This holiday season, don’t be afraid to pass Timothy Pakron’s deviled eggs or fried turkey around. The vegan 32-year old has already planned his Thanksgiving dinner at home in New Orleans with his friends. He said, “If I go on a normal Thanksgiving with all my family, I won’t be able to eat anything.” During a telephone call with Mississippi Today. Pakron will still serve Southern classics like pumpkin pie, stuffing and mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and gumbo. He said that vegan is the foundation of many recipes. People think it’s strange that I call it vegan gumbo. But flour and oil are the core of gumbo. The trinity is celery, bell peppers and onions, then garlic, bay leaves and finally rice, parsley, paprika and cayenne pepper. These are the essential ingredients that make the dish. Pakron spent most of his childhood in Gulfport. He grew up eating seafood and dairy products. He felt the need to find out where his food came from and what nutrients it contained. This was when he was 20 years old, studying studio art in Charleston, S.C. He said, “Overnight, I was like, ‘I really can’t eat animal products anymore. It is not right for me. It was something I knew I couldn’t do. His hopes for a career as a studio artist waned, but he had been eating more plants and mushrooms. He said, “When I stopped using creative energy for art and began applying it to food and using Instagram I realized that my visibility was greater than ever.” “I went from not being seen to being noticed to being recognized by many people and being celebrated.” Pakron had lived in New York for five years, and longed for more space for a garden. Pakron knew that he would not have any trouble finding it back in Mississippi. Pakron was granted his first cookbook contract shortly before he set out on his southbound trip. He said, “I wanted to go to Mississippi to write the cookbook because it’s all about my roots and exploring Mississippi and talking about the Gulf Coast recipes.” It’s the food I grew up with. I just’veganized’ it. It only made sense to me to go to Mississippi. His debut cookbook Mississippi Vegan: Stories & Recipes from a Southern Boy’s Heart (out October) “veganizes” many traditional southern dishes and explores different flavors of Mississippi. He hopes that Mississippi’s people will be inspired by his Southern roots and understand that plants are healthy and should be the basis of their diet. We must also care more. It is important to ask where our food comes from. Pakron also points out food accessibility in low-income communities. The other problem is that food accessible to low-income people is often the most processed and unhealthy food. It’s the only choice. This is not ideal. It doesn’t necessarily mean it shouldn’t be happening. “I wish I could offer a better solution. But all I can do is say that it’s wrong.” Pakron believes that many Mississippians don’t know about non-GMO products, personal gardens, farmers markets, and other food options. They also often fail to learn nutrition and health classes in high schools. He said, “When I think about Mississippi’s old school, I picture people with gardens and growing okra, peas, corn, peanuts, and rice.” Many beautiful things can be grown in Mississippi. People have focused on the processed foods that have been introduced to American diets and it’s just gotten too out of control.” It is clear that Pakron and his vibrant photos of his soulful recipes are inspiring others to take similar journeys, no matter where they come from. He said, “I feel a strong desire to be proud of where I am from and to shine a positive light on the world.” It’s almost like a duty I have. It’s easy to speak poorly of Mississippi or to find negative things about Mississippi. But I wanted my concept to change people’s minds and to help them think differently. “I want people to understand that you can be creative, artistic, vegan, and from Mississippi.” Visit mississippivegan.com for more information.