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The Yogi + The Butcher

The Yogi + The Butcher
Written by Erin Byers Murray | Photography by Andrea Behrends

For one entrepreneurial Nashville couple, gatherings are all about healthful choices, good friends, and gratitude

The heady scent of smoke wafts from a Big Green Egg into the massive windows of an early 1900s-era home on Nashville’s Music Row. Inside the house, which is occupied by Shakti Power Yoga, a studio full of yoga students standing in tree pose is suddenly hit with the hunger-inducing aroma of smoked turkey.

The co-owner of the studio, yoga instructor Kelly Carter, is floating between the house and the smoking session on the patio where her husband, Chris, one of the owners and butchers behind Nashville’s popular Porter Road Butcher, and his partner, James Peisker, are whipping up a feast for friends and family. Kelly’s sister and business partner, Lauren Farina, is there with her boyfriend James O’Brien and one of Shakti’s instructors, Mary Nell Roberts, who goes by Murn. Porter Road’s marketing expert Kat Azzolini and James’ wife, Marta, are on the guest list too. And although there is a heritage-breed turkey and a Porter Road Butcher strip loin on the menu, Kelly won’t be eating any meat that night. Instead, the pescatarian will feast on wild coho salmon, roasted mushroom and barley salad, and smoked butternut squash. The healthful and balanced menu isn’t completely meat-free—but it is vegetable-driven and meant to satisfy both the butchers and the yogis who will be sharing a table.

The irony of a pescatarian yogi and an omnivore butcher being married to one another doesn’t seem to faze Kelly and Chris. Instead, they’ve woven together their beliefs and carved out a balance, both in their daily lives and their businesses. And it pays dividends on both sides. Chris, an active yoga student who can pull into a headstand on request, offers free yoga classes to all Porter Road employees. (James, too, is a health nut who has run half marathons and trained for a triathlon.) Meanwhile, Kelly, who has been a conscientious eater since becoming a yoga instructor, can feel confident about the food she does choose to eat from her husband’s business, like the wild-caught Alaskan fish brought in from Virgin Bay Seafood.

Industrious and entrepreneurial, the entire group seems to be constantly on the move. Kelly and Lauren, whose studio hosts fifty-five classes each week, regularly travel to teacher trainings in other countries and, with an eye toward social enterprise, are members of the Africa Yoga Project, through which they mentor and sponsor yoga teachers based in Kenya.

Chris and James, for their part, launched their butcher business in 2010, and have steadily expanded into a full-blown distribution chain—with their shop in Nashville and a 7,000 square-foot processing facility in Kentucky, they now butcher close to one hundred animals (pigs, cattle, and sheep) per week to supply their own store as well as a thriving mail-order business.

So when the Carters and their partners do get a break, they take time to find balance—and that means keeping things simple. Instead of a formal dining room, dinner is served in a second-floor yoga studio on a makeshift table made from a heavy wooden door unearthed from the basement. For decor, the sisters put candles and flowers around the room, just as they would during a yoga class. Elegant and understated, it’s easy to pull off too.

The same goes for the menu. The turkey can smoke undisturbed most of the day. The beef and squash can cook simultaneously by sharing space on a large grill. The rest of the dishes require just a little bit of advance work and a few minutes for assembly.

“That’s the whole idea when we get together and cook like this,” Chris says. “These recipes are all easy to prep and then just as easy to put on the table.”

They’re also well balanced and adjustable for those who don’t eat meat. A cauliflower soup made with vegetable stock can be served with a chorizo topping or without. The swiss chard is cooked in oil, not animal fat, but with the addition of bacon lardons, can easily transition it into an omnivore’s side. “The idea is to put vegetables at the center of the table,” Chris adds.

As the group passes plates and pours more wine, Lauren mentions the grateful game, which she and Kelly traditionally play during family gatherings. “We’ll put out name cards and everyone will write what they’re grateful for, then we’ll go around the room during dinner to say what we wrote,” she says.

Tonight, it seems, the gratitude is directly focused on being able to sit peacefully, gather with friends, and enjoy an evening of simplicity and balance.

Simple & Healthful Recipes

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo and Chives

Broiled Salmon with Beet Yogurt, and Fennel and Carrot Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Grilled Strip Roast with Grilled Butternut Squash and Béarnaise

Whole Herb-Stuffed Smoked Turkey

Roasted Mushroom and Barley Salad

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Lardons and Onions

Fig Crumble with Whipped Sour Cream

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