Just to be transparent here, I am not a vegan. This doesn’t stop me from exploring Bryant Terry’s latest book, Vegan Soul Kitchen. I like the earthy blend of soul food traditions that Terry creates so well for this book. The twist, of course, is that the collard green recipe doesn’t call for bacon — every recipe is vegan, healthy and layered with flavor.
What you won’t find in this book is a laundry list of the usual recipes. What you will find is recipes for many soul food standard ingredients that Terry has made his very own, giving each a unique spin and a soundtrack to set the mood. Both the music picks and the rhythm of the recipes vary in composition from pure, simple and soulful gospel to complex jazz arrangements a la Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. This is not your same old cookbook. And I like that. A lot.
Standouts on my list of first to try include, appropriately, the greens that in season right now: Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux, Sweet Sweetback’s Salad with Roasted Beat Vinaigrette, Wilted Swiss Chard and Spinach with Lemon-Tahini Dressing.
Come summer, we’ll definitely dig into Red Rocket Salad with Watermelon-Basil Vinaigrette and Sweet Coconut Ginger Creamed Corn. The list to try goes on.
With over 200 cookbooks on our overstuffed, and overflowing shelves, this one will hold its own place on the merit of his unique approach to age-old soul food. And I am glad for that.
That said, I would buy the book even if I already had the recipes down cold. Why? Simple. In a world where “local,” and “sustainable” can often get bastardized into a hip trend and higher menu prices, Terry is the real thing.
Outside the kitchen he walks the walk as a warrior for food justice working with entities like the People’s Grocery in Oakland, and his own projects; Southern Organic Kitchen through the Food and Society Policy Fellowship which aims to bring access to good food and healthy eating knowledge to historically-excluded communities in the South; and his Black and Green Fund that works for food justice initiatives.
The food, the music, and chef have soul.
Vegan Soul Kitchen is published by Da Capo, a division of Perseus Books Group.