The Healthy (Conscious) Interview: Jenne Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul
Jenné Claiborne is the vegan chef and blogger behind the YouTube channel Sweet Potato Soul, and the Buddhalicious meal plan service. Her yummy food is a celebration of plant-based eating and reflects her southern roots.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jenné late last year while on assignment for Bio-K+ in San Francisco (rough gig, I know!). Jenné is a total ray of sunshine: she radiates positivity and has an energy that puts you at ease so I am so excited to introduce you to her here.
People come to plant-centred living for many different reasons. If people are interested in moving towards a fully plant-based diet, how do you suggest they begin? What knowledge moved you to make the change?
I think the best way to start is to get clear on your reasoning for wanting to adopt a plant-based or vegan diet. For me it was purely ethical. I learned about the animal agriculture system including the dairy and egg industry, and realized that I could not continue to participate in that cruelty. That ethical attachment to non-harm, and being against all animal exploitation made it so easy for me to adopt this lifestyle. It gave me the drive and interest to learn how to prepare amazing vegan food.
If you are going plant-based or vegan for vague reasons (ex. it would be nice to lose a few pounds, or it’s popular right now), then it’ll be a lot easier to fall off the wagon. If you have a clear reason for changing your lifestyle, then that reason will fuel your actions and your progress.
Do you feel that people underestimate the impact of the food choices they make? What has your experience taught you about the role of food in your life?
Absolutely! I think we underestimate the impact of all of our actions, and food is a major one because we eat at least 3 times a day. There are so few things we have control over in this world, but choosing what we eat is one of the things we have the most control over. By not educating ourselves on the impacts of our food choices we are implicit in the harm that those choices may cause other humans, non-human animals, and the environment. That’s not to say that we all need to go vegan and start growing all of our own food tomorrow, but moving into a more sustainable and compassionate way of living is a win win for everyone.
My experiences eating in the South (Savannah, Nashville) have shown me that vegetables aren’t always in abundant supply…and sometimes, they come stewed with a ham hock 😉 What have been some of your favourite Southern dishes that you have transformed into plant-based fare?
You’ve got to head to a farmer’s market, or to a home kitchen. Down south we love our dark leafy greens. One of our most popular dishes is collard greens. Sure, they are traditionally cooked with smoked pork, but that’s not always the case. We also use a lot of turnip greens, and mustard greens. Like collards they’re often stewed with pork.
So, as a vegan those are the dishes that are easiest to veganize. I simply remove the pork or pork fat and cook the greens with oil and season them with smoked paprika, or liquid smoke. We also eat a lot of sweet potatoes, my favorite veggie. Also, a lot of beans…well, at least the black folks do. Other staple dishes like biscuits, cornbread, fried chicken, etc, require more creativity to veganize. However, it can be done. I wrote a whole cookbook with veganized southern and soul food recipes (coming out in February 2018)!!
Fave five uses for sweet potatoes…and go!
Candied yams, sweet potato pie, roasted in cubes and tossed in a massaged kale salad, sweet potato burgers, and shredded sweet potato granola.
One of my passions is showing people how easy it can be to cook plant-centred fare for themselves. What are some of your staples (ingredient or tools) that make cooking a joy?
Mushrooms. I love them because they require almost no prep to cook and make them delicious. Plus, they remind meat eaters of animal flesh. You can simply chop them and sauté them with garlic and a few spices. My favorite thing is to roast oyster mushrooms with salt and pepper, then serve them with greens, on pasta, or with whole grains. Superb!
To learn more about Jenné, check out the following links: