FEATURE: Martha Theus

On April 9, 1985 I ate my last animal at breakfast. It was a pig - or should I say a part of a pig - pork chops to be exact. I was raised in Detroit and grew up eating soul food because my parents were both from the south. We at meat at least three times a day...

In 1985, after moving to Los Angeles, I met (my husband) Londale who introduced me to the concept of vegetarianism and compassionate living which extended to all creatures, not just humans. I had never met an African American vegetarian before and did not think anyone could survive without eating meat! Nonetheless, my heart and soul were touched. How could I go on eating God's creatures if there was a kinder, gentler way to live? Something permanently shifted in my soul between breakfast and lunch on that April day in 1985 and I have not eaten poultry, fish, eggs, or any type of meat since. For the past six or seven years, we have followed a vegan diet, eliminating dairy for health and ethical reasons. 

Londale and I were married in September 1985, and our daughter (and my co-author) Kamaal was born in 1986, followed by our son, Londale Jr. in 1987. I maintained a vegetarian diet throughout both pregnancies. They were born healthy and strong, and did not have nearly the amount of childhood sicknesses that their peers did. Both Kamaal and Londale are STILL vegetarian (now vegan) to this day. We never focused our way of life on them but we never fed them animals either. If we considered something poison for us, why would we feed it to our kids? Even still, we as parents always gave them the right to choose when they became older - we believe in being living examples and not making undue restrictions on our kids. This is a personal choice and they had to choose their own path. The fact that they are vegan today is testament to them and their understanding of why we believe what we believe. 

The day after I stopped eating animals I was faced with a question I had NO IDEA how to answer: What do I eat if I don’t eat meat?  I was busy working (I’m still a practicing CPA) and providing nutritious, convenient, vegan meals for me (and eventually my family) was a top priority. Through a lot of trial and error (pre-internet!) I developed a system that our family still uses today, combining more than 30 years of experience living a vegetarian (now vegan) lifestyle.

Kamaal convinced me to write down our recipes when she went off to college. So many people were curious about HOW and WHAT we ate (and of course where we got our protein from!) so we wrote our first book, Throwin’ Down Vegetarian Style!, and most recently, The Vegan System, which has all of our original recipes and more.  Our system is to take mainstream, popular dishes and “veganize” them. Many of the recipes are veganized versions of my Mom’s southern favorites. It’s sort of like “Veganism 101” and is a great starting point for meat-eaters that need help with transitioning to a plant-based diet. Anyone can use this approach. We’ve been doing it for over 30 years and it’s much easier now than it was in 1985!

To find out more about us, our book, and for recipes and videos check us out at:

Website: VeggieSoulFood.com
Facebook: 21stCenturyVegetarians
Twitter: VegSoulFood
Instagram: VeggieSoulFood