Cooking Soul Food, Holding The Grease Vegan soul food may sound like a contradiction in terms. But chef Bryant Terry says the vegan lifestyle and loving soul food aren't mutually exclusive. He's written a cookbook to help people navigate this cultural, culinary landscape.
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Cooking Soul Food, Holding The Grease

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Cooking Soul Food, Holding The Grease

Cooking Soul Food, Holding The Grease

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TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox, and this is News and Notes. Maybe you're looking to improve your overall health and appearance, maybe trying to add a few years to your life and lower your chances of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. If so, this next segment might be just what the doctor ordered for you. It's about what we eat and how we cook. Bryant Terry is the author of "Vegan Soul Kitchen." No, wait, I know that sounds strange, mixing metaphors almost, but Terry says the vegan lifestyle and loving soul food are not mutually exclusive. And he's written a cookbook to help folks navigate this cultural culinary landscape. He joins me now. Bryant, welcome to News and Notes.

Mr. BRYANT TERRY (Author, "Vegan Soul Kitchen"): Thank you Tony.

COX: You know, I'm going to be honest with you. It sounds like a contradiction of terms, vegan and soul food. So let's start with some definitions, OK? Vegan, that's what exactly?

Mr. TERRY: Veganism is the avoidance of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products sometimes honey, you know, that's pretty much the dietary kind of like under currents of the veganism but then there are also, you know, ethics to the philosophy people have, you know, clear ethics about animal rights, environmentalism, so there are number of things that moved people towards veganism.

COX: All right, I'm going to ask you this and I mean it in all sincerity. When you say soul food, what exactly do you mean?

Mr. TERRY: Well, I think what I mean when I say soul food is probably different than what most people imagine when they think about African-American cuisine or soul food, as it's popularly termed. And you know, often people imagine it is the deep-fried foods and fatty products and sweet desserts, and while that's one part of the cuisine it's much more rich, complex and diverse, and that's one of my main projects of this new book, is really helping people to broaden their understanding of what African-American cuisine is.

COX: Now you say in the introduction to the book that it could just as easily have been titled "Citrus Collards with Raisins, Recipes: an Autobiography." What did you mean?

Mr. TERRY: Well, Edna Lewis who is - the late Edna Lewis was the chef from Virginia. She moved to New York City where she opened a restaurant and really popularized Southern cooking in the northeast. And she's one of my heroines. Her second book "The Taste of Country Cooking" reads more like a memoir that is interspersed with recipes, and so she's a big inspiration. So, my work largely draws from history and memory and, you know, I talk about my family's history and my own culinary journey. And I include that in my recipes, you know, following or including a head note before the recipes that talks about the historical, autobiographical, political significance of each dish that I composed.

COX: Now, we're going to talk about some of those recipes in a minute, but before we do that, I want to ask you this, many people, Bryant, no matter what ethnic group they belong to often do not change their diets until their doctors forced them to. But is there a way to ease into a more healthy diet that doesn't send shockwaves to your taste buds?

Mr. TERRY: Yeah, I think, you know, one thing that I always remind people of this is that over the past three to four decades most people have suffered from the result of an industrialized food system, you know? The industrialization mechanization of food, the globalization of agriculture, has pretty much affected ethnic cuisines across the board. And I think, one thing that we have to do is reclaim the origins of the food. You know, and that's why I'm doing a "Vegan Soul Kitchen" is saying that, look, I want to present a book that provides a much needed intervention in a cookbook genre that's oversaturated with books that have animal products. And the focus on this book is fresh, seasonal, sustainable produce - fruits, vegetables. You know, good food that I think so many of us don't have on a diet because we're eating processed, packaged, industrial foods. I really want to place a focus back on that and I think, you know, we can all think about ways that we can bring the focus back on those kind of like good food origins in all of our ethnic cuisines.

COX: All right, let's talk about some other the things that are mentioned in here. You have a page where you call the "Top Six Good Eats: You Gotta Rewind Me." Citrus collards with raisins redux, Agave-sweetened orange-orange pekoe tea, Sweet sweetback's salad with roasted beet vinaigrette, Uncle Don's Double Mustard Greens and Roasted Yam Soup. Here's another one Cajun Creole Spice Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits. And here's the other one, Open-faced Barbecued Tempeh Sandwich with Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw. Let's talk about that last one because when you say barbecue you know, the taste buds automatically go to ribs or chicken or steak. This isn't going to taste like that, is it?

Mr. TERRY: I hope that it would satisfy anyone who likes the flavor of deep-rich tomato-based barbecue sauce. I grew up in Memphis and you know, we like the slather, that thick red tomato barbecue sauce on, whatever - ribs, chicken, and I decided that for people who might want to avoid animal products or try something different, I want to use tempeh, which is a dense, delicious substitute that a lot of vegetarians and vegans use for their protein. And so, my parents you know, they're some of the harshest critics of any food, and it got passed them, they loved it, so I think pretty much, it could win the approval of anyone.

COX: Let me ask you this. Is it an attempt to this - some of these kinds of recipes - Is it in attempt to mimic the taste of meat or is it an attempt to get people just away from the thought and taste of meat and dairy entirely?

Mr. TERRY: My goal is not to mimic the taste of meat. I do use some traditional kind of protein supplements that vegetarians and vegan use, but mostly it's about the fresh produce. Like you said, the citrus collards with raisins, I took this staple of African-American cuisine that's traditionally eaten as a savory dish and I wanted to reinvent it, rework it, remix it, giving it a kind of a sweet modern twist. So, you know - and for me, the - because when people here they're perplexed - citrus collards with raisins? - but the Thompson raisins you know, the citrus, the fresh orange juice, they - in addition, they give it a, you know, a kind of a sweet-leaning variation of the traditionally eaten savory dish. They serve as a metaphor for the way that I envision African-American cuisine - more creative, cutting-edge and refreshing as we enter the 21st Century.

COX: Bryant Terry, thank you very much for coming on.

Mr. TERRY: Thank you, Tony.

COX: That was Bryant Terry author of the book "Vegan Soul Kitchen." He was at the studios of the University of California Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

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