Good food has always been a part of Joyce James’ life. The Brunswick native has precious memories of growing up with family gathering around the table.
“My mother cooked. We would gather after (church) service on Sundays. It just was where my family always met,” she said.
While plates were shared at the dinners, it went beyond simple sustenance. James says there were mini miracles made with those meals.
“We didn’t have a whole lot, but we always had good food. I didn’t know I was poor until later on because my mother could make something out of really nothing,” she said.
James’ own culinary interests continued to grow, as did her skills in the kitchen. After moving away to Pensacola, Fla., she decided to try to make a living sharing food. She opened a cafe called J&J Food for the Soul and started to explore various types of foods.
“I moved away about eight years ago and Pensacola had a lot of different cultures and types of foods,” James said.
“I started to have some health issues ... I didn’t know if it was because of my environment or what so I starting fasting and really monitoring what I ate.”
Her diet evolved, leaning toward more foods that could combat illnesses. James became a vegetarian and found healthful yet yummy ways to incorporate those recipes in her menu. Over time, she began to share her finds with her customers.
“I love to see how different food can help the body. I love using a lot of colors in vegetables. I just started to introduce them in different ways because food can definitely heal the body and keep you well,” she said.
After returning to her hometown, James was anxious to share her findings with the community. In December, she opened Plantlife Cafe and Marketplace at 3300 Norwich St. in Brunswick. There, she serves up a number of healthy vegetarian and vegan options, along with several options for carnivores as well.
A sampling includes fresh carrot juice, veggie and avocado burgers and a selection of salads. They also open at 6 a.m. to offer healthy breakfasts.
“I do a lot of vegan and vegetarian stuff, but we do still have food for meat lovers. We have chicken and waffles,” she said with a laugh. “You just have to start introducing things to people. I know my son loved meat and junk food. But over time, he’s become a full vegan.”
While James isn’t trying to change her customers dietary preferences, she is dedicated to providing healthy yet tasty dishes for diners.
“There’s really so much you can do ... I just want to bring awareness to what’s out there and the things you can create. I wanted to come home and share it with the people in Brunswick,” she said. “It’s a really special place.”
One of the things James stresses is that eating healthy meals does not have to be complicated or time consuming. Something that is very simple can also be filling and nutritionally beneficial.
Take her “almost an omelette” recipe.
“This is so easy ... it takes less that 15 minutes and uses a lot of things that you probably have just laying around,” James said.
All that’s needed is a tortilla, eggs and the other filling options like onions, mushrooms or peppers.
“I love to use bright peppers,” she said, gesturing to the plate. “I used chives and tomatoes too but it’s very versatile ... you can do whatever you want.”
James simply pan fries an egg along with choice of filling ingredients then wraps it in a tortilla shell.
“It’s so easy ... just chop, chop, chop and throw in the pan. Then wrap it up in the tortilla you probably have in the cabinet.”
To add a bit of pizzazz, James topped her “almost omelet” with a peach salsa.
“If you have a peach laying around and you’re wondering what to do with it ... this is a good option,” she said with a laugh.
Plantlife Cafe and Market’s “Almost an omelet”
Chop up and sauté the choice of vegetables together in a 6 to 8-inch nonstick pan with a light amount of olive oil or butter to prevent sticking. Cook for roughly five minutes until tender. Remove from pan.
Beat two eggs together add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper in small bowl until blended. Heat a small amount butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Allow the eggs to slightly solidify and flip it over. Remove the egg from the pan once it is cooked through.
Slightly warm a tortilla of your choosing (whole wheat is a healthy go-to). Wrap the egg and vegetables in a tortilla wrap. Top with salsa or even cheese.
Ingredients for peach salsa
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. For a faster option, canned salsa can be mixed with chopped peaches or peach preserves.