Dear Linda McCartney

So your veggie burgers contain more fat than it says on the packet. But that's a side issue. A food writer finds more serious problems with your silly quasi-meat concoctions
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Whoops! Your veggie burgers contain 22.7 per cent fat, rather than the 11.2 per cent listed on the packet. How pesky of ITV to catch out you and your manufacturer, Ross Young. One would have thought that the crusading producers of a programme called the Big Story would have understood the wider importance of your mission, which is nothing less than to save the world. Or at the least the curly-tailed pigs, woolly lambs and big-eyed cows who reside in it.

Brazen it out, is my advice. Ignore the whooplah for the simple reason that it is not so much unfair criticism as irrelevant. Your problem does not lie in a mere 22.7 per cent of the Beefless Burger. It is that the Beefless Burger is 100 per cent a bad idea. Your little labelling gaffe is nothing compared to the damage done by your highly profitable good intentions.

Or are they good? As you have so quaintly recalled in at least one interview, you gave up eating meat after you and Paul were enchanted by the sight of a lamb gambolling on a grassy hillside. Good gracious, thought we readers, this Linda McCartney, this blonde American heiress to the Eastman Kodak fortune, this vixen who stole Paul away from that nice Jane Asher, is not so bad after all.

We forgot about Wings, about your banging tambourine and that one finger technique you perfected with the synthesizer. We forgave you these and other sins because you cared so much for lambs. As the surprising rehabilitation of reputations go, your conversion to vegetarianism rivalled Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" to drugs campaign.

The trouble is that you quite fancy yourself as a leading light and so do others, the Vegetarian Society and BBC Enterprises, publishers of Vegetarian magazine. The society is all too happy to embrace celebrity support, and so it has supported you in merchandising your meatless meaty meals.

Don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are vegetarians. But they are not that keen on your Beefless Burgers or Chicken Kiev without the chicken. They like smoked aubergine puree; spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, tarts covered with melting red onions. They know, unlike you, apparently, that vegetarian food should not consist of trumped-up meat substitutes, but of well-cooked dishes that are what they are. They do not thoughtlessly bolster the trend that is filling our supermarket shelves with denatured products such as butter-like substances that are sold under the slogan "I can't believe it's not butter". People who are really into vegetarian food for the sake of it do not whittle away at our food culture by replacing some of its most basic staples with lightweight, own-brand substitutes.

You may be a Grade B celebrity but you are a Grade A player in the food- processing sector of the food industry. Here, you certainly have made short work of your old rival Jane Asher and her cute cakes. Obviously, an ability to cook wasn't high on Paul's list of qualities when choosing a girlfriend. What really gets people is that in making your money through your veggie burgers, you also have the temerity to turn yourself into a latter-day Saint Linda.

There is a wider question that needs addressing. You claim that by launching the veggie burger, you are opening up the debate about how we abuse animals to provide us with meat. You are attempting to blur the line between meat- eating and vegetarianism with this vegetarian substitution for something made of meat. Yet by doing so you obscure the vital debate over the future of livestock in Britain, and animal husbandry. While we eat pork-free sausage rolls, we need not know that the British smallholders have the highest conversion to free-range systems in Europe. Yet they must sell their pork in their domestic market to match cut-price Danish and Dutch imports. As you appear like some latter-day Snow White in your meatless shepherd's pie commercials, you usurp attention better directed at those going through the painstaking business of converting their animal rearing to Soil Association organic standards.

EMILY GREEN

Comments