October Vegan of the Month, meets scary-smart Kathy Hester. Recipe developer, slow cooker guru, pr pro, cooking instructor and five-time cookbook author Kathy Hester owes her success to being an overachiever who’s not afraid to fail. “You can’t be successful at something unless you’re willing to fail brilliantly,” she says. “I do some boneheaded things just to see if it’ll work.” With her new book, “The Easy Vegan,” she’s done the hard work to make it easy in the kitchen for “normal people who don’t like a lot of stress in their lives.” That’s probably you.
Though as stress-averse as the next guy, Hester’s happiest “being in the kitchen, experimenting. I love recipe development.” She’s not your standard issue in-your-face Type A overachiever. A Southerner born and bred, “I’m just that vegetable lady.” She’s been that vegetable lady since she was 18, back when “vegetarian was way crazy. It was very underground. You couldn’t get tofu in the grocery store, you had to go to special co-ops, in people’s houses. I moved with the outcast crowd,” she says with a laugh.
How did she learn how to cook? “I fumbled around. I made a lot of mistakes.” Hey, it’s all part of the journey.
Hester’s journey began in earnest during grad school. “That’s when I started cooking,” feeding friends almost every night. “I worked in a co-op so I had huge boxes of grains and rice. I would make these crazy mixtures, put a bunch of things together till it smelled right,” she says. “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
But with so much nutritional information out there, making food choices can feel hard. “As a culture, we tend to see one study and we grab onto it — this is how we can win, this is how we can beat the system,” Hester says. “The trend is to be extreme. No grains, no carbs, no fats, no oil. People are getting to be afraid of food. I see it more and more. It’s not healthy.”
Healthy, accessible and easy all come together in Hester’s recipes. A former web developer, she designed “The Easy Vegan” to be user-friendly. “Vegetables are easier than people think.” They take center stage in comfort classics like chili and lasagna and in Hester’s playful eats like carrot hot dogs and cauliflower po’boys. “Feed people something tasty and they don’t have to know what’s in it,” she says.
Behind Hester’s nice vegetable lady demeanor lurks an ulterior motive — “To make people feel safe, to feel comfortable to try new things — to make a cake or a casserole or a whole nice dinner.” With “The Easy Vegan,” the vegetable lady makes it easy.
Do you know a Vegan of the Month? Submit your nomination and tell me in 100 words or less why your choice deserves to be Vegan of the Month Each month I pick a winner. The next Vegan of the Month could be you.