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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   John Borders | Book Review

The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook:
A Wonderful Medley of Vegetarian, Vegan & Raw Recipes Inspired by the Southern Tradition
By Imar Hutchins and Dawn Marie Daniels
2001 by Epiphany Books, New York, NY
ISBN 0-9641284-5-4, list $16.95 U.S.

Reviewed by John D.Borders, Jr., J.D

Having grown up in the South, I know that it 's not just Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hillbillies or Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show who enjoys cheesy grits, fried green tomatoes, barbecue ribs, macaroni and cheese, and key lime pie. Southern food - in particular, soul food - has had staying power in American cuisine not because it''s healthy, but because it just tastes so darn good.

Fortunately, for those of us who are trying to eat healthier foods that are more environment- and animal-friendly, but just as satisfying as the ones we grew up with, Imar Hutchins and Dawn Marie Daniels have come to the rescue with The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook.

While Hutchins grew up on a Southern-influenced vegetarian diet, Daniels was raised on the standard American Southern diet, which consisted of lots of meat, dairy and eggs. As she started eating healthier foods, she found that she still longed for the flavors of the foods from her childhood.


"[W ]e've sought to reconceputalize perhaps the most difficult cuisine - soul food - a cuisine that traditionally isn't thought of as healthy at all."

Daniels reminds us in the introduction to this innovative vegan cookbook (and "uncookbook" since many of the recipes are raw) that soul food originally was "the scraps that were thrown to the slaves for their sustenance. Soul food was never meant to be healthy; it was only meant to sustain life. The fact that folks made it taste good was just a testimony to their creativity."

Hutchins and Daniels carry on this tradition of creativity with such recipes as Southern Spiced Tea (flavored with fresh ginger and lemon juice), Cheesy Grits (made with soy cheese), Raw "Fried " Green Tomatoes, Waldorf Salad (made with a homemade eggless mayonnaise), Hoppin ' John, Fried Tofu Fingers (which, incidentally, my kids lapped up like most American kids eat chicken fingers), and Vegan Sour Cream Apple Pie. Best of all, these delightful recipes are almost all very simple to make and use ingredients found commonly in most grocery stores.

"Flame " and "Sun " symbols next to each recipe indicate whether the recipe is cooked or served raw. And some recipes, such as the pecan pie, offer both raw and cooked versions. While Hutchins is best known for raw foods recipes, he and Daniels were committed to meeting "people where they are dietetically." Many of the recipes had to offer cooked versions in order to truly replicate the flavors of a Southern dish.

At a recent Fourth of July party, we served several of these dishes to vegetarian and omnivorous friends - all of whom grew up in the South. The Chopped BBQ Po 'Boy was a big hit and would certainly have fooled even our grandmothers into thinking that they were eating a fatty, meat-laden sandwich.The Red Cole Slaw evoked wonderful childhood memories for our Mississippi-raised friend who grew up on the spices of Old Bay ® Seasoning... And everyone devoured the No Bake Banana Cream Pie, made with a nut and dried fruit crust.

But the biggest hit - and the biggest surprise - of the day was the Raw Carrot Cake. This easy-to-assemble dessert has a wonderful carrot/raisin/coconut filling and is healthy enough that I felt no guilt eating a piece for breakfast the next morning!

The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook offers recipes for drinks, breakfast items, breads, soups, salads, side dishes, sauces and dressings, entrees, and desserts. It includes handy illustrations for making the raw pie crusts and for assembling sandwiches. And it has a Food Products Index in case you can't locate an ingredient at your own grocery store.

Hutchins and Daniels received high praise when they demonstrated the Black Eyed Pea Croquettes at a recent Taste of Health food fair in Louisville. By using inexpensive ingredients that are easy to find and even easier to assemble, they have eliminated many of the excuses people frequently offer for not eating healthy foods. And they are actively working to break down the barriers that have traditionally kept many African Americans from being interested in eating healthy, plant-based foods. "In reinventing a cuisine that has sustained us and our ancestors for hundreds of years we like to pay homage to them for all that they have given us. We have a choice when they didn't and we need to take advantage of it now," the authors write in the introduction to this book.

For this Southern boy, taking "advantage of it now " means that I look forward to serving my family our next meal from The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook. A Watermelon Smoothie, Cow Peas and Brown Rice, some bluegrass music on the radio, a hot summer night, and a Jethro Bodine-sized bowl of Raw Peach Cobbler, and I 'll be in Southern bliss.˜

SPECIAL: Meet vegan MD's and experts at the VegSource e-Vent weekend! Details here.

Imar Hutchins

Imar Hutchins is a co-founder of Delights of the Gar-den, a restaurant famous for raw vegetarian foods. He is author of Delights of the Garden and 30 Days to Delights of the Garden. A graduate of Yale Law School, and an accomplished artist who drew the cover and interior illustrations for this new cookbook, Imar also teaches raw foods preparations classes and lec-tures nationwide.

Dawn Marie Daniels has been cooking all of her life. An award-winning editor of numerous books, Dawn is the co-author of the best-selling book, Souls of My Sisters: Black Women Break Their Silence, Tell Their Stories and Heal Their Spirits.

The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook can be pur-chased from Epiphany Books, 767 Saint Nicholas Avenue, New York, NY 10031 or online at www.EpiphanyBooks.com.


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