Eco-Chef Bryant Terry on Going Vegan, Burying Chickens in His Yard

Who doesn't love soul food? Fried chicken, with or without waffles. Collard Greens. Sweet Potato pie. Trouble is, it's not the most healthful grub around.

Enter Bryant Terry, the self-proclaimed eco-chef ("that's ECHO-chef, not EEKO-chef," he says) and author of Vegan Soul Kitchen, a recipe book of healthy meat-free African-American cuisine. Terry shared his story -- and a recipe from his new book -- last night at the Changing Courses: Race, Class, Sustainability and Food lecture with fellow sustainable food author Mark Winne at ASU.

Terry was a believer in cooking with fresh, local produce long before it was trendy. He credits his grandparents, who grew their own food and traded vegetables with their neighbors. "It's in my blood," he says. "My grandmother worked in her garden with a passion. In her kitchen, she had a cupboard about seven foot high and a foot deep, each shelf covered with jars full of preserves." Every time he heard granny singing Hallelujah, he knew she was in the kitchen cooking or canning.

So how'd a boy who grew up eating fatback and chitlins become a vegan? Believe it or not, he was inspired by an early '90s rap song about meat processing.

Terry shared a little bit of this linguistic gem with the audience, courtesy of Boogie Down Productions

Let us begin now with the cow
The way it gets to your plate and how
The cow doesn't grow fast enough for man
So through his greed he makes a faster plan
He has drugs to make the cow grow quicker
Through the stress the cow gets sicker
Twenty-one different drugs are pumped
Into the cow in one big lump...

That was enough to make him quit meat cold turkey (pun intended). Terry asked the audience if anyone knew a vegan or vegetarian who was, um, dogmatic. Self-righteous. Totally annoying "I was that person," he quips. "It caused so much stress and conflict in my home." He went so far as to bury a whole chicken in his mother's front yard so she couldn't cook it. Ouch. Hopefully mom didn't believe in corporal punishment.

Lure 'em in with garlic. "When you're having a dinner party and people are starting to come in, just put some garlic on. No matter what you're cooking. Even if it's a dessert buffet!" quips Terry. The smell will make everyone salivate and look forward to dinner. 

Don't put your fat first! When cooking with oils, put the garlic or other item to be cooked directly in with the oil instead of heating the oil first. 

Tofu equals no fu. Don't just substitute tofu for meat in a recipe! Your kung fu is weak if you can't invent a veggie recipe on your own. 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden