Afro-Vegan Chef Bryant Terry Inspires Blacks to Explore Plant Based Diet

| 04/23/2014 | Reply

I just returned home from a book signing by Chef Bryant Terry, held at the Oakland California Whole Foods store in honor of Veg Week.

Bryant Terry is not only a fabulous vegan chef (we got to taste some dishes from the cookbook after his oral presentation), he is a well-respected author, as well as an articulate and knowledgeable food justice activist. His passion: doing all he can to create a more “healthy, just and substantive food system” for people who live in areas where there are few options to purchase fresh, nutritious produce.

The evening began with Mr. Terry giving the standing-room only crowd a brief overview of the cultural history of blacks throughout the diaspora and a diet which was largely plant based. He described the vegetable gardens and fruit trees of our ancestors, and the pots of greens, beans, okra, and fresh home-grown tomatoes that comprised true “soul food.”

Terry described his transition to veganism as defined by what he called his “watershed moment.” While listening to “Beef What a Relief!” by KRS1, he was awakened to the dangers of the food he was eating. The lyrics inspired him to read Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE, after which he became a vegan and never looked back.

In a nod to the location, Terry delved into the history of Oakland with regards to food. He mentioned how appreciative he was of the efforts of Oakland’s Black Panther Party, which created grocery giveaways to feed the poor and elderly of black communities, as well as the free breakfast program for children. These programs and others created by the Black Panthers had national impact, and remain in place in dozens of cities across the country even today.

Chef Terry believes that the battle to create food options for people, aside from the denatured, processed “food like substances” sold by multinational corporations, is a fight that must begin right now and be carried forward with “brilliance, fearlessness and energy” of the young. He feels that food activists must motivate communities, churches, consumers, schools and businesses to fight for the health of their bodies as well as the planet before its too late. He quoted disturbing stats which said if we don’t stop the destruction of our soil, air and water, we’ll create a planet where few things growing will benefit human health in as little as 50 years.

Bryant Terry’s three pronged approach to creating food options and awareness:

1. Urban Farming – using vacant lots within city limits to create small farms where fresh fruits and produce are grown for the benefit of the neighboring citizens.

2. Raising People’s Food IQ – many people, even professionals in the medical field, know little to nothing about nutrition and food; and REALLY fall short when it comes to food preparation. He explained that some residents of the inner city really don’t know what to do with fresh artichokes, broccolirabe, or okra grown in the area’s urban farms because they’ve never prepared these items.

3. Sharing the Task of Preparing Food and Eating Together – many families do not share meals together, and no one cooks. Food is microwaved, purchased at a take-out joint, or some other instant thing that passes as food. Everyone eats on a catch as you can basis.

He stresses that he believes though everyone should definitely eat more fruits and vegetables, he refuses to preach that everyone should become a vegan.

“Do what works for you” he quipped.

Chef Terry uses his considerable talent in the kitchen to create dishes that challenge negative stereotypes about vegan and vegetarian dishes — they don’t  have to be bland, boring, biege or flavorless.

He joked, “people think if they’re vegan they have to eat brown tofu with brown rice and brown sauce. I don’t even want that, so I would never try to get anyone else to eat that way! If food has a bad taste you won’t eat it, which leads to a nutrient deficient diet.”

Terry also touched on our culture which fetishiszes chefs, food, weight loss programs (diets), cooking shows, and food/nutritional supplements and gimmicks. Though he admitted he has benefited somewhat from that particular mentality, he feels that shows about famous chefs and competitive cooking are a double-edged sword.

“People love watching that stuff, but those shows also intimidate people and make them think they would never be able to cook like that so why bother trying. My cookbook is me trying to bring out people’s inner chef!”


Chef Bryant Terry Afro Vegan with Deborrah Cooper of Blacks Going Vegan

Chef Bryant Terry and BlacksGoingVegan.Com blogger Deborrah Cooper



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Category: Veganism and African Americans

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