I grew up in the Midwest yet my mother was from the South. Growing up, I ate traditional “soul food”,
which, even though it was tasty, was not the most healthy. I distinctly remember not liking vegetables at all. I
was a very heavy meat eater and we also ate a lot of cheese and bread, and even fast food. Later I learned to
love the taste of vegetables once I learned how to cook them, or actually, how NOT to cook them. You see,
most southern cooking involves overcooking nearly everything, including vegetables, so I really did not have
an appreciation for them until I became a vegetarian.
I became a vegetarian in 1985, when I was introduced to a spiritual path by my (then) future husband.
One of the tenets of the path is the adoption of a lacto-vegetarian diet because we believe that it is
unnecessary to take higher forms of life in order to survive. By adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, we lessen our
Since my husband was already a vegetarian, it was actually quite easy because we were on the same page
when it came to our philosophy of life. Our children were born and raised vegetarian and even though they
are now in college, they are still vegetarian. Although we always gave them the choice, they understood and
respected our spiritual philosophy and throughout their lives have adopted it as their own. It also helped that
I created, or should I say “re-created” some of the typical dishes that their friends ate; only I substituted
vegetarian ingredients. This way, they did not feel deprived or too different in any way. It’s funny, because
many members in our extended family thought that our children would not grow up to be healthy if we did
not feed them meat. Turns out that my son is 6’5”, weighs 195 lbs and is on his college basketball team. My
daughter is quite athletic as well and plays Rugby on a local club team. Basically, we dispelled the myth that
you need meat in order to grow up “big and strong.” My children do not know any different since they were
born and raised that way.
The one thing I noticed right away when I changed to a vegetarian diet was that my digestion improved
dramatically. When I ate meat, I used to get severely constipated and I felt lethargic many times. After
adopting a healthier diet, I became more regular and people even commented that my skin appeared fresher
and even “glowed.”
The idea for my book, “Throwin’ Down” Vegetarian Style! came about when my daughter entered her third
year in college and finally had an apartment instead of a dorm room. She had access to a kitchen and asked
me to send her some recipes. As I gathered the recipes, the book took on a life of its own. I decided to expand
it into a manual about not only how we eat, but also the benefits of vegetarianism as a whole. America is in
the grip of an obesity/health crisis, and although people are searching for alternatives, many do no know
where to look. This is especially true for African Americans since our traditional foods can be very unhealthy.
According to the American Obesity Association, 78% of African American women are overweight. Many are
on the path to suffering related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. My mother has all
three of these and takes over 12 medications per day just to maintain moderate health. This was a direct
result of her diet and lack of exercise. As an African American woman myself, I felt this book would be a
great resource for those women in particular and would show them how they can still enjoy our traditional
soul food while using vegetarian ingredients.
My mother was lactose intolerant. In fact, many African Americans are lactose intolerant. Our family eats
very little dairy because we just feel better when we don’t. Occasionally, I will make dishes with rennetless
cheese, (rennet comes from animal sources) but that’s about it. We never have real milk (we prefer soy milk)
and we never have real ice cream (we prefer the soy ice creams). I also have asthma so I limit the dairy in
order to reduce the amount of mucous in my system that can add to asthmatic symptoms. Since we eliminated
nearly all dairy from our diet, we have all noticed a reduction in sore throats and common colds.
My daughter and I eat raw foods as much as possible. Again, I feel that my digestion is better when I
incorporate more raw foods into my daily routine. My husband also makes large quantities of fresh vegetable
juices that we all enjoy. Every so often, we will have complete meals that are raw to give our bodies a break
from cooked food.
This is such an exciting time to be a vegetarian. The entire planet is going through a spiritual evolution and it
seems that everyone is becoming more concerned about the environment and personal health. I feel so
encouraged by this and also blessed to be able to help in any way!