpretation of Jewish culture and wisdom inspires the community, curriculum, and programming we will build in the future.”

Through a guided, open-conversation cooking workshop, Twitty and Drew undergrad and graduate students prepared traditional Jewish foods with African and Middle Eastern influences, including compote, hummus, and couscous salad. “Jewish food is diverse, reflecting the diversity of the Jewish people,” said Twitty.

“I don’t care if the food is pretty, I want to create community,” he said. “A community that can be brought together over food and openness.”


Drew's Eli Rosenblatt (left) and Tami Navarro (right) moderate the lecture

Twitty also delivered the The Marjorie M. and Irwin Nat Pincus Fund Lecture to a hybrid audience, which was moderated by Rosenblatt and Tami Navarro, assistant professor and chair of the Pan-African Studies program.

During the lecture, Twitty shared his journey toward self-awareness and subsequently public awareness and acceptance—from childhood memories, world travels, teaching Hebrew school, personal interactions, and how food is woven throughout.

“Through food, we break borders, boundaries, and bubbles and we give ourselves a chance to tell our authentic stories,” said Twitty. “Food is a love language, a form of resistance, maintaining memories of the bad and good for marginalized people.”

Twitty read a passage from Koshersoul, one that provoked emotion. “It’s good when you can cry at your own words,” he said.


Students prepare traditional Jewish foods with African and Middle Eastern influences

Much of Twitty’s work focuses on the realities of the past and how they inform the present. Rosenblatt asked Twitty if he has a vision of the future as it relates to the Jewish and Black communities.

“I didn’t start the fires, and I’m certainly not going to end them,” responded Twitty. “I think the best way to prepare for the future is to live it now.”

Navarro asked Twitty the costs and benefits of presenting himself fully in the public space.

“It’s my job to be vulnerable,” he responded. “You never know who’s going to need your story and lived experience. The amplification of voices like mine takes a great deal of courage.”

The evening concluded with a Q&A session with the live audience.

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