Letter To A Vegan Soul Food Chef

Hey, Internets. I owe you some stories and pictures from Central California. But, I need to sing some praises first.

Dear Bryant Terry,

You are a genius. A certified, bona fide genius. Your cookbook is like none I have ever owned. I am having a torrid love affair with your recipes and I am not afraid to say it. I just got the book a few weeks ago, and I have already made a dozen dishes or so from your collection.

Soul food has always been one of those cuisines that I have had to stand on the sidewalk and enjoy from the other side of the steamed up glass. All that fried golden brown deliciousness, that spicy, savory, range of flavors… succulent greens, followed by sweet deserts piled high with cream… it’s a little heaven on earth. But I’m a most-of-the-time vegetarian (who has dappled in the world of veganism and gluten-freedom for some time) so soul food has been off limits for me. But now, because of your book, I can bring all those wonderful aromas and flavors to my own table without having to compromise my values. “Vegan Soul Food” is the prefect (if not unlikely) marriage of flavor and consciousness. And that is why I have hugged it to my chest and kept it on my nightstand with the rest of my other reading material.

I feel like I have been waiting for this cookbook my whole life. The music, matched with recipes, matched with stories and inspirational little bits of wisdom? I just can’t say it enough: it’s a work of art. Your passion practically radiates from each page. And who would have thought that a cookbook would be such an extraordinary resource for discovering new music? (You did.) I didn’t think the baked beans could taste any better, but, when I put on Bill Withers, they seemed to taste just a little sweeter.

It was quite by accident that I decided to make soul food on Mardi Gras. I had planned to have this dinner with a friend weeks ago, and when I was putting together the menu, all I was thinking about was FLAVOR. But, midway through the day, I remembered it was Mardi Gras, and it just made the prep all the more satisfying. Here’s what I made from your cookbook: citrus collards, baked beans, barbecued tofu, and succotash. I even threw in some of my own vegan gluten free mac and cheese for good measure. We washed all of this down with your hibiscus-ginger-lemon-ade. And oh my, was it delicious. Last night, my fiance held me at arms’ length, looked me square in the eyes, and very seriously said, “Every single thing you cooked tonight was AMAZING”.

After dinner, we danced the night away to Kermit Ruffins and The Rebirth Jazz Band in our tiny living room, our beads around our neck, and our (ahem, adulterated with vodka) ginger-ade drinks in hand. It might have been one of my favorite dinner parties for three ever.

Big thanks to Lynne Rosetto-Kapser for featuring you on her show.

You know, I have pressed my nose longingly up against countless restaurant windows and sucked in the saliva threatening to fall from my mouth, wincing just a little in an effort to deny the temptation and uphold my values around food production in this country for many years. Now I can just turn on a little music, shuffle around the spice drawer, and cook what I long for myself. And it’s all because of you, Bryant Terry. Thank you.