In a city famous for hot chicken, barbecue, and buttermilk biscuits with gravy, nonchalant Nashville vegan Kenny Felton has been turning heads not only for successfully sticking to his plant-based diet, but for making it look like an absolute breeze.
“He makes it look so easy!” marveled long-time Nashvillian Molly Crase.
As Molly tells it, she first crossed paths with Kenny, whom she describes as a towering lumberjack of a man, early one morning in a downtown diner. She watched from a nearby booth as a waitress poured Kenny a cup of coffee, only for him to request, “Just a splash of soy milk in that, if you don’t mind too terribly much, darlin’?”
“Honestly,” Molly says now, somewhat abashedly, “my first thought was he was getting a little above his raisin’, if you know what I mean. Part of me couldn't wait to see him get taken down a notch.”
Sure enough, just as Molly had anticipated, the waitress raised a skeptical eyebrow and informed Kenny that they didn’t carry soy milk – only “the real stuff.”
To Molly’s astonishment, however, the laid-back Kenny didn’t take offense – nor did he skip a beat. He flashed the server a conspiratorial smile, pulled a metal flask from his pocket and told her, “No problem, darlin’, whisky'll do me just fine." He then proceeded to add a generous measure to his coffee.
As Molly witnessed firsthand, Kenny’s casual, easygoing manner had the effect of completely disarming the jaded middle-aged waitress. She laughed a tinkly little laugh and told Kenny, “Honey, you come back tomorrow, and I’ll make sure to have some soy milk for you. We’ll save them cows for another day, yeah?”
Molly’s accounts of Kenny’s laid-back approach to plant-based living were corroborated by Kenny’s sometime-co-worker, Russ Harper, a fellow handyman and woodworker who frequently eats out with Kenny when they’re on a job together.
“I’ve tried to stump him,” says Russ, “but no matter where we go, he somehow he always manages to find stuff – good stuff - to eat.”
Some of the places where Russ has tried without success to “stump” Kenny: a taqueria (Kenny ordered soft tacos with grilled vegetables, salsa, and guacamole); a pizzeria (Kenny got pizza-minus-the-cheese with veggies and extra marinara); a breakfast joint (grits, no butter, for Kenny); and a steakhouse (Kenny had three baked potatoes dowsed with steak sauce and ketchup, a double-side of steamed broccoli, and a couple of brewksies).
“I’ve learned a lot from watching Kenny," says Russ, his admiration evident. “I used to think going vegan meant you had to find some skinny girl to cook for you and you could never go out anywhere. But Kenny helped me see that you can be vegan anywhere – even right here in Nashville, Tennessee!”
What did Kenny himself have to say about his easygoing vegan ways?
“Aww, ain’t no thang,” said Kenny, grinning modestly. He explained that it was his concern for animal rights that first brought him to the plant-based way of life. “Them critters never done me no harm," he noted.
And, while animal rights remain his primary vegan motivator, Kenny acknowledged that he also appreciates the many health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet - benefits which include prevention of cancer, heart disease, and even … erectile dysfunction.
“After all, I’m a handyman,” said Kenny, casting a wry half-smile toward his lower half. “My tool’s gotta work!”
Kenny’s long-time vegan mate, April Perry, perked up at that last remark. “It works,” she confirmed, beaming happily. “It works real good.”