Happy to be Blue

The worldwide research behind a “Plant Slant” cooking class

Kathy Brannan with the Blue Zones Project is living the good, long life in Brevard.
Photo by Camille Maren Productions

Brevard’s recent commitment to the internationally branded Blue Zones Project has tasked the town with a high bar — to become one of the regions in the world where people live the longest. Ahead of a May cooking class, instructor Kathy Brannan tells readers how “Plant Slant” eating is part of this goal.

So what is the Blue Zones Project?

National Geographic [Fellow] Dan Buettner wanted to see where in the world people live well and live the longest, into their hundreds, and he circled those five areas in blue on the map: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. He studied those zones and found what he thought were nine characteristics they had in common. [Among them are natural exercise, close family and friend ties, “Plant Slant” eating, and various “down shift” routines to manage daily stress — ranging from prayer to napping to happy hour.] So he decided to try to get communities all over the place to try to function like these blue zones. Brevard is the 50th community to try to implement these principles.

What exactly is a Plant Slant cooking class?

“Plant Slant” [means] not totally vegetarian or vegan, but it’s the idea of taking the meat out of the spotlight and making it more of a side or an addition. Most people already know how to cook with meat, but what they are trying to learn is, “How do I cook without meat?” … I like to have at least four plant-based recipes for people to taste, and I usually only demonstrate a couple of those, and then we have half an hour for people to taste things and see what they like. You walk away with four or five recipes. 

How did you get involved with the Blue Zone Project of Brevard?

The only Blue Zone in the U.S. was in Loma Linda, California. It has predominantly Seventh Day Adventists living in that community, and Seventh Day Adventists have long advocated for whole-person well being. So Blue Zones was really a good fit for me; it matches the beliefs of my church and it matches my personal values.

What can we expect to taste at your May Plant Slant class?

This class is going to feature food made with nuts. Nuts are a wonderful source of protein. Obviously, people who are trying to eat less meat are always concerned about getting protein, [and] there are so many sources of vegetable protein, nuts being an excellent one. I’m probably going to do some wheatgerm patties with pecans and mushroom, brown rice, and walnut meatballs. I may do cream-cheese pecan balls made with a plant-based cream cheese and a walnut sandwich spread. 

The Blue Zones Project of Brevard hosts a Plant Slant cooking class with Kathy Brannan on Tuesday, May 17, 6-7:30pm, at Brevard Seventh Day Adventist Church (3535 Asheville Hwy., Pisgah Forest). Free. 828-877-5067. See Blue Zone Brevard’s Facebook page or register through Event Brite.

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