a lot of the health problems that people are dealing with. Mainstream medical institutions that are saying plant-based diets are actually a powerful tool for helping to heal our bodies when people are dealing with chronic illnesses and for preventing any of the chronic illnesses affecting our people.
I always give examples of celebrities who are eating this. Oprah is doing a 6-week vegan diet or Bill Clinton, who had his heart attack – the first thing he did after healing from his surgical procedure was embrace a vegan diet...as a way to have more longevity in his life. Most recently Venus Williams has been dealing with a health issue and she has been touting the benefit of switching to a vegan diet. She’s been more energetic in a way that she wasn’t before. So I think that people should view this as a way of living more healthfully and living more happily. It's not necessarily (about) embracing a whole vegan diet whole, but for me it’s about moving meat from the center of our plate to the margins.
Meat was once a luxury for people who could afford it...Even for the traditional African-American menu, meat was used as an accent, as a seasoning that you would add to certain dishes or vegetable dishes to give it some flavor. This whole idea of having a big hunk of meat on your plate, that comes along with the division of our food system where producers of meat and animal products are getting subsidies from the government, so they’re able sell it at cheaper prices. It's artificial and cheap (which) that allows Americans to consume more meat and they’re having a lot more often. I’m not saying that everyone should give up meat, that’s a personal decision but I do think we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. And I tell people, even if its just a Monday – try "meatless Mondays". Try just one day... I hear so often from folks how they feel much lighter, much more healthier when they’re not eating meat with every single meal.
I actually eat the food that I’m presenting and it’s rooted in country cooking. It’s food that my grandparents eat and they might have had a little fat back in it and a little lard and pork but for me, its about using simple ingredients that are grown locally. The best food in my grandparents grew is from the backyard garden. When people think about African-American cuisine, they automatically think the comfort foods. People are talking about deep-fried dishes and sugary desserts as if all black people are eating red velvet cake for breakfast. In my family and in most black folks, those food are for holidays and celebrations.
On the other hand, some people default towards imagining that our cuisine is just survival food. Like the grimness of the plantation owners meant that African-Americans had to rely upon that “slave food” They just completely distort the complexities of the African-American cuisine. If you think about the staples of our cuisine, you’re talking about collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, yam, butter beans, black eyed peas. You know, the type of things that dieticians say we should be eating? That’s the core of our cuisine. If we really want to get back to a healthful diet, and address this health crisis, we don’t have to look any further than our own cultural cuisine...
Personally, I live and breathe this. It’s my work its what I’m passionate about. But I don’t care how sustainable, or how healthy, or how ethical food is. If it isn’t tasty. If it isn’t delicious and sumptuous and satisfying, I don’t want it! I don’t want food that is supposedly healthy and supposedly ethical and sustainable if it doesn’t taste good. I think most eaters are the same way so with my food, I really try to blow this notion that vegan food is bland and boring and disgusting and tofu with brown rice and brown sauce in a brown bowl.