It's nearly Independence Day — are your cookout plans in progress? I hope you have some room left on the menu, because we have a treat for you: an Afro-Asian menu for the 4th of July from Bryant Terry, author of Afro-Vegan and our guest this week on The Kitchn.
Here's a sneak peek of what's coming up this week — a wildly colorful and festive menu, straight from Bryant's backyard in Oakland.
All of us here at The Kitchn are huge fans of Bryant Terry and his writing and his cooking. Opening Afro-Vegan, for me, became a revelation in my understanding of traditional African-American cooking and soul food. I had never associated veganism or really even vegetables (besides the ubiquitous and marvelous collard greens) with the soul food I enjoy and admire. But Bryant makes a powerful argument for the centrality of vegetables and grains in the heritage of African-American cooking, not to mention the inherent health and nutrition to be found in the leafy greens and root vegetables eaten throughout the South and beyond, in the Caribbean and other centers of the African diaspora.
The cookbook roams beyond the kitchen too, and draws in book and music recommendations from the African diaspora. It's a rich tapestry and one that I love to page through as an inspiration for cooking, but also as a narrative of the African diaspora and the all-too-often ignored contributions this community has made to the way we eat today.
But the heritage and healthfulness of the food do take second place to the flavor, as he explained to Dana Velden in an interview we published:
It's been a big part of my mission to help people move past the stereotype that vegetarian/vegan/plant-strong food is bland and boring. Or that it's just medicine or just fuel. As someone who lives and breathes this work, I don't care how ethical, how sustainable, or how healthful the food is, if it isn't flavorful, if it isn't deeply satisfying, then I just don't want to eat it.
— Read the full interview: Bryant Terry on the Delicious, Satisfying (and Yes, Vegan) Food of the African Diaspora
The African diaspora is only the first part of Bryant's focus, however. He and his wife, Jidan Koon, a second-generation Chinese-American, met and bonded over food, as they share in this incredibly charming NPR piece (it includes the Afro-Asian rice dish they created and served at their wedding).
The couple continues to meld their own separate heritages and cooking traditions into fresh recipes for their own families and communities — healthy, vegetable-focused, and Afro-Asian.
When I met Bryant for lunch last winter in San Francisco and heard about their Afro-Asian project, I immediately wanted to give Bryant and Jidan space here to share some of it with you.
And the 4th of July seemed the most perfect place for these recipes and their stories of African and Asian heritage, and the tastes and flavors brought to America first and foremost by immigrant kitchens.
It's a uniquely American 4th of July — from a sunny backyard in Oakland, California, all eye-poppingly vibrant with grilled vegetable kebabs brushed with pomegranate-peach barbecue sauce, and corn and coconut rice, curried with Jamaican curry powder. The Asian influence adds fresh twists, with gunpowder green tea in lemonade for a refreshing take on the classic, and a miso-ginger dressing on a cabbage slaw. Finish off the whole meal with mango and coconut popsicles, to the delight of the kids.
It's an absolutely delicious July 4th, and you're invited! Watch for these recipes and more, coming this week, along with more from Bryant on his Afro-Asian 4th of July.