Interview and Giveaway with Bianca Phillips, Author of Cookin’ Crunk
C: What was it like being vegetarian and then vegan in the South? Have you seen a progression of healthier food options become available over the years? Or is it really hard to eat vegan in the South?
B: It’s super easy to be vegan in the South these days! In some rural areas, like my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, it can be a tad harder to find special vegan foods, like fake meats or soy yogurts. But at least one Jonesboro (population: 60,000) store sells vegan cheese (Daiya). Of course, if you’re eating healthier, whole foods, it’s easy to eat anywhere you go. But I do like my fake meat indulgences sometimes. In Memphis, where I live now, we have three totally vegan restaurants (one if which is all raw) and loads of places to buy vegan groceries.
But it wasn’t so easy growing up as a vegetarian in small-town Arkansas in the 1990s. I ate lots and lots of veggie burgers, mac & cheese, and ramen noodles (okay, okay, I still eat lots of ramen). It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come with vegetarian and vegan options down here.
C: Being from the South as well I’m really excited about your book. Even though I eat really healthy I’m always down for some comfort food! What are some of your favorite dishes from Cookin’ Crunk?
B: Definitely the Country Fried Tempeh Steak with Soymilk Gravy. It’s not health food by a long shot, but it’s good for the soul. I do provide baked alternatives to that and several other fried recipes for people looking to eat healthier. I also love the BBQ Tempeh & Carrot Sandwiches, the Country Potato Soup (it’s loaded with veggie bacon!), the Buttermilk Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy, and Spicy Seitan Hot Wangz.
C: It seems in the South more kids grow up cooking next to their grandmother’s, but the food isn’t usually healthy. When did you get interested in cooking? Was your family supportive when you went vegetarian?
B: I followed my mama and granny around their kitchens from a very early age. I was always inventing crazy new dishes using a TON of spices and seasoning salts, some of which were not even close to edible. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I developed a more sensible palette.
When I first went vegetarian at age 14, my mama thought I was crazy. But she eventually warmed up to the idea, and so did my granny. Now they love to veganize their dishes for me when I visit, and they even helped veganize some dishes for my cookbook. My mama’s cornbread dressin’ (in the book) is the best thing in the whole world…ever.
C: Do you have any advice for those who have to share holidays with omnivores?
B: I share holidays with omnivores! I’m the only vegan in my immediate family, but thankfully my mama and granny veganize all the holiday dishes for me (and no one else seems to mind that they’re eating vegan sides). I bring my own Tofurky to the table though. If your family is less inclined to plan their holiday meal around you, bring a few vegan dishes of your own to share. Maybe you’ll even change their notions about vegan food.
C: My favorite dish growing up was Broccoli, Rice and Cheese casserole. Do you have a vegan version of it in your book?
Check out this post for the recipe!
C: What do you do with your time besides make delicious vegan food?
B: I love to run in the mornings. And I spend lots of time chillin’ with my 2 big mutts (Datsun, a lab mix, and Maynard, a pit bull mix) and my 6 kitties (Akasha, Pandora, Polaris, Gelfling, Ozzie, and Seymour). By day, I’m an editor at Memphis’ alt-weekly paper, The Memphis Flyer.
C: Do you have any book signings or events planned for next year?
B: I have one more booksigning planned for 2012. It’s Friday, December 7th at 7 p.m. at Cosmic Coconut (an all-vegan juice and smoothie bar) in Memphis.
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Tell us what you plan to make for the upcoming holiday!