Happy Habits of a Lean Vegan

On the Road with Plant-based Lean: The Kentucky Trip


Two questions: What can you do when you want to make a change and it’s just not happening? And: What gets in the way, once you’re on the path to your goal?

Maybe sometime awhile back, when you were in a funk, some well meaning soul advised, ‘You just need a change of scenery.’ Could it be that simple? Let’s go with it for a minute.

What would you choose for your ‘change of scenery?’ A tropical vacation perhaps? Or how about a quick weekend trip to the coast? Call me daft, but I often opt for a tinge of grit, a place that will stretch me, a place that lets me know not everybody does yoga, drinks kombucha and eats veggies like a hooved animal–maybe even a place where I’m the one with the accent.

Enter to a place called Kentucky, a place where change is slow and is located somewhere past Saint Lou-ee, Misserah, on the other side of Illinois, across the Ohio River from Indiana. You know it, right? Yeah, me neither. We’ve all heard of Kentucky, but if you or your kin weren’t born there, likely you’ve only a flat mental snapshot.

One of my hoity-toity Northern friends feigns redneck with what she calls a Prine-tucky accent, her slang-word a hybrid of the neighboring town of Prineville, and the state of Kentucky. Kentucky-ans should definitely not be flattered.

My guy’s family is from a town called Owensboro, Kentucky, a town so far west, only the Ohio River keeps it from being Indiana. In search of rental property we could afford, he and I flew and drove past the center of the country, through Illinois and Indiana farmland.

Imagine this: Just as you start to traverse the blue continuous trusses of the Owensboro Bridge, your navigation coos “Welcome to Kentucky.” Welcome indeed. Your eyes take in the business end of the the biggest working river in the U.S. Holy-moly: rusty barges loaded to the gills; blond piles of spent grain in piles on the shore; tall cylindrical concrete stacks billow, powering a coal-fired city.

We thought we were going back to purchase rental property, yet within the culture shock (for me), we found the warmth of family and a big dose of regional culture, especially with the local food scene.

He gobbled shredded mutton at Old Hickory BBQ, while I dumped BBQ sauce on my stale iceberg lettuce salad, smiling at the tang of smoke and vinegar. We shared an order of sweet potato biscuits at the Miller House. I was delighted with the cornbread drizzled with sorghum at Moonlight BBQ. Pretty standard fare, right?

But have you heard of a “Kentucky Hot Brown?” This regional delight is a bedrock of good white bread and a pile of sliced white turkey, topped with a slice or two of red, ripe tomato, then blanketed with plenty of house-made Mornay sauce, which according to one search-engine recipe, is a Béchamel sauce, a sophisticated onion-based light gravy, to which egg yolks, Parmesan, cheddar and blue cheeses are added, then finished with butter, sugar and cream. I need a nap just writing about it. Anyway once this whole “Hot Brown” thing is soaked with that rich, Mornay creaminess, a couple slices of bacon are placed across the top, the whole thing gets sprinkled with bread crumbs and Parmesan, then broiled until bubbly and the color of a Kentucky suntan in August.

Dam gummit it, y’all probably thought this a plant based blog, didn’t you? A place where there are conversations about healthy lifestyles, getting lean and maybe even saving the planet? I’m getting to it. I promise.

My point is culture—one possible obstacle that could derail the shift to a healthier lifestyle. Culture could look like the family we woke up with every day of our childhood; the region of the country our parents or their parents chose; the place we went on Sunday mornings; the media, news and politics the family television steeped us in. We were fed in the “Hot Brown” ways of our people; the complicated loveliness that is to be human.

So, what now y’all? I say we love it all still! I say we find our own ‘Hot Brown’ balance…like inventing a new Béchamel or a fresh version of Mornay! Sauces that are lighter, have more protein and a new kind of satisfaction.

Gosh darned right-on!

This is what I’m here for—lush healthy food. I’m not bull-crapping you. I’m going to show you how beans, onions, dried mushroom-infused sauces satisfy. Show you that palates can change. That bodies can change. That lives can change.

One delicious recipe at a time. One daily water-drinkin’, workin’-out habit at a time. Until one day, a bunch of days have piled up—and you are the ‘you’ you always wanted to be.

A toast y’all lovelies—perhaps to finding a change in scenery, and for sure to rolling around in our lush family culture, and absolutely adapting our food-lifestyle so we don’t stay sick, plump and dull. No dam gummit way! We are healthy, lean and lucid!

Love and lettuce,