Food for the Soul
Bianca Phillips is here to share how she has modified traditional Southern cooking to create tasty vegan fare. Check out her Country Potato Soup recipe if you need some Meatless Monday inspiration!
For most vegetarians and vegans, the number one question we get asked is “Where do you get your protein?” For me, it’s “How do you manage to stay vegan in Memphis?”In the land of fried chicken, slow-cooked, ham hock-seasoned collard greens, and saucy pulled pork barbecue, folks just don’t understand how one can survive without indulging in a little soul food now and again.
And I don’t blame them for asking. After all, Southern soul food is so much more than sustenance. It’s pure comfort food that not only fills our bellies, but brings satisfaction to our spirits. Words can’t even express the magic that a lovingly-prepared batch of biscuits or a steamy bowl of country potato soup can do to heal the soul.
When folks ask how I survive without such tasty comfort foods, I let them know that I am not deprived. In fact, I enjoy all the delicious classic Southern dishes without the cruelty and artery-clogging saturated fats. At home, I create vegan soul food that’s not only satisfying to my soul but healthy for my heart and beneficial to the animals.
For hearty main dishes, I substitute tofu, tempeh, and seitan for chicken, pork, beef, or fish. For example, one of my favorite recipes uses crumbled tempeh and shredded carrots to replace pulled pork in the traditional Memphis-style barbecue sandwich. I bread and bake (or sometimes lightly fry) tofu marinated in a mixture of vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, and poultry seasoning to replace fried chicken. Seitan coated in hot sauce and a little non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (like Earth Balance) makes a mean hot wing.
Because I also shun white flour, I use whole wheat pastry flour for breading faux meats and baking everything from hush puppy corn muffins to sweet potato bread. I also replace white sugar (often processed using bone char from animals … ugh!) with evaporated cane juice, turbinado, or agave nectar.
Down South, folks even put meat in the vegetable side dishes. Ham hocks go in the collard greens and crumbled bacon finds its way into just about everything. But I opt for a drop or so of Liquid Smoke or crumbled vegan bacon instead (see my country potato soup recipe below for an example).
Thanks to the reliance on grease, meat, and refined white flours and sugars, obesity rates are skyrocketing in the South. But delicious vegan options provide a healthy (and tasty) alternative. No one has to live without comfort food!
Vegan Crunk’s Country Potato Soup (Serves 4 to 6)
-4 cups cubed potatoes, skins removed (about 2 medium baking potatoes)
-1 large carrot, sliced
-2 stalks celery, sliced
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
-2 cups unsweetened soymilk
-2 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
-1 tsp. sea salt
-1/4 tsp. black pepper
-5 slices cooked veggie bacon, crumbled (I use Light Life brand Smart Bacon strips)
-Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cover potatoes, carrot, and celery in a large stockpot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower to medium. Boil for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Transfer vegetables to a colander and allow to drain in the sink while you prepare the onions.
Heat oil in the same stockpot, and sauté onion for 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent. Add vegetable broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery.
In a measuring cup, mix flour thoroughly into soymilk. Add to soymilk mixture to stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in veggie bacon, salt, and pepper.
When she’s not busy veganizing traditional Southern dishes for her upcoming cookbook, Bianca Phillips works as a newspaper reporter and looks after her big ol’ mutt and six cats. Check out her food blog, Vegan Crunk.