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Vegan's Book Redefines Soul Food

Vegan's Book Redefines Soul Food

Nancy Ancrum | The Miami Herald

For Bryant Terry, veganism is not about “delete meat, insert tofu.” It’s not about sneering at meat-eating friends or finger-wagging, carrot-crunching superiority. It’s not just for affluent white people; and it’s not about food with no flavor.

Rather, in his latest cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen, Terry seeks to reclaim two foodways that he says are misunderstood: veganism and soul food.

He starts by talking about the health benefits of his style of eating.

“Other issues might be of concern and importance to people already embracing this lifestyle,” says Terry, 35. “But there are so many stigmas and stereotypes about vegetarianism and veganism.” He wants to dispel negative perceptions.

He didn’t even want “vegan” in the title of his book, but his editor insisted. Terry, a Memphis native, says he wanted to call it “Eco Soul Kitchen.”

“Originally, my goal was to help people become more environmentally aware through food, through local farmers that would help them be more aware of the choices they make,” he said.

As a practitioner of veganism, Terry eats a plant-based diet, leaving out fish, meat and seafood, of course, but also animal-derived products that a vegetarian might eat – eggs, cheese, milk.

What’s left, Terry says, is a rich, flavorful and healthful take on soul food – a much-criticized tradition that he wants to reclaim.

Soul food “has been maligned in the media and by health officials. However, the emphasis should be on industrial food and how that has deteriorated the health of African Americans and other people,” Terry says.

’It’s important for me to illuminate how this cuisine is rooted in fresh fruits, tubers, leafy greens, along with the foods people think of when they hear ‘soul food.’ "

He doesn’t argue that many of the high-fat foods – ribs, ham – are not part of African-American cuisine. “But they are often celebration food.”