Elevate Difference

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine

Whether you're rebuilding yourself or just doing daily maintenance, healthy food is a necessity for bringing the body back and keeping it going. Now that I can't go to Whole Foods, it's time to get creative with the selection from produce stands and farmer's markets. Today I saw a man with a straw cowboy hat selling tomatoes, melons, and sunflowers out of a battered pick-up truck. Chilled soup, sorbet, and an arrangement for the table? As attracted as I am to the 'slow' and local foods movements, I am frequently concerned with their possible elitism. Therefore, I was delighted to hear Bryant Terry on the Tavis Smiley show detailing the history of African American cuisine incorporating vegetarianism: Seventh Day Adventists, Dick Gregory, Etta Lewis, and Elijah Muhammed. The only cuisine that doesn't tempt me is standard “'Merican”—canned green bean casserole, mashed potatoes from a box, egg salad, orange plastic-wrapped cheese, jello with tiny marshmallows in it, plates of unseasoned monochromatic beige, fry everything, the only vegetable is the cubed carrot-lima-bean-corn kernel mélange—so I always appreciate an introduction to other nutritious, delicious methods of preparation.

West Coast chef Bryant Terry presents traditional southern cooking without chicken or pork products, and without the soy dependence or preachy tone of many vegan cookbooks. An unrepentant omnivore, I already have a few vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, and Vegan Soul Kitchen definitely earns a place on the shelf. Recipes like the creamy celeriac sauce could conceivably accompany tuna as well as tempeh, and if you happen to slip a little turkey andouille in the Gumbo Z, well, I won't tell on you. Better yet: my life comes with a soundtrack—a highlight of one job was being told that I'd channeled Sally Bowles perfectly—so it makes perfect sense that each recipe comes with a song. If I met anyone who could cook like this, it might be time to reference Salt-N-Pepa's “What a Man.”

Written by: Erika Mikkalo, October 8th 2009

Yes more unrepentant omnivores are good!