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Why Go Veggie?

The Fairy Tale Comes True

It's all very well and good Going Veggie if you're a rabbit.

If you're a man, it's not so easy. Sure, it's a cinch to cut out flesh from your diet - but what do you put there instead?

What do you eat to compensate for the taste of meat? Cheese doesn't satisfy the longing, not totally. Mushrooms are nice, but with every meal? And nuts? Give us a break...

For many, many vegetarians the problem with giving up meat has been missing the taste of it. Any sane human being, once exposed to the horrors of modern meat production, would want to give up [if not throw up]. But the addiction for taste often lingers.

But now Linda has solved the 2,000 year-old-problem of Going Veggie. This spring sees the launch of Linda's "wonderstuff", meat-less meals that taste just like the real thing, better, some would say.

For this April Lidna has brought out a range of her own-name brand of ready made meals; burgers, pasties, pies, pasta and nothing died for the dish.

Distrubuted through the giant Ross Youngs Group, the foods will be on sale in the freezer department of most good supermarkets and the marketing experts are expecting a convert with every bite.

"It could be the start of a food revolution", says Linda.

"The problem that most people who give up meat immediately face is missing the taste of it. So we devised these family meals that have all the taste but none of the slaughter.

"The meals are made from Textured Vegetable Protein, a wonder stuff that can be made to look, chew, and taste just like meat. With these foods you can have your meat and not eat it." For Paul and Linda, the launch marks the climax of a lifelong dream.

"We used to sit around in the early days of us going veggie thinking, 'Gosh, wouldn't it be great to not have to eat meat but have some form of magic food that was just like it?'," says Paul.

"In those days, our dream was like a fairy tale - you'd never believed it'd be possible. I mean how could you make a vegetable taste like a chicken? It seemed out of this world".

But Linda held the dream. Following her discovery, some ten years back, of TVP, she began practising at home; using it to make meatless loaves and chili non carne. Soon the McCartney household was experimenting with beefless burgers and beefless bourguinonne - and loving it.

Inspired by the enthusiasm of family and friends, Linda devised TVP recipes for her vegetarian cookbook, Linda McCartney's Home Cooking.

The book was aimed at seducing meat-eaters to non-cranky vegetarian food but there were some doubts whether Linda's new generation foods would convince, let alone convert, the carnivores.

One hundred and thirty-five thousand book sales later and Home Cooking is now the biggest-selling vegetarian cookbook even in the U.K. and its recent launch in America has put it into the New York Times best-sellers list.

Interestingly, it's not the veggies who are predominantly buying it. It's the meaties.

"The whole point of the book was not to say 'Go Veggie' but rather 'Here's How'," says Linda.

"So many people had said to me that they wanted to try a vegetarian diet but it was a confusing minefield of pulses and nuts to them. They thought you had to go weird before you could go veggie. All my book does is explain how eating withot meat can be fun, healthy, easy and non-cranky."

Linda's cookbook was used daily for recipes by the Eat Your Heart Out catering team on Paul's 1989-90 World Tour and it soon showed that, ratehr than the Caesar's Salad or quiche, it was Linda's meatless 'meaty' meals that caused the most fascination.

Visitors and guests to the tour would be spellbound by the chili non carne and the meatless loaf.

"But this tastes so like meat", became the most common comment among the tables.

Armed with an awareness of that, Linda took her food crusade a step further. It's ok to make a cookbook for those with the time to cook, she reasoned, but many modern Mums don't have that time. Ready-made meals are what they want, or rather they need, to keep the cries of hungry sons and daughters at bay.

"It quite difficult to explain to people that you can take this vegetable - the TVP - and make it taste like chicken. That's a bit of a trip." says Linda.

"But the problem was not so much convincing people to cook with TVP products but where to get them. I got so many enquiries from people asking where to find the meatless meals that I thought the best way was to make them myself".

Given even Mrs. McCartney's prodigious talents in the kitchen, the task was too big for any cottage industry so Linda linked up with Ross Youngs to manufacture and distribute a range of foods - burgers, chicken-less chicken nuggets, pastas, pies, pasties and curries.

But would anyone really want 'em?, asked the pessimists, was there really a demand for meatless meals?

You bet. Ross Youngs' research discovered that vegetarianism has increased by 74% in the U.K. in the last five years.

And not only that, some 58% of British housewives now admit that they want to cut out - or are cutting out - more meat from their families' diet. That's 13 million housewives.

"These women worry about their men, they worry that their husbands eating the right foods." says Linda.

"Healthy eating is a bug issue now, you can't ignore it. Well, you can. But then you can die too. Doctors have warned that an average guy eating a meat diet has a 50% chance of having a heart attack. But an average guy who eats no meat cuts his heart attack risk to 15%. So if you cut meat out of your diet, you can slash your heart risk by 35% - that's a hell of an inducement.

"But what I knew women were also worried about was that while their hubbie is quite prepared to improve his chances of longer life, he's not prepared to cut out taste.

"The beauty of these meals I've produced is you won't miss meat. All the taste is still there. The burger looks like a burger and tastes like it. We spent hour after hour at more in food tastings - trying the food on kids, the biggest critics, and friends. They all wanted more.

"I'm not doing this for me; I don't want - or need - the fame of being some big-time grocer. I'm doing it for the animals, just as I did with the cookbook.

"And now you really have no excuses for eating meat. You can get all the tastes and 35% more healthiness from my meals. And no animal suffered or died in bringing them to your plate.

"The fairy tale's come true."

Note from Lilyflower - I have found that King Soopers in the US have her foods now (they're distributed through Heinz). If we keep asking enough, Safeway, Albertsons and all the other larger markets out there will start carrying them too. I'm not sure where to find them in the UK, if you know, please let me know!

From Club Sandwich Spring 1991 Issue #57, "Why Go Veggie?"
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