RECIPES: New cookbooks spread ‘Black, Vegan, and Cool’ message

Three high-profile Black women offer crowd-pleasing recipes, empowering words

Growing up in Baltimore, she ate mostly fresh vegetables, soy products, and occasionally fish prepared by her mother, a Jamaican immigrant, in accordance with her Rastafarian beliefs. Later on, driven by a desire to improve her health and raise awareness of the impact of diet on chronic diseases prevalent within the Black population, she decided to forgo meat products altogether.

But as she was trying to figure out a hook for the herbivore restaurant concept she planned to open in Atlanta, she was well aware that tofu and salads wasn’t it.

“People would say, ‘That’s too healthy. That’s too green,’” the Clark Atlanta University alum explained in a phone interview. So instead, she created a menu with veganized versions of fast-food favorites with naughty names like Fussy Hussy and One Night Stand — hardly health food but, to her way of thinking, “still a better choice than animal flesh.”

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Today, Cole’s enterprise includes seven Slutty Vegan brick-and-mortar locations; two food trucks; Bar Vegan, a sit-down restaurant with fancy cocktails in Ponce City Market; branded merchandise for pets and people; vegan food products underway; and a charitable foundation aimed at fostering education and generational wealth in the Black community.

She sees these efforts as giving people who may not be ready to give up their carnivore ways “a starting point to help them get to a place of healthier eating.”

Now she has a cookbook, “Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind” (Simon & Schuster, $28.99), that’s designed to take them to the next step: into home kitchens. She’ll kick off its launch next week with “The Pinky Cole Experience Tour,” live ticketed events with food trucks and guest entertainers in theaters across the country including a show Nov. 19 at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta.

The only burger recipe you’ll find in the book is made of black-eyed peas and bears no resemblance to the ones on her menu. Rather, these offerings represent the way she likes to eat and entertain at home with family and friends: Black-Eyed Pea Stew, Barbecued “Beef” Loaf (made with chickpeas), Backyard Quesadillas, her “legendary” Beet-Tini cocktail. Some come from other chefs and influencers “who are doing really dope things around the city,” such as the Spicy Sausage and Biscuits from Chef Nikki in the Mix and Vegan Fried Fish made with seaweed-seasoned eggplant from Erin Wells aka “That Chocolate Vegan.” Along with their recipe contributions, they share “what it means to be Black, vegan, and cool.”

Recent studies have shown that Black Americans are the fastest-growing vegan demographic in the country. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 8% of Black Americans identify as strict vegetarians or vegans as compared to 3% of the general population. “Eat Plants, B*tch” is part of a growing sub-genre of vegan cookbooks by influential Black culinary entrepreneurs who are moving veganism into the mainstream with relatable dishes that reflect their cultural heritage and individual styles.

Tabitha Brown, a bestselling author who shares family-friendly vegan recipes and motivational messages on Food Network and TikTok, just launched her first cookbook, “Cooking From the Spirit: Easy, Delicious, and Joyful Plant-Based Inspirations” (Morrow, $30). Born in North Carolina and now living in Los Angeles, she credits her switch to veganism with stopping the pain of an undiagnosed illness, and intersperses simple recipes for things like Jackfruit Pot Roast and Sweet Potato Tacos with inspirational “Tabisms” (“Today, treat yourself to a lollipop — but don’t bite it — be patient and enjoy it for a while”).

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Credit: Fatou Wagué

Credit: Fatou Wagué

The trend is also catching on globally. Marie Kacouchia, a Parisian self-taught chef who claims France and the Ivory Coast as homelands, began exploring the plant-based cuisines of 15 African countries and sharing her modernized and simplified interpretations on Instagram. Last year, they were published in France in “Cuisines d’Afrique.” Next week, its English translation, “Vegan Africa: Plant-Based Recipes From Ethiopia to Senegal” (The Experiment, $24.95), will arrive in U.S. bookstores.

Through gorgeously photographed and easy-to-execute recipes including Roasted Eggplant with Tamarind based on the national dish of Senegal, Kenyan Corn and Bean Stew, and a Chocolate Mousse paying tribute to her native Ivory Coast’s cacao-producing history, Kacouchia connects the Black vegan movement today to its humblest beginnings.

It’s one more way of spreading the message, as Cole likes to say, of what it means to be “Black, Vegan, and Cool.”

RECIPES

These plant-based recipes from new cookbooks by Pinky Cole, Tabitha Brown, and Marie Kacouchia reflect the authors’ Black heritages, with low-hassle methods and familiar flavors even a carnivore will love.

Credit: Madelynne Ross

Credit: Madelynne Ross

Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Slutty Vegan founder Pinky Cole’s new book, “Eat Plants, B*tch,” is heavy on familiar comfort foods such as this hearty, full-flavored stew of legumes, hearty vegetables, and bold spices. She recommends pairing it with collard greens and jalapeno cornbread.

Adapted with permission from “Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind” by Pinky Cole (Simon & Schuster, $28.99).

Credit: Fatou Wagué

Credit: Fatou Wagué

Vermicelli Rice with Spinach and Cashews

In “Vegan Africa,” Marie Kacouchia, a Parisian recipe developer who claims France and the Ivory Coast as her homelands, explains that vermicelli rice is a dish of Lebanese origin that has been integrated into West African cuisines. She freshens and fortifies this recipe she learned from her mother with spinach and toasted cashews for extra protein and crunch. The recipe calls for a large amount of spinach, so feel free to adjust the quantity. Coconut sugar, which is widely available in supermarkets, has more nutrients than regular sugar and is less refined. If you need a substitute, light brown sugar is a good option.

Adapted with permission from “Vegan Africa: Plant-Based Recipes From Ethiopia to Senegal” by Marie Kacouchia (The Experiment, $24.95).

Credit: Matt Armendariz

Credit: Matt Armendariz

Lazy Peach Cobbler

In “Cooking From the Spirit,” Tabitha Brown recounts a Thanksgiving dinner where a friend, a renowned Los Angeles baker, brought a traditional peach cobbler. Though it looked and smelled irresistibly good, it contained eggs and dairy and she had to abstain. But her friend vowed to help her figure out how to make it fit into her plant-based diet. Brown’s recipe is not only simple and delicious, but also conveys her conversational personality, with sprinkles of “honey” and “good Lord” in the instructions.

Honey. Do you see and smell what the good Lord has done here?! Let it cool for a few minutes before scooping out servings so you don’t burn your tongue off!

From “Cooking From the Spirit: Easy, Delicious, and Joyful Plant-Based Inspirations” by Tabitha Brown (Morrow, $30). Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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