Going against the “GRAIN”… Young Black and Vegetarian


I was hatched into a family where meat reigned supreme. .. Chicken and pork where a staple in my home the way rice is commonplace in a Latino home. I’ve had so much carnage that I can close my eyes while YOU chew and know intimately how each corner of the pig, chicken, and cow taste all before you swallow. I’m an expert of sorts. My mother is actually very proud of this very thing. In fact on every holiday she has a habit of making mention of my former love for braised. short ribs. She’ll lean in with a warm rib dripping of warm BBQ sauce…sucking the excess before it has a chance to fall through the air. Quite a talent if you ask me…  However.. life goes on. And I grew more enlightened. I traded short ribs for tempeh, and Kool-Aid for green juice smoothies, butter for coconut oil, and all you can eat buffets for temperance. Vegetarianism has taken a firm hold on my heart, and taste buds. For all my friends and family that miss those opportunities to share every deep fried and roasted hoof, paw, wing and other things… Sorry… but I’m not sorry. I’ve evolved. But best believe it’s all for the best. I’ve joined the movement and taken hold on its momentum full force. So I invite you to jump onboard the bandwagon, it’s a great place to be.

Vegetarianism is still a novelty in some circles and so when I’m seen passing on a plate full of flesh I’m either received as a national treasure or a bad omen. Its just the way it goes. But as a minority it has been very important to begin making some major changes in the way i behaved, and that includes what foods I’ve invited into my belly. The decision to drop meat and limit sugar in my life wasn’t an easy road lined with sugar plums and gingerbread houses. It all stemmed from a conversation that I had with my mother. I complained of low energy, and frequent urination. Her advice, see a doctor. (**insert cricket sounds**) In her opinion I was destined for a life of diabetes, and possibly heart disease. Two things that I wasn’t either ready for… nor excited about. So, I took nutrition classes searching for a way out of a bleak future. And in that process, this is what I discovered . African American adults are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician than non -Hispanic white adults. African Americans are 1.4 times more likely to have high blood pressure than non – Hispanic whites. And lastly, African American men and women are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non white Hispanics. And while it is self evident that other minority groups are affected as well, knowing those facts and seeing them play out in the lives of my family scared me straight. Period.

A vegetarian diet, combined with exercise promotes quality of life. Although there is no silver bullet in regards to warding off disease, a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a sound diet is key to a higher quality of life. Incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into your meal times, while phasing out animal products is a great way to not only ward off disease, but also to control weight gain, and improve the bodies response to allergens. Health is indeed wealth.  and guess what? Vegetarianism is beginning to build momentum in the African American community. In fact several African American celebrities like Erykah Badu, Andre 3000, Reverand Al Sharpton, and Common have all embraced a plant based diet. And while that should’nt be your sole motivation, it should cast a bright spotlight on the fact that healthful living is a movement. So I invite you to join this movement for a higher quality of life, and a more promising future. Leave a legacy of health, because health is indeed wealth. Try this soulful vegan recipe and join the movement.  

Here’s to Healthful Living,

Chef Will Hall





Dairy FreeVegan




Tartar Sauce 

  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained


  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 (12-ounce) box firm silken tofu
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 8 scallions, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil


Tartar Sauce

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayo lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers and stir together. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate until needed.


  1. Finely mince the spinach in a food processor and set aside. You should have about 1 cup of spinach.
  2. In a food processor, process the tofu until smooth, then scrape into a medium size mixing bowl. In the same food processor, pulse the parsley, bell pepper, and scallions until finely chopped. Transfer to the bowl with the tofu and add the spinach, black-eyed peas, flour, panko, baking powder, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon four mounds of the mixture into the oil, flattening the tops of each to make a one-inch thick cake. Cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. If cakes become dark brown, reduce the heat to medium. Flip and cook 2 more minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot, topped with the reserved tartar sauce.









CATSOULIS, JEANNETTE. “Soul Food Vegan Style.” The new York Times 5 May 2011: n. pag. Print.

Coleman, Christina. “The 15 most annoying things about being a Black Vegetarian.” . Global Grind, 10 May 2013. Web. . <http://globalgrind.com/2013/05/10/most-annoying-things-about-being-black-vegetarian-list/&gt;.

DiJulio, Betsy. “Pea and Spinach Cakes (with Sun-Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce).” . The Blooming Platter, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. . <Pea and Spinach Cakes (with Sun-Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce)>

medina, jennifer. “Fast-Food Outlet Stirs Concerns in a Mecca of Healthy Living.” The New York Times 11 Dec. 2011, sec. Loma Linda Journal: n. pag. Print.

Tinuoye, Kunbi . “Are more African-Americans embracing veganism?.” theGrio. N.p., 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 7 July 2014. <http://thegrio.com/2012/02/27/are-more-african-americans-embracing-veganism/&gt;.

“We’re in!.” OMH Content. N.p., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 July 2014. <http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=62&gt;.


High Regard for Rhubard





There are some subtle signs that spring is here… that new life is beginning to sprout, blossom, and dazzle. Rhubarb is that sign for me, second only to strawberries.  And what a coincidence, rhubarb and strawberries go great together. This cousin to celery, is pretty sassy, rich, and a bit outspoken (tart).  We all have cousins like that, when its their season, they tend to make their presence known, that’s rhubarb.   Its like she (rhubarb) begs for attention, lots of sugar and like things.  Total red carpet treatment.  She demands that you love her.    I watched a man fall in love  just last week.  He simply couldn’t resist her pull.  It was actually quiet entertaining to watch him try. From a distance I noticed the delivery man place the case of rhubarb on the table, receive a signature,  and wave goodbye.  The first chef on the scene fingered through the full case of rhubarb, clearly checking for quality.  Even from where I stood  it was clear when like turned to love, and love to lust. He was a  man brazen with inspiration. New eyes. And so I watched in quiet anticipation to see where his creativity would take him.

This type of enthusiasm is common this time of year. Everyone and their mother is running to their nearest farmers market, farm, food coop and grocery store for a look at the seasons finest.   Only to waltz into their kitchens and create the best pies, jellies, jams, salad toppings and other exotic creations.   And why not ? Our beloved Rhubarb is one of the lowest calorie vegetables.  Rhubarbs red flesh ( the red stalks are the best; they’re less acidic, and more tangy) is packed with vitamin K ( responsible for promoting bone health, and reducing neuronal damage in the brain). Rhubarb also contains high levels of several B-complex vitamins like folates, niacin, B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.  With all of these health benefits, the choice for rhubarb is an easy one.  Head to your nearest farmers market, food coop or grocery store, and find the reddest variety, with crisp stalks. Avoid the limp stalks like the plague.   If for some reason the top leaves are still attached, peel them off and discard them, theyre totally unsuitable for consumption.  And then try this delicious recipe from  the Vegetarian Times.  




Chef Will Hall



Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Squares

Serves 12

These tangy-sweet squares will keep, covered, in the fridge up to 4 days.

  • 4 Tbs. orange juice
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 ½ cups diced frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup hulled and sliced strawberries
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated orange zest

Crust and Topping

  • 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
  1. To make Filling: Mix 1 Tbs. orange juice and cornstarch in bowl. In pan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, zest and remaining juice. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; partially cover, and cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender. Add cornstarch mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. To make Crust and Topping: Combine oats, both flours, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and salt in large bowl; blend with fork. Add orange juice and oil; blend with fork until crumbly.
  3. Press 2 cups oat mixture into bottom of 9×9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread rhubarb mixture over crust. Stir almonds into remaining oat mixture, and sprinkle over filling. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack. 



Rhubarb nutrition facts and health benefits. (2014, January 1). Nutrition And You.com. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/rhubarb.html

Salute Spring! Ten Ways to Enjoy Rhubarb Compote. (2009, May 9). Simple Bites. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.simplebites.net/salute-spring-ten-ways-to-enjoy-rhubarb-compote/

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Squares. (2005, April 1). thevegetariantimes. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/strawberry-rhubarb-crumble-squares/

Stranger things than CRANBERRIES

Tonight was a night full of lessons.  For the most part,  I played the teacher, but I must admit, the biggest lessons were taught to me by my two sons.  It all started with my youngest son Maxwell’s invitation to beat me in checkers – that’s right, this kid invited me to a friendly game of checkers where he would hypothetically embarrass me, and therefore teach me a lesson     ( *shaking my head* these are his words not mine).  I suggested that I teach him a few things, providing that he was open to learning, instead of revisiting the day where I crushed him. He preferred the option to learn, and so we moved forward with a “friendly” game of checkers.  A few hours later, he felt empowered enough trash talk again, so we took a snack break in hopes that a healthy treat and some water would be sobering to  his young mind (* this kid is hilarious)  At the mention of a snack, my eldest son Will walks in (so typical) and suggests a few healthy treats before we could get into our next lesson – a game of  ” Go Fish “.  So we grabbed some unsalted pistachios, some water, fruit and made light conversation.  In my sleepy stupor I looked up to see Will smiling while rinsing something in a bowl.  It could’ve been anything for all I could tell.  So I gave myself a light smack on the face, and prepared for what looked like part two of snack time.  “Whatcha got there?” I asked while rubbing my eyes.  “Fresh cranberries Dad” he answered while tossing a few in his mouth the way most children eat jelly beans.  I grabbed a few myself, and got right down to business.  And then my son asked the question that woke me the way only expresso can. He looked  me in the eyes and said  ” Dad is it strange that I like fresh cranberries?, people always say that I’m a strange kid because I eat them”  I grabbed both sides of his face, and gave him a crazy wide eyed look, while still crunching on a mouthful of cranberries.  “Son, you are absolutely beautiful, cranberries are dope, and so are you, whoever tells you that you’ve got strange taste buds is the problem,… tell em Dad says so” I said.  (*and so begins the conversation on what “DOPE” means)  “Yes, son, there are stranger things than cranberries”.  As the night progressed we moved from checkers, to cards, to movies      ( the movie really did watch me), and that cranberry conversation never left my mind.  All I could think about was how crazy a world we live in.  In a land of information, childhood obesity has become our norm, whereas my son is made to feel like an oddity for his  love of whole foods.  I woke up suddenly in the wee hours of the morning impregnated by this question, and all others born from my lil mister’s original thought- Is it so strange for a child, or anyone for that matter to love fresh cranberries? Do people realize the health benefits of cranberries?  Does America understand cranberries integral role in this countries history…. even before colonization?  After rising  in the early am for a restroom run, I sat on the edge of the bed, and contemplated it all.  After 10 minutes of deep thought, i decided that this was no time for sleep.  I needed some answers that sleep would’nt offer.

Native Americans were very generous to the Pilgrims that settled in the Americas.  They sheltered them, taught them how to survive the harsh winters, how to plant, hunt and how to thrive on indigenous foods. They shared super foods like cranberries, and so in short the Pilgrims and all other such vandals survived, consequently the New America was created. Cranberries were called the  sassamenesh, and  ibimi by native tribes because of its bitter, sour taste,  and later, the “cranberry” by the early settlers due to its resemblance to the Sandhill crane.  Native Americans used the cranberry as dye for clothing, medicine, tea ( the leaves), for hunting bait, and an all purpose food. Yes, the Native Americans recognized the many benefits of cranberries early on. Pemmican, which was made from dried venison and cranberries would be stored in pouches and eaten as quick energy food on long journeys.  Cranberries have been recognized by the USDA Food Composition and Methods Development Lab as having antioxidant qualities. Antioxidants are key in reducing the effects of oxidation, or aging in the body. Cranberries are great for cleansing the kidneys and bladder of toxins. They also boast disease fighting properties, so cancer and heart disease can take a hike.  And thats great news!  Besides all of that cranberries are delicious.  Whether you use them to make juice, sauce, relish, cakes, cookies or accent a simple salad, cranberries are a wonderful way to add color and great flavor to any meal.  So why again would anybody question a young boy for loving cranberries’ life giving properties? Like I said, there are things much stranger than cranberries.  Try this decadent cranberry bar recipe from The Vegetarian Times and reaffirm your love for one of Americas native super foods.


Chef Will Hall

Cranberry Bars

Makes 25 bars

These vibrant-hued bars look great on an autumn dinner table. The sweetened condensed milk gives them a texture similar to Key lime pie.
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 7 oz. fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make Filling: Bring cranberries and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes, or until berries have burst and are tender. Cool. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth, and strain mixture through sieve. (You should have about 1 cup purée.)

2. Transfer purée to bowl, and whisk in condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks.

3. To make Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, and coat with cooking spray.

4. Whisk together flours, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Press into bottom of prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F, and pour Filling into hot Crust. Bake 23 to 28 minutes, or until custard is set. Cool, then chill until firm.

5. Use foil to lift baked dessert out of pan, then remove. Cut into 25 bars. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Aubrey, A. (2010, 11 15). Bow down to the medicinal power of cranberries. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131272331/bow-down-to-the-medicinal-power-of-cranberries

Cranberry bars. (2011, 11). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/cranberry-bars/

Cranberry image. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appforhealth.com/2012/12/cranberries-small-berries-with-a-big-health-benefits/

History of cranberries. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html

Whitman-Salkin, S. (2013, 11 27). Cranberries, a thanksgiving staple, were a native american superfood. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131127-cranberries-thanksgiving-native-americans-indians-food-history/

Young, vegetarian, and very relevant (*Meatless Monday Special)

About 13 or more years ago, when most of my closest friends were still cramming back burgers laden with bacon, cheese, some type of rich condiment, and  enough lettuce, tomato and possibly onion to give the whole mess color; I was flaunting my new green lifestyle.  I’d sit down to colorful, carefully prepared meals; hey I’m a Chef so it was going down like a live Bob Marley concert at each and every meal.  My friends would be sure to shake their funky forks in my face, as their lips glistened with animal fat; mouthing “I don’t care, I love meat”.  All I could ever manage to  do was just chuckle and enjoy my meal, quietly, ….ignorance is bliss.   I’ve plenty of memories of  sitting through family gatherings, and crew lunches at work,  struggling to enjoy my meals as I was always the topic of discussion. Somehow my love of plant based foods became the brunt of jokes, while feasting on a dead carcass was “hot in the streets”.  As I grew in knowledge, my meals, and my lifestyle became more sophisticated.  I added exercise, supplements, meditation and all complementary elements into my repertoire and I prospered for it.  I gained lean mean muscle, better breathing, clear skin, and vibrant health.  In contrast, my cronies, well, …each and every one has gained a lot of extra body fat.  They complain not only of their problem areas, but also of the general lack of energy, loss of sex drive (yikes-shoot me when that happens) and  irritability. Well, guess who became  a sounding board, and a go to when my loved ones wanted to make life changing adjustments? Boy that felt good….  Then something happened that not only validated my lifestyle, but blew my mind- Russell Simmons announced that he was going vegan *insert fireworks here*  Now I’m very aware that there were many vegetarians  and vegans before myself, or Uncle Russ.  For example; Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci , and Pythagoras were all vegetarians before it was the hip thing to do.  But when Uncle Russ made that monumental move it shed a very different light on  us African Americans.  And then Rosario Dawson went and made it all sexy ( Listen: http://youtu.be/kKuzyO0WykI).  Since then one of the hippest presidents to bop into the White House; Bill Clinton claimed his vegan lifestyle and brought a little bit more prestige to us “salad eaters”.  Suddenly in my mind I had more in common with the upper echelon. Being a lover of all things green and in between went from a fad to something of more legitimacy. Talk about validation!  Then things got down right dope on  December 4th, 2013  when Jay Z aka HOVA ( Listen:  http://youtu.be/1tWmyPMf3wU) professed his vegan status.

Being a vegan/vegetarian has its health benefits, plenty of em.  Why else would we who grew up gnawing on flesh, bone and sinew change palates, and lighten our plates in such a dramatic way? Some of the more obvious benefits are; a trim waistline, increased energy, decreased rate of heart disease, reducing the rate of cancer, and the cool factor -that’s right you’re automatically that much cooler being a vegetarian (trust me).  Being a vegetarian promises longevity. In fact citizens of Okinawa, Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world based on a 30 year study of 600 centenarians. Citizens of Okinawa enjoy a diet that is predominately plant based.  Okinawans also consume animal products such as fish  and seafood (its an surrounded by water, why not? ), they also include physical activity as part of their recipe for healthy living.  But I digress, back to vegetarianism-  reliever  of menopausal symptoms,  regulator of digestive systems         ( yes enjoy dropping a deuce daily my friends), inspiration for more fun and colorful meals, and  reducer of  all kinds of pollution.  All HAIL VEGETARIANISM!  As the new year approaches, you still have time to clean out your pantries, brush off your food processors, write new shopping lists and prepare to turn up with your new sexy self.  Your friends will roll their eyes at you, and  crack jokes at your expense, but by spring time lets see who has the last laugh.  Here’s an easy, but tasty recipe from The New York Times  to get you cranked up like a true veggie head.


Chef Will Hall

You don’t have to make this vegetable-rich dish in a paella pan, though if you do, you’ll get a nice layer of crusty rice on the bottom. Serve it as a main dish or as a side.

1 quart  vegetable stock or garlic broth

Generous pinch (about 1/2 teaspoon) saffron threads

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1 green pepper, cut into strips

2 cups medium-grain rice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and grated on the large holes of a box grater; or peeled, seeded and chopped; or 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice

1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths

2 or 3 baby artichokes, trimmed and sliced (may also use frozen artichoke hearts, sliced)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen lima beans

1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Crush the saffron threads between your fingertips, and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon warm water, and set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy frying pan, an earthenware casserole (cazuela) set over a flame tamer, or a paella pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice. Cook, stirring, for one minute until the grains begin to crackle. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they cook down slightly and smell fragrant, about five minutes. Stir in the saffron with its soaking water, scraping in every last bit with a rubber spatula. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Add the stock, green beans, artichokes and chickpeas or lima beans. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer without stirring until the liquid has just about evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peas. Continue to simmer until the rice is dry, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

Yield: Serves six to eight.

Advance preparation: This does not have to be piping hot, so it can be made an hour before you wish to serve. If you make it further ahead than that, you can reheat it in the pan.

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 432 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 81 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 13 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 324 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 61 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 196 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 10 grams protein


Arielle, G. (2011, 08 23). 10 black celebrities that dont eat meat. Retrieved from frugivoremag.com/2011/08/10-black-celebs-who-don’t-eat-meat/5/

Arielle, G. (2011, 08 23). erykah badu image. Retrieved from frugivoremag.com/2011/08/10-black-celebs-who-don’t-eat-meat/

Benefits of vegetarianism: Vegetarians live longer. (2008, 07 21). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/13/benefits-of-vegetarianism_n_112431.html

Why go vegan or veg?. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/why-go-veg-learn-about-becoming-a-vegetarian/

Richardson, J. (2007, 12 17). Beyonce and jay-z on vegan diet?. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/beyonce-and-jay-z-on-vegan-diet.html

Rose-Shulman, M. (2911, 08 23). Simple vegetable paella. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/health/nutrition/24recipehealth.html