Yesterday was Beyoncé’s 38th birthday, y’all...and today is
blessedly the day I officially give up trying to do anything with the Virgo-fueled laser focus of Beyoncé. (Fun fact: My mom and sister are also Virgos, and each could’ve told you it was likely never gonna happen for my easily distracted Aries behind, anyway...ooh, shiny!) The fact is, I’m really only interested in a healthy lifestyle if it has a healthy dose of hedonism—in my opinion, it’s what makes the world go ’round.
I’ve had several takeaways over the past three weeks of the 22 Days Nutrition challenge—which, I must reiterate, was for me as much about exploring veganism as a lifestyle as any Spartan regimen Beyoncé was endorsing, even though Homecoming season is once again coming. (And yes, I admit the title of this series was therefore somewhat misleading...but I told y’all that upfront). First takeaway? Don’t tell anybody your personal habits, because folks are judgmental AF, with little grace or allowance for the basic tenets of humanity that encroach upon all of us, last time I checked. (That said, thanks to the majority of you who loyally followed; your support and advice spurred me on.)
Second? Plant-based eating is an entirely manageable and tasty commitment, but it is a commitment that requires a very clear emotional and even moral component (unless you just don’t like the taste of meat and dairy; in which case, carry on). Without it, you will find yourself floundering—and the same goes for trying it strictly for weight loss, as I am leaving this three weeks of veganism at exactly the same weight I entered it (like, down to the ounce). Veganism isn’t a “get out of fat-free card”; just like omnivorous eating, weight loss while vegan requires focus, accountability and an avoidance of processed foods (and that’s neither opinion, indictment, nor guilt talking; just science).
Would I do 22 Days again? Absolutely...but to be worth it weight-wise, I concede that one would have to follow the program and recipes to the letter. That said, some of it did stick; I’m planning to move forward with a 60/40 approach to plant-based eating, with vegan options in the majority...and will see how it grows from there.
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But my biggest takeaway from this challenge is that pleasure is requisite to maintaining any relationship—even one with food. So, when I heard about the Atlanta-based phenomenon known as Slutty Vegan, I was understandably intrigued...and eager to end this feel-good experience on a decidedly feel-good note. (And don’t front: you know a little sluttiness—even while monogamous—can feel good!)
The brainchild of ever-enterprising, first-generation Jamaican-American creative Pinky Cole, Slutty Vegan is a 100-percent plant-based burger joint for vegans and non-vegans alike, serving up exactly the level of decadence a discerning palate deserves—with none of the carbon-emitting, animal-ingesting guilt. It may not be “healthy,” per se, but as 22 days of stabilizing my weight while vegan taught me, an occasional indulgence ain’t hurtin’ nobody—and will definitely make veganism more appealing, in the long run.
Launched as a brick-and-mortar in January of this year, Slutty Vegan is Cole’s newest venture after launching the successful Jamaican-American restaurant Pinky’s in Harlem (tragically lost to fire in 2014) and a stint producing BET’s hit show Iyanla: Fix My Life. Bravely venturing back in the restaurant game, this time, Cole put her own plant-based preferences at the forefront, fully understanding that veganism may not be the easiest sell.
“You know, it’s funny, because one day, they can love you in the restaurant industry, and the next day, you don’t have one customer,” Cole laughed—as well she should, since according to a release from the brand:
The first week, only four customers showed up. By the second week, there were 150 people waiting outside and from there, the numbers grew so quickly she was forced out of the commercial kitchen and onto a food truck, popping up into different sectors of Atlanta each day. Within four months, she was signing a lease at their brick and mortar. On opening day in January 2019, over 1200 customers showed up waited upwards of 8 hours to taste Pinky’s culinary creations.
Among the clientele who have flocked to Slutty Vegan are celebrity fans like Snoop Dogg, Taraji P. Henson, Will Smith, and Tiffany Haddish, in addition to senators, sports stars, and skeptics, all of whom are eager to get #Sluttified. The No. 1 seller? “The One Night Stand” Impossible Burger. Other options? The “Chik’N Head,” “Heaux Boy,” “Fussy Hussy” and “Sloppy Toppy,” to name a few. (See? I told you a little slutty can feel good!)
“I like to think that I’m not selling food, I’m selling an experience,” said Cole. “It wasn’t just the restaurant industry that made me fall in love with entrepreneurship; it was really being able to make people happy, and connect them to the things that they love...the two biggest pleasures for the human: there’s sex, and there’s food.” (Editor’s note: Cosign times infinity, yo.)
But if you dare think entrepreneurship has overshadowed the spirit of homecoming for the former Miss Clark Atlanta University, think again. Cole, whose father was sentenced to prison the day she was born, may be a self-described “hustler” since the age of 13, but she’s also especially sensitive to the struggle. After all, Cole’s own climb was the result of the grinding and ingenuity so many immigrant families impart upon their American children.
“After I graduated, it was my duty that when I started making some coin, making a little bit of money, to give back to my institution the way that my institution gave back to me,” she said. “And coming as a first-generation American, and being the first to graduate from college out of my mother’s children, it was just important to me to be able to pay it forward to students who don’t have the same opportunities as wealthier students.”
Asking CAU to give her and fellow alum, soror and colleague Stacey Lee a list of students with outstanding balances preventing them from graduating, Cole paid off as many as she could.
“It was actually very emotional because we weren’t able to get everybody, but it felt good knowing that our contribution put somebody in the position to graduate; something they probably wouldn’t have been able to do, because they couldn’t afford it,” she shared. “And it felt really good to come back home.”
While Atlanta is currently the home of Slutty Vegan (“When I say Atlanta holds us down, Atlanta holds us down,” says Cole), the brand—reportedly one of the fastest-growing in America—has plans in the works to bring the flavor to the masses, having just closed their first round of funding; in addition to three current locations and two food trucks, by 2021 the goal is to have 13 locations across America. Nevertheless, “everywhere we go, it’ll be Slutty Vegan Atlanta,” said Cole, “because Atlanta is where this baby was born, and Atlanta supports it every single day.”
From Atlanta to the world...which runs parallel to how Cole—and after 22 Days, I—consider the growing popularity of plant-based eating.
“This is bigger than just food,” says Cole. “It’s a modern-day revolution.”