Extracts from 'Linda McCartney - The Biography'
by Danny Fields, a friend of Linda's since the 1960s. Published in 2000.
. . . As always, since around 1982, Linda greeted me with, 'Have you gone veggie yet?', and as always I told her that I was a little more veggie than last time we had seen each other and I was getting there gradually. That made her happy.
During our visit [in 1984], Linda suddenly asked me if I liked bacon. Was this a trick question? 'Mmm,' I replied, trying to duck having to give a direct answer. 'I've enjoyed it in the past . . . it's been a while, I think. I'm trying to remember when I had it last.'
'You can admit that you like it,' she said, 'I have a reason for asking. They're making vegetarian bacon now, and Paul and I are really interested in someday putting out something like that and making it available to everyone. So I wish you'd try this.' She went into the kitchen and came out with a stack of cartons of veggie bacon. They were made with something called TVP, or textured vegetable protein. Sounded yummy!
. . . Except for the colour, and a vague crispness, they didn't look too different from the raw product: they tasted OK, if a bit weird, but not at all like bacon.
'What did you think of that frozen food?' Linda asked when next we spoke.
'Very impressive!' I responded.
'Now you keep doing that, even if you don't go completely veggie for a while,' she advised, ' because every time you do, that's one less animal that had to be killed so that people could eat meat. Let me know when you run out, and I'll have more sent to you.'
That was the idea behind it all - eating this 'bacon' was saving the life of a pig. It would have been better if the food were fabulous but, meanwhile, it was a pound of flesh not slaughtered.
We had been given the prototype of what would become, six years later, Linda's own line of frozen vegetarian food. The quality of the TVP-based foodstuffs, by the time Linda put her name on the packages, did improve a great deal, and the range of products grew vastly and Linda's revolutionary culinary idea, vegetarian food disguised as meat, became an enormous success in Britain. Like McDonald's, they're now counting sales in the billions.
Tim Treharne, the food entrepreneur who helped Linda start her business and now runs it for the family, says about the first batch of frozen dishes given a public launch, 'I can only flinch at their crudeness, compared to today's products.' And he's talking about the stuff they came up with in 1990 - you can only imagine what that first 'bacon' I ate was like, before six years of research, development and taste test. Then again maybe you cannot.
It is understandable that Linda could gladly accept a gradual move towards vegetarianism on anyone's part, for she and Paul did not go the whole hog (so to speak) into a meatless and fishless life all at once. There is an oft told story about the family having a leg of lamb for dinner in Scotland one day, when a lamb either came into view frolicking in the grass outside the house, or wandered into the dining area - there are various versions. In any event, at that moment Linda and Paul supposedly foreswore meat forever. This incident is said to have happened in the late 1970s. When Linda's foods were about to be launched in the US in 1994, the accompanying promotional literature claimed that the McCartney's had been strict vegetarians for twenty years; in one interview, Paul says that he started when Heather was six and Mary a tiny baby, which would have been around 1969, but member of Wings recall a Thanksgiving dinner with real turkey, and meat and fish were certainly being served aboard the flotilla in Half Moon Bay [ a recording session in the Caribbean] in the spring of 1977.
[IVU note: Paul was certainly vegetarian for a while in 1968, probably from '67, under the influences of George Harrison and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There are also reports that Paul and his then long term partner, Jane Asher, remained veggie after returning from India to his farm on the Mull of Kintyre. It appears that Paul later reverted to his traditional meat eating for a few years.
In an interview with The Guardian, July 18, 2010, Mary gave her own version:
One day Mum and Dad said, "Look, we've decided to be vegetarian. We're not going to have meat at home, but it's your decision [whether you want to be vegetarian, too]." Mum was a good cook and I didn't really notice the difference.
They'd been driving behind a lorry that had lots and lots of chickens crammed into it and obviously between the two of them they thought, "That's not right." I even think Mum took a picture of it – I have a vision of it because I've looked through her archive. They said, "Because of that we don't want to eat chicken any more." But they wouldn't scaremonger and they'd discussed it between themselves. Dad was a traditional eater and didn't want vegetarianism to mean missing out. So Mum made a real effort to fill that hole on the plate and make interesting food. ... I was six or seven at this point, still at primary school.
May was born August 1969 so, if her memory is accurate, this would have been 1976-7. James was born September 1977, so might have been the baby that Paul thought was Mary.]
Then there's the big caviare controversy. If, as we've seen [in a previous chapter], the McCartney's were eager to partake of Yoko's caviare when they visited her in early 1981, they cannot have been orthodox veggies at that time. In fact, Paul told an interviewer they had continued eating caviare even after they'd given up eating fish, because 'we thought it's only eggs, OK. Until we inquired into it and someone said the mother sturgeon gets slit head to toe. We said, "We thought they milked her." That stopped caviare.' Milked?
This is not to quibble, and not to question the extent of Linda's and Paul's total commitment to the right, as they defined it, of all things with a heart not to be eaten by humans. . . .
. . . Her name in Britain is now synonymous with frozen meatless food; there is even a dog food marketed there that is 'Lin-tested', with a little icon of her face on the package; a cat food is on the way. . . .
I think Linda was born to be the animals' saint; as a child, she brought home injured animals and was more comfortable, and more fulfilled, with her horses and even with the birds and tadpoles that she would sit watching for hours in a woodland near her house, than with many of her own species. Motherhood, career, marriage and family diverted her energies, and she was a brilliant success in all those areas, but I think her kinship with all non-human creatures was simply dormant for about twenty years; it manifested itself as her children needed less nurturing and started going full-force in the early 1980s. For the last ten years of her life, it was total and, amazingly to all who watched her, growing all the time.
Laurence Juber [guitarist] who was a staunch vegetarian at the time he joined Wings in 1978, recalls the McCartneys were 'transitioning into being full-time about it when I first met them'. . . . It wasn't strictly vegetarian back then. That's the way most people start - they certainly came the distance, didn't they?'
'Gradualist is a good way to describe the way they got into it.' remarks Chrissie Hind, a very close friend of Linda's and Paul's and an outspoken animal rights activist.
. . . By the end of the 1980s Linda's first cookbook, Linda McCartney's Home Cooking, was published. . . .
. . . The McCartney's joined in PETA campaigns against General Motors, L'oreal cosmetics, Gilette razors and meat in general. In the midwest the pork lobby learned of the association and 300 pig farmers in Iowa returned their tickets to Paul's concert. . .
. . . Cleverly, Treharne and the McCartneys aimed their products not at pure and devout vegetarians, who make up only a small percentage of the food-consuming public, but at what they called 'Mrs. Slightly Green'. A category which accounts for an astonishing fifty-six percent of the food market in Britain. . . .
. . . On 30 April 1991, Linda McCartney's Meatless Entrees were launched, in a colourful package with a photograph of Linda on the front. . . .
By the time Linda McCartney's Home Style Cooking line was ready for an American launch, in 1994, there were eighteen of her products in the English supermarkets. Meals were selling by the millions, and the industry (and the McCartneys themselves) were very impressed. . . .
. . . in the UK Linda's food line was, and is, a sensation. In 1995 a factory dedicated solely to the manufacture of Linda's products opened in Fakenham, in Norfolk. It employs nearly 500 workers and no meat is allowed on the premises; it is the only completely vegetarian food plant in all of Europe [written in 2000]. A professional bicycling team, the Linda McCartney Pro Cycle Team, is now on the roads and proud of consuming 8,500 vegetarian calories per day per cyclist, mostly in the form of Linda's own foods, of which there are now forty-two varieties. And early in 1999 the billionth box of her food was sold in the UK.
At the time of her death, and in her own right, Linda was one of the richest women in England. What's more, Linda's third cookbook, Linda McCartney on Tour, is another bestseller; she is now the most successful author of vegetarian cookbooks in the history of publishing.
Sir Paul receives
Mankar Trophy on Lady Linda's behalf
Paul receiving the
Mankar Memorial Award
on behalf of Linda in December 1999
from left: Paul, Tina
Fox (CEO of VSUK, later Chair of IVU Council), Francisco
Martin (IVU General Secretary) and Maxwell
Lee (IVU President)
from IVU News, March 2000:
England, December 6, 1999 - In honor of the significant contribution
that Lady Linda McCartney made to the cause of vegetarianism,
the International Vegetarian Union awarded her posthumously
the Mankar Trophy.
Her husband Sir Paul McCartney happily accepted the original
Mankar Trophy along with a replica that he will keep.