By Geo Ong
Last week I had the good fortune of hosting an event for Bryant Terry, a chef and food justice activist, in celebration of his latest cookbook, The Inspired Vegan, at Greenlight Bookstore. Before the event, I could tell just from skimming the contents of his book that he’d inspire something in me, and that his cause would certainly be something I could get behind. Meeting him solidified those two facts.
Hearing Terry speak, watching him demonstrate some of his cooking techniques, or of course meeting him in person will give you a great sense of what he has been trying to accomplish for much of his life. But, really, a wonderful place to start would be in opening up a copy of his cookbook.
While The Inspired Vegan is very much a classifiable cookbook, it is indeed much more than recipes and menus. For starters (ha), the book is honest and personal, peppered (okay, the food puns stop here – I promise) with short essays that introduce each collection of recipes. These essays range from childhood memories to specific goals to heralds of influential figures, yet they all come back to the centre of the table.
In fact, if I had the nerve to sum up Bryant Terry and The Inspired Vegan, it’d be this: all-encompassing goals centred around the rich power of food.
Terry’s mantra is this: ‘Start with the visceral, move to the cerebral, and end with the political.’ He states in the book’s introduction that his goal ‘is to use the sensual pleasures of the table to shift people’s attitudes, habits, and politics and “eventually” [quotations his] ensure that everyone in this country of abundance – regardless of income or place of residence – has access to healthful food.’ He then ends with:
If I did my job well… you will be equally informed about black and brown kids starving in the hood, animals being brutalized in factory farms, and tomato pickers being exploited in Florida. But most important, you’ll be cooking.
My decision to become a vegan was, among many others, an act of personal simplication. I’ve had enough of mindless consumption without considering any of the consequences, so it felt necessary for me to cut things out of my life completely. I continue to feel strongly about this, yet at times I can’t help but feel more restricted than the common omnivore, mindful or not. My introduction to Bryant Terry and his work, as well as preparing to use The Inspired Vegan, has reminded me that food can still be rich, indulgently satisfying, full of love, and full of purpose.
Further viewing: the first episode ofUrban Organic, a web series hosted by Bryant Terry