Vegan Crunk’s Bianca Phillips + ‘Cookin’ Crunk’ Giveaway!

Bianca Phillips, aka Crunk Master B, is a spunky Southern girl who knows how to cook! Her vegan cookbook Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin’ Vegan in the Dirty South was just released this week and we’re absolutely thrilled for her! For a limited time you can order signed copies on her website, but once that special offer is over you’ll always be able to order them online or through your favorite bookstore. 

Allison Rivers Samson: You write the popular blog, “Vegan Crunk” – how did you come up with that name?
Bianca Phillips: Since I live in Memphis, I wanted a blog title that was indicative of where I come from. Crunk is a style of Dirty South rap that originated in Memphis, and when I hear a good crunk beat, I can’t help but feel the love for my city. The word originated in the early 90s as a mixture of “crazy” and “drunk,” but since then, it’s come to mean having a good time or, in the past tense, that a good time has been had. For example: “Man, that party was crunk.” or “I’m ’bout to get crunk up in this club.” Interestingly, there was a parody song poking fun at hipsters released last year by the British group “The Grand Spectacular” that mentions “vegan crunk” totally not in reference to my blog (or at least, I don’t think it was).

ARS: Your first cookbook, Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin’ Vegan in the Dirty South, has just been released. Congratulations! How did the book come about?
BP: About a year after I started my blog, I decided that I wanted to write a Southern vegan cookbook, so I started veganizing my family recipes (with help from my awesome mom and granny). I didn’t have any idea how I’d get it published, but I was confidant that when the time came to find a publisher, it would just kind of fall into place. And that’s exactly what happened! I formed a friendship with Rick Diamond from the Book Publishing Company at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee (Rick has since left the BPC to move to Nashville), and he helped me contact the right people. They liked the idea, and we started the publishing process. It’s great working with a publishing company that’s located only three hours from my home. Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin’ Vegan in the Dirty South is filled with about 150 veganized versions of classic Southern food favorites, like Southern Fried Tofu Chicken, Seitan ‘n’ Dumplin’s, Whole Wheat Butter Soymilk Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy, and Coconut Icebox Cake.

ARS: How is writing a cookbook different from writing your blog? What can you share about your process as a cookbook author?
BP: Vegan Crunk (my blog) is more of a daily eats blog. I post pictures of something I’ve eaten every day, Monday through Thursday. Often, those pictures are of recipes from other people’s cookbooks because I love following recipes. Other times, I post pictures of vegan food I find at Memphis restaurants as part of my Bluff City Vegan Eats series. I rarely post recipes of my own creations since I’ve saved those for the cookbook, but I do occasionally post teaser pictures of dishes that will be in the cookbook. As for my process, I started with veganizing the foods I grew up eating, and then I filled out the cookbook with vegan versions of old recipes I found in spiral-bound church and charity cookbooks published in Memphis and my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. My mom and granny also helped out by veganizing a few of their recipes. Without my granny’s help, the dessert chapter wouldn’t have happened.

ARS: You’re vegan in Paula Deen’s South! How do you fare in a land that celebrates animals as food so unabashedly?
BP: Being vegan in a major city in the South is easy! Memphis has one all-vegan restaurant (Imagine Vegan Cafe) and one all-vegan smoothie and juice bar (Cosmic Coconut). There are four restaurants here that offer vegan cheese on their pizzas and plenty of casual eateries and upscale restaurants with vegan options. However, being vegan in my Arkansas hometown of 66,000 isn’t quite as easy. There are restaurant options there, but sometimes you have to get creative. You know, you order a sandwich with no cheese and substitute avocado and no mayo and sub mustard. But even there, a vegan can survive. The major grocery store chain in Jonesboro even sells vegan cheese now! I think being vegan is getting easier, no matter where you live. But in some areas, cooking at home may be the best option.

ARS: How have your omnivorous friends and family enjoyed your vegan versions of Southern food? Are they supportive, mocking, or ???
BP: Interestingly, the majority of my friends are vegan or vegetarian. We have a strong vegetarian social group in Memphis called Food Awareness, so most of us met through the club. And other friends, like my best friend from high school (she has a blog … Vegan In Arkansas!), have gone vegan in recent years. My partner is an omnivore though, and I do have a few friends who eat meat. As for my family, my parents and grandparents are not vegan, but they love veganizing their dishes for me when I’m in town. My granny even cooks vegan sometimes when I’m not there. I think she likes the challenge of baking without eggs or dairy. My aunt and cousin went vegan for the New Year!

ARS: You’ve pretty much been veg your entire life. How did you transition from vegetarian to vegan? And how did it become a lifestyle for you?
BP: I went vegetarian at age 14 in 1994 after spending a week with a friend from India. While staying at her house, we had delicious vegetarian Indian food everyday, and that’s when I realized how easy it was to live without meat. My parents picked me up from her house at the end of the vacation, and I promptly informed them that I’d no longer be eating red meat or pork. I continued to eat poultry and fish for a few months but gave those up after Thanksgiving in 1994. Ten years later, I was involved in the founding of Memphis’ only animal rights group. I was doing monthly PETA protests, and one of our members was vegan. She convinced me that I could make the jump to veganism. And with all I was learning about the dairy and egg industries through my animal rights work, it seemed like the right thing to do. So on the day after Thanksgiving in 2004, I decided to give veganism a one-month trial run. After the month was over, I never wanted to look back. I’d discovered all kinds of new foods (nutritional yeast and tempeh and quinoa). I felt great physically and my conscience was clear knowing that I wasn’t harming animals. A couple years later, I had “VEGAN” tattooed on my wrist. There’s no going back now!

ARS: What easy meal ideas or tips would you make for new vegans starting to cook?
BP: One of my favorite easy meals when I first went vegan was fried tofu chicken. I’d dip slices of tofu in soymilk and then in nutritional yeast mixed with a little flour and salt. Then I’d fry it in oil until crispy on both sides. Also, you can never go wrong with a homemade marinara sauce and sautéed mushrooms served over whole wheat pasta.

ARS: Got a favorite AG product?
BP: The vegan artisan chocolates, of course!! Nothing beats a box of chocolates!

Thanks Bianca, I can’t wait to try some of your veganized Southern comfort food! 

Tell us: What’s the one Southern dish you’d most like to see veganized?

  1. The problem is… I know nothing about Southern food, I need Bianca’s book to teach me! I would love to learn, and I’ve been a fan of hers for awhile!

  2. I know you can find a lot of recipes for them online, but I’ve never found a truly great hushpuppy recipe! Most of my family lives in the south, and that’s the one food item I truly miss!

  3. I enjoy Bianca’s blog so much! Great interview! For the Southern meal I’d most like to see veganized, I’m always a fan of collard greens and using them in new and interesting ways. So I’m voting for a mess of greens!

  4. I’m also from the West Coast and not familiar with Southern cooking, but the Seitan ‘n’ Dumplins sounds really great!

  5. My family is from the south and I grew up on southern cooking, so I am really looking forward to this cookbook. As for a southern dish I’d like to see veganized, I think Bianca has already done it in this book with the Seitan ‘n’ Dumplin’s! I guess I also wish I could perfect my mamaw’s biscuits for biscuits and gravy. Her biscuits are totally different from the traditional buttermilk kind often served with gravy. I’ve tried to veganize them, but can’t seem to get them just right.

  6. I’m very excited for this book! I’m not too well versed in Southern food, but I’d love a solid gravy recipe for biscuits & gravy. I’ve recently discovered the dish and am a bit obsessed with it… :)

  7. I’m not sure which southern recipe I’d most like to see veganized- I’m not that familiar with southern cuisine BUT I’m a huge fan of Bianca’s and I’m sure I’d love every single recipe in that book!

    • Hi Brooke, thanks for commenting! To be entered in this giveaway, please tell us: What’s the one Southern dish you’d most like to see veganized?

  8. I would like to try the biscuit recipe, I have yet to find the perfect vegan Southern-style biscuit. The chocolate gravy sounds awesome! My sister received her husband’s grandma’s recipe in a frame as a wedding gift, but I have never had it.

  9. My grandparents live in Georgia and everytime I visit its a struggle to find something vegan to eat *anywhere*. One of the items I covet are the fresh from the oven country buttermilk biscuits with muscadine preserves from the Country kitchen at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. And while we’re at throw some fried okra and black eyed peas in too!

  10. I added the Vegan Crunk to my Reader list a while back and have enjoyed it very much. I have been vegetarian for nearly 30 years, and vegan for at least half of those years — on-and-off-again. My mother’s root came from Southern VA and Tennessee. Dried beans and field greens were typical in my childhood home, but also a delicacy. I would be delighted to see my old childhood favorites put in current vegan terms.

  11. I can’t wait to have this book in my hands! Buttermilk biscuits with milk gravy or chicken-fried steak (also with milk gravy) would be great recipes to veganize. Yeah!

  12. I love Vegan Crunk and I read Bianca’s blog each time she posts! I would Love to win a copy of her awesome and unique cookbook!

    • We’re so glad to hear you’re such a fan, Amber! To be entered in the giveaway tell us the one Southern food you’d more like to see veganized. :-)

  13. Oh boy. I don’t know if this is actual Southern or not, but I’m kind of a sucker for fried dough. If that doesn’t count, then anything with collard greens. I always have tons growing in my vegetable garden — one of the easiest things to grow, along with kale!

    Thanks for having the giveaway!

  14. I’ve been vegan for many years and the only thing I have ever missed the taste of is a fried egg sandwich. I grew up in the South (Texas) and my mom grew up in Tennessee. I can make all the other dishes we had like beans and cornbread, biscuits and gravy, fried tomato sandwiches, but not a fried egg sandwich. I like tofu, but a fried tofu sandwich with nutritional yeast doesn’t do it for me.

  15. I would love a killer vegan BBQ nacho recipe. Prior to going veg, I loved brisket nachos, and would love an approximation of it without the meat and cheese!

  16. I don’t know much about southern food, but I know hushpuppies are a southern thing, so I guess I would like to see some veganized hush puppies. :)

  17. I grew up on West coast too so not as familiar with Southern food. Love spicy, spicier the better! I recently had blackened jerk tofu in the Caribbean. I realize this isn’t Siuthern, but is there anything like it? I really really want to try making it and have no clue how to recreate it, thanks!

  18. I’m thinkin’ a serious biscuits and gravy recipe would be absolutely amazing. (Even better if gluten free!) Congrats, Bianca – love your blog, and can’t wait to read your book!

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