DIALOGUE: Bryant Terry
Vegan chef, activist, and author Bryant Terry is chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco — creator of public programming that connects food, health, farming, advocacy, art, and culture. He’s also a winner of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award for his work supporting a just and sustainable food system, which ultimately means no one should go hungry.
Terry questions systems that contribute to food insecurity and the decline in public health, and he imagines the reverse: Grow food in a way that acknowledges food issues don’t exist in a vacuum and instead shows regard for all the ways that the marginalized are affected, including infrastructure, living wages, and access to green space.
The author of several cookbooks, Terry’s most recent is Black Food, published under 4 Color Books (his own imprint of Random House and Ten Speed Press), and largely inspired by the programming at MoAD. Black Food is a conversation about the global food ways of the African Diaspora, which he has referred to as the original modern fusion cuisine — the complex, diverse cooking of western central Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.S. South — an unfettered view of African American cuisine that taps into its healthful origins.
Roundglass Food: If there were one simple, nourishing dish you could encourage the whole world to make, what would it be?
Bryant Terry: Slow-braised mustard greens sitting in pot likker topped with caramelized tomato, onions, and a few dashes of hot pepper vinegar.
RG Food: What is your favorite season for cooking, and why?
BT: Summer. Our home gardens are booming, and the local farmers’ markets are overflowing with beautiful produce. I like cooking and eating outside with my family during the summer, too.
RG Food: How is food a part of your own personal wellness practice?
BT: My wellness practices are synergistic. What I put into my body is equally important to my physical activity, mindfulness practices, and relationship cultivation.
RG Food: What is your favorite ingredient? How do you cook with it?
BT: During the summer it’s fresh corn. I sauté it lightly in olive oil and garlic, then i finish it with a pat of vegan butter, black pepper, and fleur de sel.
RG Food: What’s your main nutrition concern, and how do you address it?
BT: Eating lots of fresh vegetables and healthy proteins. Meal planning over the weekend to make feeding myself eerier the following week.
RG Food: What do you usually eat for breakfast?
BT: I typically don’t eat breakfast.
RG Food: We love Jocelyn Jackson’s essay in Black Food, “Creating Sacred Space.” She describes creating an altar that connects you with your family’s food traditions — maybe with a photo of an ancestor, seeds, a plant, ingredients, some libations as an offering. What would you include in your gratitude altar?
BT: A portrait of Edna Lewis.
RG Food: What’s your primary piece of advice for making “healthy” food delicious?
BT: Listen to your body.
RG Food: Can you tell us three things that are in your pantry right now?
BT: Apple cider vinegar, Red Sichuan peppercorns, fleur de sel.
RECIPE | Slow-Cooked Collards
DIALOGUE is an ongoing series of conversations about food & wellbeing.