Day-to-day life during a pandemic means cooking at home more than ever before—and often, it means cooking for a household full of people with diﬀerent tastes and preferences.
“Since the start of the pandemic, my husband and I, vegetarians for the past 12 years, have been living with my in-laws,” says Oldways Cheese Coalition director Carlos Yescas. “The best part of living together has been ﬁnding foods we all enjoy eating.”
Recently, Carlos and his family have been cooking from Bryant Terry’s Vegetable Kingdom, a plant-based cookbook that celebrates African heritage cuisine and puts vegetable dishes front and center. Here are four takeaways from Carlos’s review of the book:
The recipes are vegan, but not just for vegans. Both the vegetarians and the self-proclaimed “pickyvores” in Carlos’s family enjoyed the dishes presented in Vegetable Kingdom. These recipes will “introduce folks to a veganism that is a delight to eat,” says Carlos.
The recipes mix the familiar and the new. Vegetable Kingdom takes ingredients we recognize and turns them into something new, often weaving elements of Asian and Latin American cuisine into African heritage. The author compares himself to “a collagist—curating, cutting, pasting, and remixing.”
This can make the recipes exciting for home cooks. For example, Carlos’s mother-in-law recognized collard greens, a vegetable she typically serves with barbeque sauce and black-eyed peas, in the pages of Vegetable Kingdom. But following Terry’s recipe, she learned to prepare them in a new way: Jerk Tofu Wrapped in Collard Greens.
The cookbook uplifts culinary traditions. In addition to working as a chef and cookbook author, Bryant Terry is an educator and activist. In a segment on the New Yorker Radio Hour, Terry explained that his work seeks to “uplift Black culinary traditions.”
“One of the things I feel like I’ve been ﬁghting since starting this work,” he continued during the interview, “is pushing against reductive ways people imagine, think about, [and] talk about Black food.”
It is a joy to cook through the book with the whole family. Vegetable Kingdom may get your family singing and dancing in the kitchen along with you, because each recipe includes a song meant to be enjoyed with the food. While you make the Warm Butter Bean Salad with Roasted Bell Peppers, for example, the author suggests listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady.”
“We particularly enjoyed that recipe,” says Carlos. “I was listening to ‘Golden Lady,’ as recommended, to go along with the salad.”
Ready to start exploring the vegetable kingdom? “If your family, like mine, is looking for new dishes to try, you will ﬁnd many in Bryant Terry’s new cookbook,” says Carlos.
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