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Veganism and soul food come together in new cookbook


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Posted 04 May 2009 - 04:36 PM

Veganism and soul food come together in new cookbook

By Nancy Ancrum

McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI — 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."

He says that the book goes beyond soul cuisine. "It's a confluence of techniques and distinctive dishes. That's what I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to avoid writing a vegan cookbook that merely reinterprets ethnic cuisine, replicating a dish by removing the animal product and replacing it with tofu."

Indeed, Terry's recipes stand on their own. They're not about what's missing. They are complete, packed with flavor, color and texture: pan-fried grit cakes are served with caramelized spring onions; roasted sweet potato puree gets its creamy texture from coconut milk.

Terry encourages moving away from processed, refined and animal-derived foods: Almond and rice milk replace cow's; agave nectar subs for white sugar; quinoa flour for all-purpose white. He guides cooks through making garlic broth and stock from corn cobs. Herbs and spices are front and center. Yes, tofu, seitan and tempeh make an appearance, but they don't rule the day.

"I wanted this book to be about real food, slow food. I wanted to go back to African and Caribbean cuisine, and that of Native Americans and europeans. I wanted to remix, rework and rewind."

CARAMELIZED RED ONION RELISH

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced red onions

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons agave nectar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground white pepper

1. Heat oil over low heat, add the onions and salt. Saute, stirring often, until the onions are well caramelized, about 30 minutes.

2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, plus 2 tablespoons water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer relish to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool. Makes about 2 cups.

From "Vegan Soul Kitchen," by Bryant Terry (De Capo Press, $18.95).

Per tablespoon: 21 calories (70 percent from fat), 1.7 g fat (0.2 g saturated, 1.2 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 0.1 g protein, 1.5 g carbohydrates, 0.2 g fiber, 15.5 mg sodium.

http://seattletimes....gancokbook.html




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