Healthful eatery gives soul, omits the grease

Do you love soul food but know you could do without the grease?

Then Soul Vegetarian restaurants might be just what the doctor ordered, literally.

Soul Vegetarian, or SoulVeg, is a particularly healthful brand of food that is vegan (no animal products of any kind), kosher (a dietary requirement of certain Semitic people and African-Hebrew Israelites) and partly organic (as certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Some of the food is also halal, a dietary requirement for certain Muslims.

Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry graduate Stephanie Reed has been a vegetarian for four years.

“I don’t eat it as regularly as I used to,” she said, referring to her time as a member of the FAMU Vegetarian Student Alliance.

It was that alliance that helped give birth to the first of three SoulVeg carts, which brought the restaurant to campus.

“The idea came in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics,” owner and operator Ahmahtsiyah Rahm said.

Rahm, a FAMU alumnus, said he and his wife bought a cart from Soul Vegetarian, the largest chain of vegan restaurants in the world, and brought it to FAMU in the fall of 1997. It still does business on the Set every Friday afternoon.

SoulVeg President and Chief Executive Officer Laura L. Gaines said there is a growing demand among college students for vegan and vegetarian food.

She cited marketing statistics that showed “sales of vegetarian foods and beverages increased 113 percent between 1998 and 2003 and are projected to exceed $4 billion in 2010,” according to Mintel Consumer Intelligence’s Vegetarian Food Market-U.S. Report.

“We’ve created something engaging to the palate,” she said. “Not just healthy, but food that tastes good.”

When asked how he introduces people who are unfamiliar with and reluctant to try SoulVeg, Rahm said he takes pleasure in introducing new people to new, healthful food.

“We let them know its soul food, stuff that they’re used to eating,” he said, “but with a twist.”

Rahm said SoulVeg is soul food without the fat and made flavorful by all-natural herbs and spices. The vegan macaroni and cheese, for example, is dressed with a homemade soy cheese seasoned with paprika.

SoulVeg’s third location recently opened on Gaines Street, just down the hill from campus. It is located next to Flava Music and the Beta Bar.

The new location exclusively offers all-natural fruit smoothies and homemade soy ice cream available in vanilla, strawberry and karob flavors.

From Tuesday-Thursday, all of the SoulVeg carts in town offer daily specials, ranging from signature takes on pizza, baked lasagna and baked spaghetti to vegan specialties such as lentil soup and a “super live salad platter,” a romaine lettuce salad with tomatoes, onions, couscous and okra made from soybeans.

All of SoulVeg’s specials and platters are served with fresh baked cornbread.

The underlying philosophy of Soul Vegetarian restaurants is that of the African-Hebrew Israelites.

According to Rahm, it is the only organization of its kind currently located in the United States and Israel.

He emphasizes that African-Hebrew Israelites is not a religion, but more of a philosophy.

As it applies to SoulVeg food, “We look to eliminate health disparities in African Americans like cancer, hypertension and AIDS,” Rahm said. “Men and women should be covered by Godly diet.”