This article by me appeared in the Toronto Star after I interviewed Linda McCartney in Toronto in October, 1991 about her vegetarian cookbook “Home Cooking”. Sadly, she died too young from breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 56.
In real life, Linda McCartney is nothing like the stilted photo that graces her cookbook.
And, say I, thank goodness for that.
In the far too formal pic on the cover of Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking published in Britain in 1989, she’s dressed in a white blouse and tiny pearl earrings, standing straight and tall, hands folded around a pitcher of fresh herbs.
In real life, Linda McCartney is a friendly, down-to-earth gal who loves to talk, especially on her favorite topic: vegetarianism.
I was the only newspaper reporter invited to interview her during her whistle-stop visit to Toronto last week with hubby Paul.
And what a great chat we had, sequestered for half an hour in a plush suite at the Sutton Place Hotel while the place buzzed with bulky, bald-headed bodyguards bearing walkie-talkies, all part of a security package that was a match – I’m sure – for the other royal tour happening elsewhere in town that day.
And ’twas the Chuck ‘n’ Di visit to T.O. that sparked McCartney’s first remark as she sat ensconced on the velvet chesterfield, casually clad in jeans and a baggy beige sweater.
“Make sure Charles and Di get a copy of my book, ” she shouted across the room in her throaty voice and New York-cum-British accent to one of her group. “Maybe their chef could use it.”
Then she went to work on me.
“You’re not a vegetarian? Tut-tut.”
“My daughter Esther is, ” I interjected hopefully.
“That’s great, ” replied McCartney, as she answered a request to sign my copy of her book with a scrawled “Go veggie, Marion!” and, inside a heart shape, “Stay veggie, Esther!”
Some memorable messages from McCartney to me and other meat-eaters:
* “I call meat ‘slabs of fear.’ In our house, we don’t refer to it as meat, we call it flesh. And yes, I did raise my four children, now aged 14, 20, 22 and 28, to be vegetarians.”
* “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians . . . If people want to eat meat, they should kill it themselves.”
* “No, I don’t eat fish – or anything else with a face. I’m not a vegan. I don’t think a chicken minds giving you an egg or a cow giving you its milk.”
* “It takes about two months to get used to filling that hole on your plate after you give up meat. Then it’s easy.”
* “This cookbook is my first. It’s aimed at meat-eaters – to stop them eating meat. That’s why a lot of the recipes use TVP (texturized vegetable protein); it chews like meat. The recipes taste like meat but there’s no death in them. My next book will be for vegetarians.”
* “Cooking is an art – like photography, which used to be my work. I’m a sensualist. I love handling food. I think people should have fun in the kitchen.”
* “All fast food chains should have veggie burgers. I have a line of meatless foods in the U.K. They sell my Beefless Burger and Chickenless Golden Nuggets at the Hard Rock Cafe in London.”
Linda’s Chili Non Carne
This meatless chili we tested from McCartney’s cookbook calls for about 2 cups or half a 500-gram package of TVP, which can be used in place of the veggie burgers. If using TVP, double the amount of stock or water. TVP is available in health food stores.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1½ tsp chili powder (or to taste)
4 vegetable burger patties, crumbled
¾ cup vegetable stock or water
19 oz/540 mL can chopped tomatoes, undrained
14 oz/398 mL can red kidney beans, undrained
2 jalapeno peppers (or to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and veggie burgers or TVP; saute 2 minutes. Add stock or water and tomatoes. Cover; simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beans and jalapenos. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add more stock or water if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.