Michael Twitty has dedicated his life's work to the study of African slave foodways and how they spread from the Southeastern seaboard. That's where thousands of shackled, malnourished people emerged from hellish journeys to find odd comfort in growing conditions reasonably similar to their homelands.
It was on these plantations and farms that displaced Africans longing for a taste of home developed a sort of fusion fare by blending their native traditions with available resources. Those lucky enough to be assigned work in hot kitchens understood that their job was to cover huge tables with elegantly presented foods and stay out of sight while their white mistresses became renowned hostesses. They were powerless when keepers claimed the recipes as their own, sometimes publishing popular cookbooks that now serve as roadmaps to culinary historians.
Twitty's efforts to reveal these much-discounted labors and to genetically connect contemporary citizens with their slave roots has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello, among others. On Sept. 7, during a fundraising event he will lead at Historic Stagville in Durham, he intends to disclose findings of his own genetic testing.
Previous research confirmed Twitty's connection to Halifax County fields that once were the property of his great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Henry Bellamy. This in turn confirmed at least two direct links back to Africa.
Twitty was intentional about coming to Stagville, which comprises the remnants of one of the largest plantations of the pre-Civil War South, to learn more about his own story. In 1860, about 900 slaves worked its almost 30,000 acres of land.
"On the eve of the Civil War, a third of the population of North Carolina was enslaved. That's a critical fact," he says. "I am a descendant of enslaved North Carolina people and plantersboth sides of the fence. I take it with me everywhere I go."
Pub crawls, food tours, a rolling party, a night of gallivanting: Downtown restaurateurs and entrepreneurs Seth Gross and Martha Philpott King are launching Biker Bar NC, a 14-seat human-powered bicycle with riders facing one another around a center bar area while a bike captain steers, brakes and provides a guided tour along your route. The bar route begins and ends at Bull City Burger and Brewery, 107 E. Parrish St.
You supply the beer or wine (none of the hard stuff, though) and the Biker Bar provides the driver. Prices and policies are on the bar's FAQ page.
Raleigh has a similar venture, the Trolley Pub Raleigh, which departs from the Warehouse District on West Street.
The inaugural ride is Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11:15 a.m. with celebrity guest riders Mayor Bill Bell and Frank Stasio, host of WUNC's "The State of Things."
The remaining 12 seats are being auctioned off with all of the proceeds going to the John Avery Boys and Girls Club of Durham. Bid now at www.biddingforgood.com/bikerbarnc.
This is the latest venture from the BCBB team; this fall, they plan to open Pompieri Pizza around the corner at City Hall Plaza.