I’ve never liked surprises. It goes back to an early prank my uncle pulled on me during Christmas that scarred my brain and made me loathe practical jokes.
When I heard whispers of a surprise 40th birthday party for me a few years ago I sprang into action. After a few tenuous moments searching the internet I found out that Old Crow Medicine Show was performing Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde in its entirety at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, on my birthday.
I booked plane tickets, found a place to stay and set three alarms for the minute tickets to the show went on sale, grabbing two a few rows back off stage left for what promised to be a unique showcase of American Music.
The concert did not disappoint, but the real star of our first trip to Music City was Husk. I had read about Husk, seen its chef/owner in a documentary on Netflix, and read as much as I could on the resurgence of Southern cuisine in the weeks leading up to our trip.
Oftentimes when I build up something in my mind it falls short and leaves me disappointed, Husk did not do that. I was my favorite meal of the year and it centered around a piece of catfish that was the most delicate thing to touch my lips until an evening birthday kiss from my soon to be wife sent me sweet dreaming.
We spent a few more days in Nashville and I have always wanted to return, and because my wife is just that awesome, we found ourselves in Nashville last week. Times, as they tend to do, have changed. Since our last visit, I’ve had a few heart attacks, one open heart surgery and one very special baby boy, who joined us for what was his first plane ride at just four months of age.
When talk of where to eat with my wife’s co-workers came up, I did not interject. It was her trip this time, I was tagging along to take care of the little guy, but the first word out of her mouth was “Husk,” and just like that I fell in love with her all over again. Reservations were made and after a day or two getting used to Music City all over again we met the crew in our hotel's lobby one night and headed out.
While walking to Husk my excitement was measured. I was hopeful that they could come up with something for a vegan, but even if they could not I was not willing to let that spoil bringing my wife, her co-workers, and my son to my version of a temple.
Everything about Husk speaks to me. From the historic brick house that surrounds its culinary wizardry to the old school front porch; to the daring color choices that grace the walls in the dining room, to me it will always live at the intersection of southern tradition and modern mindfulness.
Oh, and the food is amazing. I’m often asked how a hardcore vegan rationalizes eating at places that serve meat and I’ve never been truly happy with the answers I have given, so I will give it another try.
I’m never going to tell a grown up what they can or can not eat. I will answer questions about what certain foods can do for your body and tell anyone who is interested just how great I feel consuming an entirely whole food plant based diet. But what I will not to do is preach. Be honest with yourself, with how you feel after your meals, and be open to trying new things. That is all I ask. I will never preach, all the preachers I have ever met are either full of shit or trying to sell you something, the really good ones do both at the same time.
Just because something bad happens, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on enjoying some of your favorite things. If you are open and honest, amazing things happen. You have new experiences and that leads to new favorite things. In my case I enjoy breathing way way more than chicken flesh. When you stare death in the face, having to try all the craft beers under one roof doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as the desire to forego sweating during dinner. Weird, I know.
I knew I had one chance, the Plate of Southern Vegetables, as long as we could agree that is wouldn’t be prepared with butter or any animal fat. The Husk staff once again delivered, only this time is was a glorious cavalcade of plant food surrounding their vegan version of grits. Everything was amazing and it proved once again, that eating the way I do never has to sacrifice flavor, nourishment and delight.
Walking back to our hotel it struck me just how different things really were. Our little son pressed against my chest, both my heart and belly full of things that bring me energy, instead of things that eat away at my spirit and arteries.
It’s not so much that I’m a different person, but the lense that I view things is vastly different; and that has made all the difference. Changing the way you look at your favorite things is one of the most daunting challenges one faces when greeted b the grim reaper. The definition of insanity aside, the reality is our favorites things should sustain us, not drain us.