This recipe book is not vegan. This should be made clear (it is plant-based using mostly vegan with some vegetarian ingredients like cow based butter). My excitement about the book comes more from the fact that it is written from a ‘decolonizing’ point of view. These perspectives, will vary depending on who is writing and how they define ‘decolonizing’; ‘decolonizing’ anything is not a monolith. It would be interesting to know if future books they write will consider a ‘vegan’ framework for decolonizing your diet. Food Empowerment project has more info about a decolonizing the diet framework that is vegan oriented that you should check out.
Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her bookScars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.
BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWERS. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.
Part recipe book, part critical narratives, part memoir, with a touch of humor, Recipes for Racial Tensions Headaches is an entertaining and a thought-provoking book. The idea was inspired by Dr. Harper’s 2011 food demo at the San Francisco Greens Festival . The first and only of its kind that year, her food demo showcased a recipe for a plant-based green smoothie as a tool of anti-racism and self-care against racial battle fatigue. It was a creative way to use super greens to discuss the implications of living in a racial caste system (the supposed ‘post-racial’ USA) as a non-white woman engaged in anti-racism scholarship within the fields of ethical consumption and cultural food studies. Below is a snippet from her journal in 2011:
I attended the San Francisco Green Festival on November 11, 2012 to give a food demo. I think I may have been the only person presenting that included ”racial tension” and “racism” as descriptive words for my presentation. This is my first food demo I have ever given. I was nervous.
This comes from my years of work and personal experience of not being able to deal with the years of racist micro-aggressions to the overt direct in your face “Ima call you a n*gger”. I have talked about the days I have overdosed on vegan organic jelly beans after dealing with blatant white supremacist thinkers. And I have done this even though I know intellectually that I am not supposed to do that and then expect to feel ‘in harmony.’ So, when I was asked to participate this year, I decided that I would take the ‘bold’ step to send them my title, “Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Holistic Vegan Recipes to Combat the Stresses of Racism.” They accepted it. I was surprised since collectively, the framing of the event is ensconced in post-racialism, neoliberal whiteness, & neoliberal capitalism. LOL.
The audience was a mixed bunch but just about all the chairs were seated. I realized that people either were genuinely interested in what I had to say…. or were just staying through all food demos to get the free food at the end. Haha. So, maybe that is what I should do in the future when I talk about racism and USA’s racial caste system to a mainstream audience: offer food!
Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches will critically reflect on the past ten years of Dr. Harper’s journey as a critical race feminist through the ethical foodscape in the USA. At the end of each chapter’s narrative, Dr. Harper will share plant-based recipes that were inspired by her experiences. This book will include (but not limited to) creative and analytical narratives about her:
Treks to events like the Hip Hop vegan based youth dinner in Sacramento, CA that conveyed what anti-racism looks like through veganism.
Keynote talk at Brown Suga Youth Festival in Denver CO and speaking to the organizer DJ Cavem about fighting environmental racism and Prison Industrial Complex through veganism and eco-gardening.
Reflections on the racial-gender implications of traveling as a vegan Black woman to many keynote talks with her newborn daughters in tow, and nursing them on demand (even on stage at places like University of Oregon while discussing her new book Scars).
Frustrations and strategies for being called a ‘racist’ when employing social science methods to critique ideologies of whiteness in the ‘post-racial’ American ethical foodscape.
Organizing the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter 2015 conference in which many white people responded with “All Lives Matter” or “this event is ‘racist’”, before and after the successful event
Exploration of how key Black vegan men have used hip-hop methodologies to create varying forms of “race-consciousness” that often conflict with each other (i.e., some resist cis-sexism, ableism, anti-feminism while others reinforce them.) Note: This idea was originally going to be its on book called “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix), but it will be integrated into Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches instead two chapters.
Adventures in nursing while on a super greens vegan diet while hiking through Utah’s national parks as the “token” Black person.
Funding The Annual Sistah Vegan Conferences: The Only Critical Race Studies Oriented Conferences about Vegan Praxis
In 2013, Harper organized a first-of-its-kind Sistah Vegan Project conference , focusing on Black embodied and Black feminist perspectives from Black vegan women and allies. This conference brought community leaders, activists and intellectuals together with an eager audience to speak about the links between social justice and animal rights, sexualization of the body, parenting and spirituality, cosmetic marginalization and indigenous foodways from non-white vegan perspectives.
In 2015, again, Dr. Harper organized another highly successful conference called the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter .
Building on the Sistah Vegan’s favorable reception, Harper created The Sistah Vegan website, a blog writes about intersections of ethical consumption, anti-racism, critical whiteness studies, and Black feminist thought. She recently posted the top 20 blog posts of 2015.
Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix) which explored how key Black vegan men us hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies.
BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR. THE SISTAH VEGAN PROJECT ALREADY HAS SEVERAL THOUSAND FOLLOWER. JUST IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED IF HALF OR MORE FOLLOWERS PLEDGED $5-$15 PER MONTH.
Earlier this year, I received a newsletter about the announcement of a new cookbook, Teff Love. After reading the marketing language for this new book, I decided that I would send the publishing company some of my thoughts ( which come after the snapshot I took of the newsletter below). First of all, I absolutely am not bashing the work and love that was put into Berns’ book and successful blog. As someone who has written and published manuscripts, I know that it takes a lot of work, time, etc for achieving such an end product. Instead, my focus for this post is looking at the communication style employed when marketing a book about Ethiopian cuisine and the assumptions made about the audience; I am curious about the ease in which terms like ‘demystify’ are used for non-White cultural foods.
I emailed the letter below to the publisher on April 1, 2015, after emailing them in March. I never heard from them and assume that they are incredibly busy with work and life, so I’m not upset or anything.
And let me give you another reminder that I am approaching analysis of the announcement of the book as a critical food studies scholar influenced by critical race feminist methodologies. I am using the advertisement as an exercise to explore unconscious bias within the mainstream ‘post-racial’ ethical consumption movement. Ultimately, I hope that it will be a useful tool for anyone who thinks about marketing cookbooks written by white people with culinary interest in non-White Eurocentric food ways.
My letter explores how exotifying certain non-white people’s cultural foods may be received as cool to the mainstream [white] vegan audience but triggering and traumatizing to those in the USA who are non-white and may even be non-white immigrants who are constantly reminded how they are exotic and don’t belong in a USA obsessed with giving full human-ship and citizen ship to white people.
After the advertisement for Teff Love was released, there were quite a few conversations happening among vegans of color on Facebook. Many explained that they found the marketing language of Teff Love to be problematic and frustrating; some folk talked about how a rather well know Afro-Caribbean vegan chef, known for only writing books and giving lessons about Caribbean cuisine, was unable to secure a cookbook deal for writing about French cuisine… because the publishers didn’t think an image of a Black woman could sell books about [white] French cuisine (yet, for some reason, white people are normally not told they can’t publish a cookbook about recipes that are non-white Eurocentric). This spurred a conversation about who is allowed to be an ‘expert’ on culinary practices and who isn’t…and what racial bias (implicit or overt) has to do with all of this.
I also want to make it clear that Berns has an excellent cooking blog and hold valuable culinary knowledge, so this is not bashing her work and love for vegan cooking. While I was trying to learn how to make injera, her video was quite helpful for me, so thanks Kittee. I also know that authors often do not have much control over the end product (i.e. their book, how it’s marketed, how it is edited, etc)
Below is the letter I sent to Book Publishing Co.
April 1, 2015
Congratulations on the new book release.
I was wondering why the news release is worded the way it is. Is the audience assumed to be non-Ethiopian? Just wondering if the language used could be more mindful when talking about non-White cuisines. Words such as ‘demystified’ position Ethiopian cuisine as something that needs to be made ‘accessible’ for a supposedly and assumed non-Ethiopian (most likely white) audience of vegan cooking folk. When this new release came out, quite a few of us in the vegans of color community noted that though well-intended, the advertisement is worded in a problematic and culturally appropriating way. We were wondering why the cultural authority to ‘demystify’ a non-White cuisine ( that isn’t mystical to many of us who may have Ethiopian ancestry/are Ethiopian) is given to a seemingly white author; it’s not that white people cannot write books about Ethiopian or other non-white/non-European cuisine. Our concern is that too many times, white chefs and cookbook authors are uncritically allowed to write about any cuisine in the world while non-white cookbook authors and chefs are usually limited to only writing and publishing a book about cuisine from their racial/ethnic group (i.e. Black people write about ’soul food’ but it would be hard for them to find a publishing deal if they wrote about French or German cuisine).
I speak from a scholarly and racial justice activist training, as someone with a doctorate in social science with focus on critical food studies and race, and as someone who has published academic work on the subject of food and exotic cooking. My research has been on the phenomenon of mainstream publishers making non-white/non-European cuisine/food products appear to be ‘exotic’ and ‘mystical’ that usually only a white chef has the ‘objective’ expertise to ’translate’ for a largely white audience who are assumed to not trust themselves when trying out ’new’ ‘exotic’ cuisines unless a white chef takes the lead. Lise Heldke, a white anti-racist critical food studies scholar writes about this in her acclaimed book Exotic Appetites. I also wrote about what it means to turn non-white vegans, their culture, their cuisine, into ‘exotic’ objects by mainstream foodie culture which is white, middle-class and ‘post-racial’. It has been used in many classes that look at studies of food as well as racial experience in the USA. Here is the citation:
Harper, A. (2011). “Knowing, Feeling, and Experiencing the ‘Exotic'” in Alkon, Alison and Julian Agyeman. Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. MIT Press. Cambridge: MA.
Just some food for thought for you to consider as you advertise for this new book. You may gain a wider audience/fans if your marketing staff can be more mindful of the nuances of ‘assumed whiteness’ and covert racism when using certain words and phrasing when promoting new books. It’s also often helpful to enlist the help of people trained in critical race, critical feminist, critical gender, etc studies to look over marketing campaigns to ensure that the language used causes the least amount of harm to marginalized populations. I do this almost all the time to make sure, for example, as a person with able-bodied and cis-gender privilege, that my writing does not uphold systems of ableism and transphobia. Of course no writing can ever be 100% free from discursive violence, but it’s helpful to alleviate it as much as possible.
Thanks for your time and consideration of my thoughts.
(Looking back at the letter, I don’t think it was probably the best idea to use the term ‘discursive violence’ as I assume most people would find it off-putting.)
4 years ago, I gave a talk about the vegan exotic and whiteness that may shed some more light for those who are new to this subject:
Now that you have spent time reading this blog post and maybe watching the video, here are some questions I have for anyone who has or is writing a cookbook and/or marketing one. My assumed audience for these questions are primarily those who have spent a fare amount of time in the USA, maybe even raised here. I acknowledge that people who have not lived here long enough or didn’t spend their childhood in the USA may not understand the complex nature of race, ethnicity, and whiteness:
How do implicit biases, created by systems of oppression (racism, ableism, cis-sexism, classism), impact your cookbook writing and/or marketing?
Even better, are you aware that most of us are untouched by implicit biases created by systems of oppression (racism, ableism, cis-sexism, classism) and that they impact your cookbook writing and/or marketing?
How did your feel about this blog post and the letter I wrote? What were your initial responses and why?
If you are a non-White person, have you ever experienced being exotified within the ethical consumption arena in the USA?
If you are a white identified person, do you consider non-white cultures ‘exotic’ and ‘mysterious’ and why?
Regardless of racial identification, have you ever thought about your response when learning, for example, and African American chef or cookbook author does not write about African American food, but something else?
What has been your response when learning that a white chef or cookbook author has been labeled as an ‘expert’ for non-white ethnic cuisine in the USA?
When asked to think about race and/or whiteness, as applied to food, what are your initial reactions and why? Is it new or something that you have already been thinking about?
If you are a publishing company, perhaps you completely understand your market and maybe you know that the majority of your customers would respond more positively to phrases like “demystify” or “exotic” because you know the value and history those labels carry with that buying demographic.
If that is the case, what are your thoughts on this letter? Do you find yourself having to make ethical sacrifices to make enough profits to keep afloat?
Do you worry that integrating critical approaches to how systemic racism and other ‘isms’ impacts the culinary world (or whatever publishing world you are in that has nothing to do with critical approaches to systemic social injustices) may end up being “off-putting” to a majority that is thinking one-dimensionally about the topic being marketed?
My three kids loved my strawberry hemp seed ice cream. I use a Vitamix Standard Blender for blending ingredients smoothly, and then I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. The lecithin blends and binds the ingredients very nicely. It creates a creamy and smooth texture.
Hemp seeds are a powerful super food. They are incredibly high in magnesium as well as brain building Omega 3-6-9. 3 tbsps give you 10 grams of protein. It’s a mineral rich seed and best of all, it’s an incredibly sustainable crop to grow. Some people do not like the strong taste of hemp. I got my kids started off on hemp seed based ice cream and cookies at a very early age. I prefer it to the soy milk vegan alternative when making ice cream. Hemp seeds also make powerful milkshakes as well! You can turn the recipe above into a milkshake by adding 4 ice cubes. Enjoy!
And now here is the part in which I will segue into Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches. If you have been following my work for awhile, you know that I am working on a new book about my journey as a critical race feminist through the ethical foodscape of a “post-racial” USA. I wanted to offer how I have been using hemp seeds as a tool of health and resistance in a USA obsessed with being both “post-racial” and “anti-black” at the same time.
Mentioned earlier in this post, hemp seeds are high in magnesium. Magnesium is quite calming. Supplements such as the product Calm have the primary ingredient of magnesium to ensure a more relaxing and calm night for both children and adults. I know there is no one answer to tackling the injustices many of us witness and/or survive through that are rooted in anti-Black systemic racism. I do not mean to take the racial profiling and targeted violence of our Brown and Black communities very lightly by heading into the direction of what foods like hemp seed can offer. As I am writing this, I am thinking about ways in which we can thrive through the physical and emotional stresses of talking to our Black children about the kids that look like them being violently assaulted by police (see Tamir Rice and South Carolina Spring Valley student) .
Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that the heart of the hemp seed can produce calming effects on human beings. This is actually due to the calming and relaxing effects of the magnesium and other minerals in the seed. Do you know what I do with my children? I talk to them about the social injustices affecting the Black community as well as other marginalized communities. I am real and upfront with them in asking them how they feel and what we can do to try to feel better as well as take action. I say things like, “You were really upset about hearing that a child was shot by a police officer. Let’s talk about it and about how we can take care of ourselves during times of such sadness and stress.” I will then start making hemp seed ice cream or cookies with them while we talk about these issues. Simultaneously, I and am teaching them that hemp seed can help them relax and feel less anxious about witnessing and/or hearing about such violent events. My children are 2, 4, and 6.5 years of age and I honestly do not think they are too young to start making all these connections as well as not too young to feel like they have no agency in this.
Warning, I am an improv baker half the time and did not use a recipe or write it down. However, just wanted to share what I do to get my kids to enjoy chia seeds, teff, almond meal, and hempseeds. I use banana as a sweetener and chia seeds as an egg white replacer. Let us see what the kiddos have to say about my latest concoction!
I made these yesterday morning for my 4 year old’s birthday party. They were a fantastic hit, enjoyed by everyone. I surprised quite a few non-vegan folk who didn’t know that it was possible to make a superior tasting cupcake without eggs, animal based butter, and animal based milk. I enjoyed photographing my masterpiece.
I got the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Save the World via Chow website. I did my own modifications for the recipe. Because the birthday party was for 2-6 years olds, I thought it would be a good idea to reduce the sugar that the recipe calls for by 50% and replace it with coconut sugar which has a low glycemic index and can prevent the crash and burn hyper kid syndrome that many birthday cupcakes are known to produce. I also ended up using 50% less sugar for the vegan butter cream frosting recipe as well (I used my own recipe for the buttercream frosting which I will share towards the end of this post).
What makes these cupcakes special is that they are not only vegan and organic; most of the ingredients I used came from brands that are much more ethical than many other brands selling vegan foods. This is because ‘cruelty-free’ vegan products often promote the idea that cruelty-free means no non-human animal may have been directly harmed or killed, but the way the ingredient were sourced could come from human exploitation and abuse which is common-place within a capitalist food system built on racialized and sexualized exploitation.My dissertation explored this phenomenon of “cruelty-free” vegan products that are marketed as compassionate and sustainable, despite the human suffering and pain that had gone into producing them…and the disturbing reaction of so many food companies and pro-vegan patrons who do not care about this. *I used coconut manna to make my buttercream frosting. I love coconut manna and everyone agreed that the frosting was fantastic because of the fullness of taste and texture that the coconut manna brought.
Buttercream Vanilla Frosting Ingredients
3/4 cup Nutiva Buttery Spread
1/4 cup Coconut Manna
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
3/4 cup of Confectioner’s sugar (I made my own using the Dry Vitamix blender container and putting in the Coconut Sugar)
Instructions: Whip all ingredients on high, using a mixer, until creamy and fluffy. Apply to cupcakes once they are cooled down.
Here are the brands I used for cocoa, sugar, coconut oil, shortening, vanilla, and coconut manna that were fairly traded, vegan, and hopefully caused the least amount of suffering (in comparison to other brands).
And here is the recipe book where the cupcake recipe is from by Moskowitz and Romero: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Click on the image to get it now!
And we are the only project working on a critical race and decolonial analytical book about veganism, ethical consumption, hip hop veganism, and alternative black masculinities. Find out more here.
As much as I love mainstream vegan recipe blogs, I’d love to see more critical and outspoken posts that question systemic oppression beyond non-human animal cruelty. It is possible to throw down a mad cool recipe about local ingredients to make sorbet and then talk about how systemic racism makes so many of us sick…and then offer some recipes for ‘racial tension headaches’ to start the conversation about what it’s like trying to eat vegan food in a USA in which the food system– well, ‘the system’ overall– maintains and perpetuates racism and justifies/normalizes anti-black violence as well as speciesist violence.
On a side note, several of you have asked about my hair. It’s big, fluffy, and voluminous. A lot of folk who have had more than one baby, have told me that their hair is thin or has and continues to fall out. I had the same problem until I figured out this secret.
I attended the San Francisco Green Festival on November 11, 2012 to give a food demo. I think I may have been the only person presenting that included ”racial tension” and “racism” as descriptive words for my presentation. This is my first food demo I have ever given. I was nervous. Though posted over two years ago, I am reposting this in light of Black Lives Matter Movement and in response to the significant amount of stress and emotional pain I continue to go through, as an anti-racist vegan activist. I will be expanding upon these ideas for the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter online Sistah Vegan conference at the end of April 2015. If you enjoy this and would like to see more videos that have ‘recipes for racial tension headaches’, please support us by donating to the Sistah Vegan Project.
About the video:
This comes from my years of work and personal experience of not being able to deal with the years of racist micro-aggressions to the overt direct in your face “Ima call you a n*gger”. I have talked about the days I have overdosed on vegan organic jelly beans after dealing with blatant white supremacist thinkers. And I have done this even though I know intellectually that I am not supposed to do that and then expect to feel ‘in harmony.’ So, when I was asked to participate in 2012, I decided that I would take the ‘bold’ step to send them my title, “Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Holistic Vegan Recipes to Combat the Stresses of Racism.” They accepted it. I was surprised LOL.
The audience was a mixed bunch but just about all the chairs were seated. I realized that people either were genuinely interested in what I had to say…. or were just staying through all food demos to get the free food at the end. Haha. So, maybe that is what I should do in the future when I talk about racism and white supremacy to a mainstream audience: offer food!
By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the reference ‘racial tension headaches’, my demo was in response to this Saturday Night live skit with Queen Latifah who takes Excedrin for her racial tension headache.
We had waffles for dinner tonight. Very healthy! The kids loved this nutrient packed power house. We use olive oil for ‘butter’ and always have. They love it!
1 cup Spelt flour
12 c almond flour
12 c buckwheat flour
2.25 c of soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking power
5 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 table spoon chia seeds (soak in soy milk for ten minutes first so it can gel up and become egg replacer). I prefer these over flax. Flax tastes bad to me when it is cooked.
Throw in blender on high for two minutes.
I use Duraceramic non Teflon Belgian waffle maker and Vita mix blender. I use a fair trade more sustainable coconut oil. I notice if I don’t add sugar and use coconut oil, the waffles never stick.
I have three preschoolers and they love Spirulina. Kira Satya is seven months old and loves my homemade popsicles. This morning she had avocado, fig, and Pacifica Hawaiian Spirulina popsicle I made yesterday using Zoku silicon Popsicle molds. I highly recommend Zoku mini pops mold for preschoolers. All other molds are too big and they never finish the pops.
In my Vitamix blender I added 1 medium Hass avocado, five figs, 1 tsp of Jarrow baby probiotics, and 1 tbsp of Spirulina in the blender. I then blended everything on level 10 for about thirty seconds. I filled the molds and froze.
Eva Luna (2.5 yrs) and Kira Satya loved it.
Luna refers to herself as the Spirulina monster. Scary, no? LOL.
Sun is five now and I grew him on Pacifica Hawaiian Spirulina. He is in the photo below with me, mama. He started on Spirulina in utero!