For Afro-vegan chef Bryant Terry recipes are political

Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:03am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cookbook writing is a form of food justice for activist chef Bryant Terry, author of “Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Re-mixed.”

The 100 recipes in Terry’s fourth book, all devoid of meat and meat products, reach pointedly back to before the prepackaged, processed food that he says characterizes too many modern African-American diets to tap the cuisines at the roots of the African diaspora.

“A lot of my work is about helping people remember that this is a part of our legacy, that we can extend beyond the American south, to the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, where Africans were brought from. Many of those diets were largely vegetable based.”

The 40-year-old Terry, who lives in Oakland, California, spoke to Reuters about the intersection of diet and politics, why he is reluctant to call himself a vegan, and his belief that food can heal.

  Q: Did you always want to be a chef?

A: No, not until grad school. Although I always loved cooking, ... (I) was studying history at New York University when I started thinking about agriculture issues: the intersection of poverty, malnutrition and racism. ... Given the health crisis in many low-income communities of color, I really felt that there’s a larger social justice movement that is missed if it didn’t address the food crisis in the American diet and the effect on people of color, so I decided to go to the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.

  Q: Are you a vegan?

A: I don’t eat animal products, but I reject labeling myself as a vegan because of all the baggage it holds. Especially for African Americans, that term brings up a lot of stereotypes about the food being bland and boring. ... I don’t want people getting caught up in whatever triggers they might have.”   Continued...