Today my format is a little bit different. I would like to introduce you to my wonderful friend and inspiration when it comes to all things vegan: Jenné Claiborne! Besides being a plant based blogger, Jenné is a vegan chef and health coach. Her story is quite powerful: she left her career in film to go to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in order to empower and educate people on how to live healthy vegan life. As you can see, we have a lot in common. Jenné has been growing her brand Sweet Potato Soul since over 3 years now. You can not only find great recipes and a cook book on her blog but also weekly videos about living a happy vegan life.
What’s your favorite dish Jenné?
Good question. Sweet potato pie. For me it is the ultimate food, and the fact that I only eat it around the holidays makes it more magical and exciting to enjoy.
If you could start a farm, what would you grow and why?
Wow!! I would grow sweet potatoes, kale and fancier heirloom and Asian greens, lots of herbs, watermelon and other melons in the summer, and I’d love to have an acre or so of peach trees. I’d have a few people on the farm to help out and do the hard stuff. Plus as many animals as possible! That would be heaven.
What would be the cuisine of your vegan restaurant?
Really stellar soul food.
What’s the most common question that you get when you tell people you are vegan?
After telling me that they would LOVE to be vegan but just can’t, and me giving a little side eye with a dash of compassion and understanding, they ask me if I’m always hungry or “can you get enough to eat?”.
What’s your clients/friends biggest concern when thinking about going vegan?
That they will always be hungry!! I don’t have a clue where that misconception comes from. Well, actually, I guess it comes from the idea that vegans only eat lame salads, chickpeas, and brown rice. I think people don’t realize just how many foods are plant-based, or how easy it is to replace animal products in most foods. They are also usually the people who eat out all of the time, and assume that there are no restaurants that cater to vegan lifestyles. It’s my job to show them the light.
Fruit smoothie or chocolate smoothie?
CHOCOLATE SMOOTHIE with banana!!
How vegan is Georgia, your home state?
There are probably very few vegans in the state. However, I would rate Georgia (or at least Atlanta), as very vegan friendly because of the many different people representing cultures from around the world. You can go to the Buford Highway farmer’s market and find fresh vegetables and fruits from everywhere in the world! There is a Korean grocery chain called H-Mart that carries fresh produce and groceries from all over Asia. Plus there are tons of ethnic restaurants that serve delicious vegan dishes. My favorite restaurants in Atlanta are Ethiopian, Thai, Indian, and Malaysian.
Do you ever miss anything non vegan?
Not at the moment. I definitely don’t miss any meat products like sashimi or turkey sausages, but in the past I have missed things that contain animal products like my Nana’s stuffing and her sweet potato pie. The obvious solution was to work with her to veganize these recipes so that I can still enjoy them. I think I’ve successfully veganized all of my favorite pre-vegan dishes.
What does the word ‘compassion’ mean for you?
I must admit is it a lot easier for me to practice compassion towards those who don’t have a voice––like animals and children. I often find myself being judgmental and aggravated by the choices and opinions of other privileged adults. However, to me compassion is being able to empathize and desire peace for everyone, despite how I judge their actions. Compassion is recognizing that we are all one––despite our perceived separation––and it is the golden rule of “do undo others as you would have them do unto you.”
What’s the best vegan city that you have ever been to?
The best vegan city I’ve been to is Los Angeles! I love the year-round fresh produce at the many farmer’s markets, and the abundance of vegan restaurants. I adore Satdha Thai in Santa Monica, Cafe Gratitude’s “I Am Irresistible” raw coconut chocolate pie, Mowhawk Bend in Echo Park, Real Food Daily’s Mediterranean Bowl, and the many many vegan options available at non-veg restaurants (perhaps my favorite so far being Gjelina in Venice.