March 6, 2012

Chef Bryant Terry speaks on veganism: A tool to heal the public health crisis

By Ryan Considine–

“Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, when I lay my burden down,” echoes the voice of Bryant Terry’s grandmother as she hums an old gospel tune cooking in the kitchen. By recalling this fond memory from his childhood, Terry acknowledges the presence of his ancestors and the history of his African descent in his work.

Author, eco-chef and food activist Bryant Terry spoke during University of Louisville’s fifth annual Body Awareness Body Appreciation Week in the SAC multipurpose room on Thursday, March 1. Terry has published three books including his most recent, “The Inspired Vegan” and is the host of web series “Urban Organic.”

Soul food encompasses deep-fried fatty meat and sugary deserts.

“As if black folks are eating red velvet cake for breakfast every day and fried chicken for lunch and dinner,” Terry said.

Terry produces a counter-narrative that most people tend to forget about Black cooking that includes mustard greens, black-eyed peas, yams and sweet potatoes. He also speaks to change the negative connotations associated with vegans.

“A lot of people, when they hear the term vegan in reference to the cuisine, they think it’s bland, boring—something disgusting like brown rice or tofu in a brown bowl with brown sauce on it,” stated Terry.
Due to the violent treatment of animals, Terry refuses to eat animal products. Federal law requires mammals – other than rabbits – be stunned prior to slaughter to induce a heart attack or seizure. Bolt guns are often used to shoot a rod through an animal’s brain, according to Vegan Outreach.

Mainstream medical institutions are now promoting vegan diets to treat chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. In 2020, it is predicted three out of four Americans will be overweight, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Choosing a diet based on just the notion that it’s the healthiest diet or based on a label can get us into trouble,” said Terry.

Body awareness is responding to what the body needs. Age, culture, geography, season and health status are important factors to consider when choosing a diet.

The earth produces the food we need for every season. Terry advised during the summer that we need more water, vegetables and fruits. During the winter, we need nutrients like those found in root vegetables.
The best way to pay attention to our bodies is to keep a food journal. By documenting what we are eating and how it makes us feel both physically and emotionally, we can determine our proper diets.

According to the NCHA Survey of 2012, 92 percent of students at U of L say, “I know what it means to eat a healthy, balanced diet.” However, only 5 percent of students eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables per day.

In 2004, Terry started Be Healthy, an organization that works with younger people of lower economic statuses in New York City by training them to become educators and community organizers. Therefore, they will take initiative in building community gardens, urban farms and farmers markets.

Healthy Moms Healthy Babies was started as an offshoot of Be Healthy. This organization analyzes how the standards of beauty in popular media negatively affects young women’s self- esteem. The program empowers women of African and Latino descent to become advocates of change.

Often lower economic communities have limited access to healthy and affordable food.

The reception included Chef Terry’s tasty vegan recipes, a book signing and local food activists.

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Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal

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