The Rev. Dr. Brooke Brimm, an author who also specializes in spiritual guidance, wants to show everyone—especially the Black community—that soul food doesn’t have to be bad for you.
“There’s a tradition of the kind of foods we should eat, like chitterlings and ham, and throw the meat in the greens. I want us to live longer because we have made small changes in how we choose to live. That’s my biggest goal.”
As we well know, a traditional soul food diet consists of lots of meat, fat, and sugars, all of which carry a risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke, according to a paper that examined the impact of the African-American soul food diet that appeared in the York Review. For example, nearly half of all Black people suffer from obesity, the highest percentage of any demographic group, according to the National Black Leadership Commission on Health.
Brimm, who says she’s “plant dominant who only eats vegan food,” wants to help change that, one bite at a time.
“I had written an article [separate from the York Review] that Black people were dying from eating soul food,” Brimm explained. “[Then] I thought, that doesn’t really need to be because I’ve been making soul food for years and we’re healthy.”
She’s since written three “Vegan Soul Foodie Recipe Guides,” including 2021’s Dishes So Decadent You Can Serve to Meat Lovers. In them, you can find delectable dishes like Buffalo Cauliflower, which looks just like buffalo chicken nuggets; Portobello Mushroom Cheesesteak Egg Rolls; and Garlic Butter “Salmon” Cakes that have no salmon but look just like the real thing.
Doesn’t this look good?
Sure does. A delicious rib waiting to be paired with some classic soul food staples like macaroni and cheese, greens, or potato salad.
Brimm says you can have all of that. There just won’t be any meat or any ingredient that comes from an animal in the food.
In addition to her books, Brimm’s Facebook group, Vegan Soul Food, has more than 423,000 members who post photos of their favorite meals, recipes, and more. Her Instagram page contains not only information on her books but her other interests, including yoga. And she has a new book coming out in August—Vegan Soul Foodie Recipe Guide: Easy, Tasty & Healthy Dips, Dressings, Sauces, and Gravy.
“What we’re doing when we make vegan soul food is we’re mimicking what soul food tastes like,” she said. “But we’re also adding superfoods; we’re adding fiber. We’re adding ingredients that you wouldn’t normally get. And it tastes really, really good.”
In fact, the taste tends to surprise people.
“They can’t believe it. They feel overjoyed, excited, and relieved that they can actually still enjoy our traditional food,” Brimm said. “They’re still able to enjoy it, but in a healthier way. Like, ‘I can still have fried chicken, but it’s now it’s a fried oyster mushroom and it tastes really good.’”
In addition to her books, Brimm’s Facebook group, Vegan Soul Food, has more than 423,000 members who post photos of their favorite meals, recipes, and more. Her Instagram page contains not only information on her books but her other interests, including yoga.
So if you’re planning that next cookout and you’re looking to bring soul food, Brimm has a message for you.
“You do not have to be a vegan to eat it. It’s OK to try it. It tastes good, [and] you will feel full and satisfied.”
If you need further proof, check out Brimm’s recipe for turnip greens. That sounds great for a cookout, right? And check it out: no meat of any kind.
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, minced
• 5 cloves garlic, minced
• 2-pound turnip greens, chopped
• 2 white turnips, peeled and diced
• 2 TBSP of mushroom seasoning
• 2 large tomatoes, chopped
• 5 mini sweet peppers, minced
• 1 tsp liquid smoke
• 3 celery stalks minced
• 2 shallots chopped
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mince all veggies except greens and turnips in a food processor.
- Finely chop turnip greens leaves and stems.
- Take the processed veggies and place them into a stockpot or pressure cooker with olive oil. Sauté on medium heat.
- Slowly add in chopped greens.
- Cover the greens with sautéed veggies. The liquid will start to form on the bottom.
- Slowly add in more greens & keep stirring. Add salt to allow more water to draw out of the veggies.
- Cover with a lid and cook with low pressure for 12 minutes or cook covered for 30 minutes in a stockpot.
- Remove the lid once pressure had dropped or after 30 minutes if using a stockpot.
- Add in chopped turnips on top of greens.
Let steam for 5 minutes if using a pressure cooker, or cook for 20 minutes in the stockpot.
Ray Marcano is a longtime, award-winning journalist who has written and edited for some of the country’s most prominent media brands. He’s a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer juror, and a Fulbright Fellow.
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