Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Soul Sisters

Long before I began veganizing Southern family classics for my upcoming cookbook, author Ann Jackson was busy doing the dirty work of converting a few traditional country recipes into vegetarian versions. Her book, Cookin' Southern: Vegetarian Style, was published in 2000 (when I was still in college!) by the Book Publishing Company at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. It's not vegan, but many of the recipes are naturally egg and dairy-free. The ones that are not are pretty easily veganizable.

When my buddy Rick at the Book Publishing Company noticed a copy of Jackson's book on the shelf, he thought of me (ahhh!) and promptly sent a copy for review. Not only is Jackson's book filled with delicious old-time soul food favorites, it's peppered with cute little poems (like her homage to dirty dishes) and narrative about growing up in the South.

I literally got chills when I read her introductory tribute to Southern life. In it, she boils down life in the South to "kitchens in the summer and tomato sandwiches; slapping mosquitos and swatting flies; watermelon, okra, and boiled peanuts; gumbo, corn dodger, and bobwhites"). Bobwhites, in case you didn't know, are birds whose call sounds like they're sayin' the name "Bob White."

Anyway, I was thrilled to explore this volume, and I've gotten so lost in reading it over the past few weeks that it's taken me awhile to actually cook from it. I finally got around to making this Tofu Chicken-Fried Steak:

It's marinated in sesame oil and coated with flour, nooch, and sesame seeds. Somehow, those little seeds actually make this stuff taste like fried chicken! So flavorful. Of course, it's more than a little fattening, but Jackson makes little attempt to healthify Southern dishes. I'm okay with that. My book will focus more on reducing the fat in typically-saturated Southern dishes. But I respect that Jackson doesn't hold back. She cooks the way our Southern grandmas cook, and that means keeping traditional foodways alive. I'm all for that.

On the side, I made Jackson's "Roast Beef" Gravy over Brown Rice:

The gravy actually tastes nothing like roast beef, but it's delicious nonetheless. Simply red wine, onions, and soy margarine. That's it. Honestly, anything can be made delicious with a little red wine. I used my favorite — Yellowtail Shiraz.

And because I'm partial to my greens over anyone else's (except my Granny's, of course), I cooked up some of my own recipe for Mess O' Greens with Turnips:

Here's the whole plate for a little better perspective:

That food has soul. Yes, indeed. Thanks Ann Jackson for pioneering the way for Southern herbivores!

15 comments:

Belle said...

I need that book... And a tomato sandwich now. :)

The Voracious Vegan said...

'This food has soul.' That is, I believe, the best compliment food can be given. What an amazing thing to say! I really must get my hands on that book because I NEED that tofu!

Veganlinda said...

It has been a favorite cookbook in our house for years. My hubby is from NC and I thought this cookbook would endear me to his father (who 15 years later still calls me a Yankee and laments his son marrying someone from up north). No matter, we enjoy the food from this cookbook and I can't wait for yours to come out.

The Kuntrageous Vegan said...

Yay for the Farm! Until about a year ago I was still able to buy their tofu, yogurt and seitan. For some reason [I really think Whole Foods stopped doing business with them] i can't find their stuff anywhere anymore!
That tofu looks amazing.

Susan G said...

I love this book! The food is so delicious. I have this one and an older version, which has mostly the same recipes but is less politically correct (i.e the "Wild Women's BBQ Sauce" in the newer version was "White Woman's BBQ Sauce" in the first version.)

Lauren said...

I am totally buying this book for my mom. She grew up in Tennessee and is extremely Southern.

Sheridanna said...

YUM! That plate of food looks sooooooo delicious! I want this cookbook too!

Danielle said...

YUM! I make a lot of veg dishes in the Southern style (sans meat, and am drooling over the marvelous plate in your pic. I'm also chuckling about Vegan Linda's comment, because it sounds so familiar! From my experience, my family only say things like this because change is hard for them, and it isn't personal!

HaleyCalifornia said...

I MUST pick up this book! that tofu looks absolutly divine! thanks for sharing

Lady Ren said...

I have never marinating, well anything, in sesame oil- I didn't realize it would pick up the flavor- I will have to try this- we love cooking with sesame oil.

Jessica said...

Ah, the South, where even the vegetables aren't vegetarian! I wonder why she called that gravy roast beef.

Babette said...

Your plate looks delish

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

Yummy! That fried tofu looks so darn good. So does the gravy!

The Rockin' Vegan said...

Mmmm, that dish looks incredible, every single bit of it. Makes me long for some soul food! I actually tried making some southern style greens with Tofurkey sausage the other day - way simple, but so rich in flavor. Can't wait to see your reduced fat soul food offerings!

Erin said...

This is an amazing looking dinner! I can see how sesame seeds would give the tofu that fried chicken flavor, oddly enough.