Black Future Month // 2-19-11 // Bryant Terry, Chef

Posted on February 20, 2011

I first hung out with Bryant Terry when Wangari Mathai visited Berkeley shortly after winning the Nobel Prize for her work in Central Africa. I sat next to Bryant at a progressive church near Cal’s campus. Berkeley, forward thinking as ever, showed up in droves. The room was packed with young folks focused on innovation in sustainability and equity. I guess I should’ve known who I was with — since every four seconds someone came to tap Bryant on the shoulder and say their hellos. Being with him in a room like that was the closest I’ll ever get to being Spliffstar at a Busta Rhymes show. I just nodded and hyped, and added my two cents only when appropriate. This was just a few weeks after his first book with co-author Anna Lappe, Grub, was released. Still uninitiated, I was light-years behind Bryant’s fanbase, and not really sure why after Ms. Mathai’s talk, Mr. Terry was flooded with admirers of his own. A few weeks later, after he’d given me a copy and I began to cook through it, I wished I’d brought my own pen and pad for Bryant’s autograph. But it’s cool. We’ve remained friends, and I’ve had the opportunity to marvel at his brilliance on numerous occasions since, always sure to have my writing elements at the ready so I can jot down recipes and hints as he speaks.

Bryant Terry’s a known leader in the slow-food movement and a perhaps the nation’s best advocate of healthy eating practices for young folks of color. His second book, Vegan Soul Kitchen was released in 2009, and acts as a great tool for teaching the distinction between what folks usually consider soul food (comfort food and special occasion menus like fried chicken and candied yams) and healthier options served daily in the Southern Black Tradition. Each recipe is carefully crafted to be nourishing, tasty and culturally relevant.

Watch here as he demonstrates a process for roasting tofu, a technique that provides crispier texture, and allows tofu to be swapped out for meats traditionally used in some of our favorite meals. I’m not even a vegetarian, and I can vouch for this meat-free recipe.

I’m also including a bit of science, as dropped by Mr. Terry, on the politics of food justice, particularly as it relates to folks living in impoverished communities.

Bryant is the first to admit that his work was first inspired by the work of The Black Panther Party, and it’s groundbreaking Free Breakfast for Children Program. As an organization whose ideals centered around freedom for black folks, The Panthers believed that healthy, hot meals for youth before they went to school was a major component of said liberation. In the same way that Bryant’s work is overtly political and easily replicable around the country, so too was the work of the Panthers. Started in Oakland in 1969 at St. Augustine’s church with a pilot group of young black children, the Free Breakfast for Children program was quickly duplicated in dozens of chapters around the U.S., feeding thousands of children daily by 1970.

Thickwit celebrates the #blackfuture of nutrition with Bryant Terry, and acknowledges the spirit of focused and engaged change-making as practiced by The Black Panthers.

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