If you have any interest in improving your personal health with something as delightful as chocolate-rosemary pudding with dark chocolate covered espresso beans, then you should read Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry. “Essentially we wanted to create a book we would want to read — one that combined the joys and fun of cooking with the arguments for why supporting local, sustainable, fair food matters so much,” explains Lappé.
While the second half of the book offers a variety of seasonal recipes, the first half consists of a series of essays that begin with a realistic breakdown of the concept of “choice” in our diets along with other illusions. These essays continue to unfold the startling reality of food, pesticides and farming corporations — the ugly truth behind the pretty marketing.
So just who are the folks responsible for this eye-opening book with its compelling recipes?
Anna Lappé is the source behind the essays. As the daughter of Frances Moore Lappé — influential author and social change activist — Anna did not have your average childhood. “Some of my earliest memories are of stuffing envelopes for my mother’s Institute for Food and Development Policy, or sitting at my father’s dinner table as he described his work on toxics in factories and in the fields,” she recalls.
Eventually Anna and her mother wrote a book together, "Hope’s Edge," which explores worldwide social movements addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty. The experience was life-changing for the budding activist. “I decided to dedicate my life to this work after writing [the book] … and traveling to communities in India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Poland, France and Kenya, where I met some of the most impressive, unsung environmental heroes on the planet,” Anna says. "Hope’s Edge" is now used in classrooms across the country and has been translated into several languages. This mother and daughter team later founded the Small Planet Institute, a collaborative network for research and social education.
Anna and Bryant met in 2003, when they both lived in Brooklyn. Anna called Bryant after reading about the nonprofit he had founded, B-Healthy, whose purpose is to educate low-income youth on nutrition, cooking and finding alternatives to low-quality food. “I knew enough about him from this short description to know we had to meet,” Anna says. “Within a week, we got together for coffee — and the conversations began.”
“We were both passionate and excited about similar issues, so we decided to write the book,” Bryant adds. “The motivation for us was wanting to create a book that educated our peers — people who had college educations.”
Bryant Terry is the multi-faceted, creative chef and activist who developed and wrote the recipes section for "Grub," which includes not only culturally diverse meals but also music suggestions and poetry. His approach to the menus is also unique. In his introduction he resists labeling the cuisine, offering basic recipes for vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters alike — encouraging readers to alter the menus to suit their personal needs and offering suggestions along the way on how to do so.
“I would say the foundation of my work is growing up in Memphis, Tennessee,” Bryant says, “and spending a lot of time in the gardens that my grandparents had — learning about growing food.” From there he developed a desire to help people be more aware of food and agricultural issues. “I thought that cooking would be the best way for me to engage in [those] issues,” he explains. He ended up attending culinary school -— but never worked in a restaurant. Instead, he started his nonprofit, B-Healthy.
Today he lives in California with his fiancé in a home with a large garden reminiscent of his childhood, where they inspire their neighbors with a large selection of fresh grown goodies: collard greens, kale, celery, broccoli, rosemary, thyme, oregano and flowers. His next book, "Vegan Soul Kitchen" — over 150 recipes of animal-free meals inspired by Southern cooking, complete with photos and his typical suggested soundtracks —is set to be released in March 2009.
As for Anna, she’s in the final stages of completing another book as well, this one about food and climate change to be released in 2010.