Have you ever heard the phrase “veganism, that’s one of those white things right?” or something similar that clearly marks vegan diets as “not us”? Often these comments are based on two principles:
- perceived and real elitism amongst vegans – an issue discussed here and elsewhere encompassing issues of race, class, location, etc.
- perceived inability to adapt ethnic food that centers meat and the complex meaning of meat with regards to social status
I’ve already discussed the former in depth on the blog with the simple conclusion that, like in all things, thinking and acting intersectionally, decolonized, and globally keeps you from enacting oppression intentionally or otherwise. It also makes it possible for you to hear and learn from those moments when you might still mess up because you are no longer invested in an image of yourself as a “goo person” over actually trying to be one even when it feels difficult. So for now, I am interested in how the cookbook industry has dealt with the second issue.
In recent years, there have been a few vegan cookbooks that tackle the latter with varying results. Many of the “down home”, ie African American Southern style cooking, have failed to capture some of the critical aspects of quintessential meals. Others have remade them in ways that are delicious but still quite different. Most black vegans I know, started with a blend of these cookbooks and their own adaptations. Every culture’s diet has meatless items, so another aspect of shifting to a veg diet has been about reclaiming those meals as equally important. Two really critical entry points into the discussion of black veganism are: McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary, an especially good for people new to vegan concepts or considering veganism cookbook that addresses black women and health, and Harper‘s Sistah Vegan (not a cookbook), a collection of essays by and for young black women about the meaning of and being vegan.
While African American and Anglophone Caribbean cooking have enjoyed the attention of vegetarian and vegan chefs, the same success has not really been reflected in vegan Latin@ cooking. In the bookstores in my area, there are no vegan cookbooks for Latin@ food. You can walk the wide array of Mexican, Puerto Rican, “Central American”, etc. sections of the big bookstore here and find a handful of vegetarian cookbooks but no vegan ones. My colleagues in other cities have had similar experiences.
Lucky for all of us, Terry Hope Romero, co-author of best-selling vegan cookbooks Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, has a new cookbook called Viva Vegan out specifically about Latin@ food. The book is split into two parts: (1) introductory info and (2) recipes. The 200+ pages of recipes include favorites from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean and offer suggestions for substitutions if you have trouble finding ingredients in your area. Recipes also have pictures and easy cooking instructions which I find always helps when trying something new or re-inventing something. Of the 20+ reviews on amazon, only 1 rated it below 4 stars for taste.
While I have not tried any of the recipes myself, Melissa over at Feminist Texican not only praised the book but tried some of the recipes herself. Go over there to see pictures of some of her results. Melissa is also giving away a copy of Viva Vegan courtesy of De Capo Press. All you have to do is write your favorite vegan recipe in the comment section of her book blog by September 3rd to enter. If you are not vegan and you think this cookbook might help you see the light or you are a new vegan and don’t have many recipes, it does not matter. The contest is open to everyone. You can enter here.
If you’ve tried the recipes or blogged about them, let us know! And if you are interested in exploring more questions about veganism from a people of color perspective check out Vegans of Color Blog or the last link in the related articles section of this post.
- Book Review: Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero (blogcritics.org)
- Sistah Vegan: A Rethinking of Race and Food (Civileats.com)
- Sampling of Diversity and Environment Blogs and Websites (Rooted in the Earth Blog)