Mary McCartney: The photographer talks vegetarianism, childhood chips and her first encounter with snails


My earliest food memory Watching my mum [Linda McCartney] preparing family meals. The kitchen was the social hub of our home, where we'd meet, talk and eat. I'd watch her make a cream of tomato soup, when the tomatoes were at their plumpest. She'd add onions and mushrooms and blend them all together into this gorgeous hearty soup. I can still remember the beautiful smells.

My top culinary tip Get an oven thermometer. With baking you need to have an exact oven temperature as often the outside dial is not accurate and your cake will burn on the outside without cooking properly on the inside: for fan-assisted ovens, 180C is usually 200C. The thermometer gives you greater confidence.

My favourite food shop Clifton Greens, which is a grocer in Maida Vale. I like going to the shops near me, and it's a great old-fashioned local fruit-and-vegetable grocer with a good selection that tastes really good. Sometimes when you go to a supermarket, fresh produce can be quite tasteless.

My favourite restaurant Although I'm vegetarian, I don't go to dedicated vegetarian restaurants, but to those that have a good vegetarian selection, such as [fish and seafood restaurant] J Sheekey [in London's Covent Garden], which has a separate vegetarian menu. My favourite place is the Asian-fusion restaurant E&O in Notting Hill. They do really nice avocado-and-wasabi maki rolls. They're quite dainty, but satisfying, with a chilli kick to them.

My desert-island dish A rice-noodle Pad Thai with all the extras: a good selection of vegetables, egg and a bit of stir-fried tofu. It'd be hearty, colourful and have a tangy sauce. That would keep it interesting, as there would be lots of levels to it.

My dream dining companion As a photographer, I'd have to say William Eggleston, who is one of my favourite living photographers. I could experience sitting with him, watching him and hearing him talk, though I don't know how much of a conversationalist he is. He makes photos of seemingly everyday images look intriguing, magical and eerie. I'd cook him a big cheesy pie with onions, rosemary and crushed new potatoes, with a big chopped salad.

My gastronomic guilty pleasure Chips with lots of salt and vinegar. It's nostalgic for me, as it reminds me of New Year's Eves back in Liverpool. Our family would get together with all our cousins; and we'd get some chips from the local chippie and sit down together to watch the New Year rolling in. Now I like to eat it with the kids and my husband on special occasions: I don't make chips at home so it's a guilty pleasure to go out to a good chippie. I'm quite into dipping them in curry sauce at the moment: perfect for a hangover.

The weirdest thing I've eaten It was snails, which I had as a small child. I remember being at one restaurant in France, as a little kid, and insisting to mum and dad [Paul McCartney] that I have some. They said, "Mary, you're really not going to like them." But I said, "I love them, I've had them loads of times before," which of course I hadn't. I was shocked and disgusted when they arrived in their shells, and when I tried one, it tasted really rubbery and hard, though it did have a nice garlic flavour to it.

Mary McCartney, 43, is a portrait and fashion photographer, whose subjects have included Lily Cole, Jude Law, and Tony Blair. Her vegetarian cookbook, 'Food' (£20, Chatto & Windus), is out now

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