In Texas there are two things that rule, food and fashion. Or is that fashion and then food?
Either way, if you’re from the Lone Star state, an import here, or at the very least been a visitor, you know that everything is bigger in Texas. Food and fashion are no exception and this country girl loves them both.
Texas food is full of bold flavors with big, bold meanings. Our dishes stand for something, something inherently Texan. It’s the glory of our hardscrabble, multicultural past – the way that Texas history is the history of immigrants from all over the country and the world, coming together in a promised land and blending their heritages to create something new. And we something new again: vegan food and plenty of it. Can I get a yee-haw?
It took a while for Texas to embrace the fact that not every Texan loves a juicy steak or pork-slopping BBQ. It all began in Austin where the hippie/liberal folks started their own raw and vegan movements. With a plethora of vegan restaurants, food trucks, grocery stores, fitness instructors and even their own natural cooking school, those Austinites knew how to support a community of plant eaters. A trip to Austin proves that Texas knows how to show up and share the vegan love and have a blast doing it.
Austin isn’t the only shining star in this big ole state. There is a fired-up little town called Marshall that you’ve probably heard of by now. Un-seemingly set in the far northeast part of the state, Marshall has a mayor who’s on a mission to spread his veganism throughout the community and beyond — and he is being very successful. Even The New York Times has noticed! This year I attended the second annual “New Year, New You” event there. It includes three full days of fitness, food and a topnotch speakers, all promoting the benefits of the vegan lifestyle. The activities take place in Marshall’s quaint downtown area where local restaurants have added vegan options to their menus and are doing it very well, I must add…I had one of the best vegan meals ever in this unassuming Texas town. Put this fun, full weekend event on your calendar for next January. It is one not to be missed, y’all hear?
Being the BIG city girl that I am (uh-hum), I have to highlight the vegan movement that is taking over both Dallas and our little partner to the southwest, Houston. For years we relied on the ethnic community for eating out but along came the famous Spiral Diner, first to bring 100% vegan eats to Ft. Worth and Dallas. Then a 100% raw restaurant opened up (OMG!) and now there is a long list of restaurants in Dallas, Houston too, that cater to our savvy, healthy way of eating. The True Food and Lyfe chains are making home here, as well, so that must tell you these cowpokes down here are digging the grassy fields more so than not. Lets not leave out that we are also home to the first college to provide an all vegan cafeteria (what?); you’ll find this up north at the University of North Texas.
Of course this revolution and explosion of veganism naturally presents a problem when we take it home to fashion. I’m not going to lie and pretend that Texans don’t love the look of lots of bling, outlandish boots, cowhide jackets and big hair. (For the record you will never see me posting a TBT — throwback Thursday — photo on Facebook, that’s one thing I can guarantee!) Shopping, lets just say, is a downright bonafide hobby around these parts. But like food, Texas fashion captures our cultural of diversity and our heritage, which stems from our early settlers from Spain and Mexico. It is a reflection and mix of a rugged lifestyle, from the ranches we work to the city streets we walk, all with a need to stay true to our independence. That is evident on any given day around town from the starched jeans and cowboy hats to the latest designer wear. In between, and even in addition to, you have the boots: the relaxed, cool and comfortable style that tells you that there is something inherently different about being a Texan.
My love affair with cowboy boots started at an early age. They have carried me through many rough-and-tumble years of styles and looks. My boots have taken me through fall days and football games, and the cold, wet and sometimes harsh days of winter; they’ve taken me walking on the first days of spring and wrapped softly around my feet on the hot days of summer. How could I ever depart from something that was so inherent a part of me? This, folks, became a big dilemma after I went vegan.
I was fine for a while just eating vegan (I’d made the animal-to-mouth connection, but not the animal-to-wear connection) but last summer when I was cruising along on a country rode making a laundry list of the items I wanted to take to New York to attend Main Street Vegan Academy, that list had to include a pair of one of my many (did I mention I was a boot maven?) cowboy boots. As I made my way down the winding road I found myself behind a truck, with a trailer carrying a herd of cows. Coming from a family of cattle ranchers, I’m not unfamiliar with this sight, but as my car came in a bit closer behind the bumpy trailer I surprisingly became aware of the fright and anxiety these cow expressed (looking right at me!) and their inevitable fate. In fact, I was so emotionally affected I had to pull my car over so that I was no longer driving behind the trailer. In that instant, where just moments before I was pondering over which pair of my precious cowboy boots would make the trip to NY, I knew that I could never ever again consciously wear or buy another pair.
Holy cow! How would that be possible? Fashion to me is cowboy boots. They are a part of my heritage, my personal identity, a Texas emblem. I couldn’t live without them and a quick search told me I would have to unless…I made my own vegan version. This folks was the beginning of Kick Butt Boots.
I recently read an article that addressed how society looks at wearing fur (big no-no!) but has yet to make the connection to leather, yet it remains number two in grossing revenue for the cattle industry. My mission is to expose how awful and toxic the leather production industry is and that fur and leather are the same thing: somebody’s skin. I want people to realize that there’s a quality alternative to leather and that no cow should suffer for fashion. Mostly, I want to wear really cool, comfortable, artistically designed, cruelty-free cowboy boots and I want y’all to be able to wear them too, Texan or not.
A native Texan and vegan activist, Kat Mendenhall, VLCE, CNE, considers herself a stuck-in-the-city country girl on a mission to mend the world through whole, plant-based nutrition and cruelty-free products. She is a vegan lifestyle coach and educator certified by Main Street Vegan Academy, a culinary nutrition expert certified by Meghan Telpner and an avid boot maven whose company Kick Butt Boots is giving leather the boot by designing the first cruelty-free, Texas-style cowboy boots to hit the market. You can read more about her coaching, teaching, and cooking services at katmendenhall.com and her unique and beautifully made cowboy boots at kickbuttboots.com.