On March 1, Michael Twitty, chef and author of “The Cooking Gene,” was the guest speaker for the 10th annual Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice lecture. Twitty works in social justice, primarily by preparing African food and assisting other Black people in tracing their lineages.
In the process of getting his book published, he was asked to cut his content about being Jewish — but Twitty values his faith and time teaching Hebrew to middle schoolers as some of his most formative experiences with social justice. In his book, he recounts a story of a young Japanese and Jewish student who he encouraged to learn about Jewish culture in Japan. He was visibly moved when he recalled her saying, “I finally feel whole. I feel like somebody saw me. I can talk about every part of me without feeling like I’m alien, like I’m different, without feeling like I’m ashamed of something.”
This sentiment is very much a part of our community here at USF; M.J. Abrams, a sophomore media studies major, said, “Being a trans man and passing… feels like I am finally accepted, but [I] somehow never belong. I often choose to keep that part of my identity to myself. While that may make it easier for me (and is no one else’s business), it’s more important to be outward with my identity, to be a role model for someone who has not had the acceptance I have.”
Twitty’s next steps for his writing will be focused on queer food culture and how that relates to his experiences.