Meatless and Motivated: Boosting Black Veganism

Suzette Standring
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In the realm of healthier eating, Black Americans are the fastest growing group of vegans, according to a Gallup poll. Veganism is a plant-based diet that excludes all meat, fish and all animal by-products. One Brockton couple is bringing more people of color into the fold.

Tome`and his wife Valery Andrade have been vegan for six years, and plan to open a restaurant this summer, Cabo Vegan, in Brockton where they live with their infant son. As young children the Andrades came from Cape Verde (properly known as Cabo Verde), a West African archipelago of islands.

Tome` is now 41, but stopped eating meat at the age of 25 when he suffered from gout, a painful inflammation of the joints and feet caused by a buildup of uric acid.  Eating too much meat was a big factor. Seventeen years ago, Tome` was 5’7 and weighed 230 lbs. Now he weighs 170 lbs., and said, “I took an inner look and asked ‘what’s wrong with me?’ My health problems were from my diet. It was a gradual walk to becoming vegan.”  

He did research and a gamechanger was the book, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II. Tome` said, “It was my aha. I have a very scientific mindset. I had a bio pre-med major in college.”

The Andrades also have culinary flair, and to share the benefits of veganism, they invited friends to tasting parties in their home. Many laughed at the idea of giving up meat.

The couple made plant-based snack sandwiches and used ingredients like hearts of palm, seaweed, and chickpeas to mimic lobster and tunafish.

Tome` said, “A friend of mine bought my lobster rolls for his party, but never told people what it was made of. He had a hard time convincing them the food was vegan.”

Veganism has a strong philosophical basis as well. In addition to healthy eating, vegans intentionally avoid cruelty to animals in food as well as clothing and shoes.

For African-Americans, there is a social justice element in veganism. Centuries of food and healthcare deprivatiom makes veganism a way to reclaim health and nuitrition. Black Veganism is a way for many to return to the African food traditions of grains and vegetables, according to Black Food: Stories, Art & Recipes From Across the African Diaspora, edited and curated by Bryant Terry. 

In Cabo Verde cooking, African and Portuguese influences are strong, and one popular dish, cachupa, stems from Africa. It is a stew of beans, yams and vegetables, often made with a variety of meats. 

But originally, the dish is plant-based origins, according to Tome`.

“The essence of cachupa comes from the lack of having meat, which is a food of affluence.  Cachupa is the single most healthy meal because you take vegetables, five different types of beans, yucca, sweet potatoes; it’s a pot filled with nutrients. You only add meat at the end.” 

But a vegan version needs no meat, and the dish still retains its savory flavors.

People who thought giving up meat was impossible are now turning to veganism, not as a diet, but a way of life, and the Andrades’ circle of food followers has exploded. 

“We were blown away by how many people have recently turned vegan and many of them were people of color, not necessarily Cape Verdean. People are getting it now. The people who thought veganism were jokes are now drilling us with questions.”

For many, the Andrades offer delicious answers.

Suzette Standring now writes The Bright Side feature for The Patriot Ledger about uplifting stories on the South Shore. This column ran on 2/28/2022.

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