Tabitha Brown is quite the charmer.
In March of 2020, as COVID-19 panic began, many of us were faced with the repetitious task of cooking every meal at home, each and every single day. It was a dark period as restaurants closed and grocery store shelves were stripped bare of our favorite products.
Around that same time, March 8 to be precise, Brown—an actress and self-described vegan influencer—shared her first TikTok video. By May she amassed more than two million followers.
Her social media mastery is a testament to her talent: she pulls you in with a friendly smile, then with the subtle nudging reminiscent of your favorite aunt, she encourages you to make better food choices. A good old-fashioned bait-and-switch if you will.
In an anxious and creatively zapped climate, where things can feel a tad rehearsed, Brown’s catchphrases—like so like that; but that’s my business—are stand out. In recent years, we’d watch an entire 30-minutes or more cooking show to glean the kind of culinary wisdom she dishes in just a fraction of the time.
The best part? There’s no judgment. Despite her focus on vegan recipes, Brown’s cooking tips are more about eating fresh ingredients and flexing your culinary muscle.
When Brown isn’t sharing cooking tips and memorable one-liners, she can also be found acting in a number of projects. Her past appearances have included Freeform’s Switched at Birth, Bounce TV’s Family Time, and NBC’s Will & Grace. This May, you can watch her in the Showtime series, The Chi as series regular, Octavia.
Despite Brown’s busy acting schedule, it’s clear that her passion for vegan cooking is an anchor in her life. “I’m doing two books. I just finished my inspiration book, which is me feeding the soul before I feed the stomach,” she says over our video discussion. And yes, Brown is also working on a cookbook and a line of spices.
For our inaugural How I Eat At Home series Brown shares her favorite pantry items, the importance of mastering a vegan mac and cheese, and why going vegan isn’t as expensive as you might think.
What four staples are always in your pantry or fridge?
Avocado. And I always need to have good old dill pickles, a can of jackfruit, and a can of chickpeas. I can do so much with all of that.
What do you listen to while cooking?
I listen to my spirit. I have to listen to myself. And then I always have a song playing in my head. For whatever reason. “If I Rule The World” always plays in my head when I cook. So if you’ve ever watched me cook, I hum that a lot. I don’t know, I guess God was trying to tell me something over the years. Sometimes I just make up songs as I go.
Are you humming the original “If I Ruled The World” song or the remake?
Oh, honey, it’s the remake that’s on repeat.
Do you have an all-time favorite food?
Before I was vegan I could answer that easily. I would’ve said seafood. Now that I’m vegan, I have so many favorites. But I do love Mexican food. I mean, I love Mexican food. I can eat a taco every day. I love guacamole. I just love the flavors.
What’s an edible impulse-buy or snack that you can’t resist?
My dill pickles. I got to have them. Even if I already have some in the refrigerator, I’m like, let me just get another jar just in case. Yeah, that’s my thing.
What does comfort food mean to you?
Comfort food takes you to a place mentally. When I was a kid macaroni and cheese was a staple. My mama made amazing macaroni cheese, my granny made amazing macaroni and cheese. I lost both of my grandparents and my mom a long time ago and before I was vegan the thought of eating macaroni and cheese, would just always make me feel them, you know? So when I went vegan, I had to figure out how to make a good vegan mac and cheese because that gives me comfort. It takes me back to a time of sitting around a table with my family and us eating dinner together. It brings me joy. It brings back memories. It makes you feel well and not think about what’s going on. You feel good in the moment.
Let’s say you have $20 to spend at the farmers’ market. What do you buy?
I’m buying heirloom tomatoes, avocados, onion, some kale. Oh and probably some zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet potatoes. That might be a little more than twenty dollars, but that’s my business.
What’s the dish you’ve cooked the most during the pandemic? Did your habits change?
I cooked a lot more and I was cooking for my family. I’ve always cooked a lot for them. But in the pandemic, I’m also cooking breakfast. And because you’re bored and in the house, I was working a lot. I did so many tutorials and interviews where I had to cook so I was always making a bunch of food. So it didn’t really change, it just increased. Though I did make a lot of lasagnas because that’s a family favorite; a lot of pasta dishes because that carries over, you can eat it the next day.
What about for yourself?
I was just bingeing avocado toast. I love it.
What’s your number one money tip?
When you make it, you also want to be able to keep it. So you’ve go to be smart with it. I’ve never been that person that’s like, ‘Oh, I’m only going to shop here.’ No, ma’am. You might see me at Whole Foods. You might see me at Walmart. You might see me at the 99 cent store or Trader Joe’s.
What advice do you have for people out there who think being vegan is too expensive?
Eat real food. Cause real food is cheap, right? It’s when you start buying processed stuff that it gets expensive.
Marquita K. Harris is the interim Culture Director for Glamour.