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What My Mother Taught Me: Mary McCartney

by Julia Pal

published on 27 March 2014

Mary McCartney’s wonderful vegetarian cookbook, FOOD, reads like a homage to her mother Linda’s passion for and understanding of cookery. In this touching piece, Mary explains how Linda shaped her food-loving life, and shares Linda’s own Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe, a favourite in the McCartney household.

Lemon drizzle cake

I think my feel for vegetarian cooking is so ingrained that it has become second nature. Growing up in a vegetarian family and having Mum at the helm in the kitchen, encouraging us all to muck in, was the best education I could have asked for. My whole family are real foodies because everything we ate as we grew up was simply delicious and all of it was hassle-free, quick and uncomplicated. As the years have gone by I have continued to cook as my mum did, constantly experimenting with different combinations of ingredients, flavours and textures.

Growing up in a food-loving family

I think our early experiences and memories of food determine so much of our approach to it as we get older. I was lucky enough to enjoy a very varied vegetarian diet and so, for me, it wasn’t limiting because there was always choice. My siblings and I were involved in the experience of cooking from a very early age. The kitchen was the centre of the universe and Mum got us involved, helping to cook and tasting…always tasting. Now with my own children, I try to get them involved. We discuss meals and recipe ideas and flavour combinations, and I have found that it gives them a point of view and demystifies the process. The more involved they are, the more interested they become in food and cooking.

Following in Linda’s footsteps

My main cooking influence was my mother, Linda. She described herself as a peasant cook and had the ability to transform whatever she found in the pantry into delicious meals. Her style was pretty laid-back and low maintenance. Being an American, the basis of her cooking was quite traditional and therefore so is mine; I guess I learnt by osmosis. I love making hearty soups, stews, fluffy rising quiches, large chef’s salads, and baked macaroni cheese. One of my lasting memories of Mum is the two of us snacking on a well-tried and tested favourite of hers – rye toast with crunchy peanut butter and jam…alongside a hot cup of our favourite English breakfast tea.

When I was growing up I spent lots of happy times cooking and chatting with my mother. During those times I soaked up her knowledge, and gained an understanding of how certain extra-simple ingredients or cooking techniques could transform an ordinary dish into something special. Her love of food was infectious but never precious. There was nothing boring about food when I grew up and now I just want to share some of this passion in the hope that you’ll find vegetarian food as enticing, varied and delicious as I have done all these years.

Mary McCartney’s FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking is out now.

From the book

Mary McCartney

Click here for Linda McCartney’s Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe.


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