Vegan soul food might sound like an oxymoron to those familiar with African American food ways—but not to Oakland,
California, “eco-chef” and cookbook author Bryant Terry, whose cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen is a paean to the plant-centered foods of the African diaspora.
Terry, an avid yoga practitioner and an activist for sustainable-food systems, says there’s no conflict: “One of my major
goals with this book was to help remind people that African American cuisine is rooted in food that is as local as the
backyard garden,” he says.
For Terry, the idea of soul food resonates deeply. “The guiding principle of my own connection with food is mindfulness,”
he says. “Ultimately, the ‘soul’ in Vegan Soul Kitchen is a metaphor for essence, breath, spirit. When you’re truly
connected with other living beings, you make decisions that are best for the earth, the workers, the animals. I think
presenting sustainable, good food is one of the most gentle ways I can help people be more aware of that
Terry’s yoga practice has been a major inspiration for his work as an activist for sustainability. He practices with San
Francisco yoga teacher and social activist Katchie Ananda. “She really helps students consider the ways that their practice
can move from the mat to the world,” says Terry. “It inspires my own thoughts about how I can embrace sustainability and
make a wider impact.”