Mary McCartney Makes Going Meat-Free Look Easy and Fun With Her New Show

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

Mary McCartney is a world-famous photographer—her work has appeared in countless magazines, such as British GQ and Love, and most recently, she shot the cover of Rolling Stone's December issue featuring her dad, Paul McCartney, and Taylor Swift. She's also published five photo books and photographed Queen Elizabeth II. But she has another passion that is equally important to her: cooking, specifically delicious (and approachable) meat-free recipes.

A lifelong vegetarian, McCartney already has two cookbooks. She's also the co-founder of Meat Free Monday (along with her dad and sister Stella) and an ambassador for Green Monday. Both are nonprofit organizations that are working toward a sustainable, meatless lifestyle around the world. And now, she's adding more to her plate (pun not intended) by stepping in front of the camera and hosting her own cooking show on Discovery+, Mary McCartney Serves It Up, which debuts February 4.

In the new six-part series, McCartney shares her passion for cooking and some family recipes from her London kitchen. She also recruits some of her famous friends to join her in the kitchen in person and over video conference, as it was all filmed during the pandemic. Viewers will get to see her make a deluxe hash brown skillet with Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie, maple grilled peaches with Kate Hudson, and nachos with Liv Tyler.

We got a chance to chat with McCarney about her new show, tips for going meatless, and her pantry staples. Take a look at what she had to say below. 

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

You're a professional photographer, but your new show is not a photography show—it's a cooking show. So how did you get into cooking?

I've always had two big passions, which are photography and food, and my career has been photography. Now, I've kind of gotten to the point where I've always been developing and cooking veggie foods and giving recipes to friends to promote meat-free eating. So now, it's just got to the point where I'm like, "Why don't I merge them both?" I was offered to do this cooking show with Discovery+, and we came up with a nice idea, and so it just felt like time.

It's interesting being in front of the camera, and that took a little bit of getting used to, but I'm so passionate about sharing my recipes, cooking, and food. It was really good fun. I wanted it to be good fun. I want it to be quick, easy, and inviting, so that's what it is.

When you talked about getting used to being in front of the camera, I didn't even think about that. How was all of that getting used to being in the spotlight instead of behind the lens?

It's quite funny because usually I'm the one behind the camera directing people, sort of suggesting what they do. Suddenly, I'm like, "Oh, this is what I do to them." It was good. I have a really great production team that made me feel very comfortable. The main thing is, if you sit in front of the camera, you want to feel comfortable. It was a pleasant experience, I'm glad to say.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

I bet a lot of the comfort had to do with a lot of your friends joining you on the show as well. Can you talk a little bit about some of the guests that you had on?

I mean, that's the thing. I love cooking, but I love company in the kitchen. I like to cook, and while I'm cooking, I like to chat. So it was the perfect opportunity to be cooking but then have someone there keeping me company. You can sort of catch up on things, and I could test out recipes on them. Even times when we couldn't even be together, there's no reason why you couldn't still have company in the kitchen. I would FaceTime—Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie are sisters-in-law, so we just prearranged a time, and I sent them the recipes, and we had a transatlantic brunch. They were in Los Angeles, and I was in London. Cameron showed me how to make a delicious spritzer, and then, I showed them how to make a granola with a coconut-lime yogurt and mint berries, and I made a really nice hash brown where I put beans, avocado, scallions, and all these things on top. We went onto FaceTime, and it felt like we were together, so it's good fun.

Then also, I could have a few people in London. Liv Tyler lives in London. She's a good pal. She came over, and we had comfort food. I made a chili and a vegan nacho cheese sauce. It was perfect talking to her about films, family, and friendship.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

It seems like a great way to catch up with people.

On one of them, I had the amazing journalist Gayle King on as a guest. When I first said, "Will you be one of my guests?" she was like, "Mary, are you kidding? I don't cook." I said, "I promise you don't have to cook with me. I just want you to be my guest. I'll do all the cooking." I think she even didn't believe me. Up until we actually were together, she said, "I can't believe you didn't make me cook."

She told me a funny story that when she moved into her apartment in New York and went to cook something she thought her oven wasn't working. So she phoned down, and they said, "Ms. King, this oven isn't plugged in." She's said, "I had been living there for three months before I realized that the oven wasn't even plugged in." So I realized she didn't really cook.

And really good fun as well is Dave Grohl agreed to share his veggie lasagna recipe. His daughter Harper filmed him, and then, I watched it and cooked it in London. It was just really nice. It was inspiring. I think food, if you get it right, is something that brings people together.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

I imagine you had to get very creative because of filming during COVID-19 and everything, but it sounds really interesting how you had some guests in person but also some over FaceTime. So technology really does come in handy!

Yeah, exactly. The technology was good. Mark Ronson was in London, so he was able to come to the kitchen, and we cooked together there. We made a marinara sub sandwich, which was really indulgent and really satisfying. He was able to come to London, but then, Dave Grohl was in Los Angeles. I mean it worked really well, and partly, it's to do with the world now and COVID-19, but the thing is, I'm half American. I do have friends in America, so when I'm cooking, I do FaceTime, and I just put my phone up on a shelf or against a book, and then, I cook and chat. It is something I do naturally anyway, so I thought it feels quite natural. It is an amazing way to stay in touch with people around the world."

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

Do you have a personal motto or a certain set of rules when it comes to cooking? How do you normally run your kitchen?

Yeah, I think it's about flavor. I like things that are packed with flavor, but also, it has to be quite quick because I haven't got a lot of time to be cooking. I like to cook. I don't like to eat a lot of takeaway, so I like to prepare meals. It's usually something that's convenient to cook, packed with flavor, and easy to make. Those are the two rules: It needs to be really satisfying but also have some kind of nutritional benefit. Sometimes if I eat something super healthy, I can feel a bit too righteous, and then, I turn to junk food. It's about [finding] balance for me between something that feels really hearty, satisfying, and packed with flavor, where you're kind of like, "Oh my goodness. I can't actually believe this is healthy." That's the kind of food I like.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

Do you have any favorite dishes from childhood or dishes that you enjoyed with your family while growing up that you still enjoy today?

We still like to do summer barbecues, so I love veggie burgers or, on the cooking show, to do these smoky dogs. You stick them into hot-dog buns, and I use carrot, balsamic, and onions on top and then some hot-dog mustard and ketchup. That kind of thing I love because it's something you can just pick up and eat that's not too fussy. That's the kind of thing we'd eat growing up because I'm of this opinion that just because you don't want to eat meat doesn't mean you can't eat burgers, sausages, and stuff. You use a plant protein instead of a meat protein. That's kind of my attitude.

Also, it's not preachy. I try not to be really judgmental and tell people what to do or what to eat. Even though I want to promote meat-free for environmental reasons and for kindness reasons for the animals, I'm not going to be like, "Don't eat that. You should do this." It's more like, "Mm, but don't you want to try this? This is tasty." I feel like that's a much more positive way of doing it because you need to want to do it. I made the decision for myself to eat this way, and I respect other people choosing how they want to eat.

I think a lot of people who might not be meat-free might think of a vegetarian lifestyle as sort of bland, but when you think about all the flavors and things that you can use, it opens up the possibilities.

I would say my target person is a meat reducer, so it's not really for vegetarians or vegans. It's more aimed at people that are meat reducers that are looking for recipes. It's sort of that type of person I have in mind often. My guests on the cooking show, they're not vegetarians or vegans. They're people that enjoy food, but I know that they really eat a lot more plant-based because they just see that it's so easy, and it's just everywhere now, which is just so exciting. The world has changed so much, and there are so many options.

Have you been a lifelong vegetarian?

I was a vegetarian growing up, and we were in a vegetarian family. Growing up, we would talk about what to eat, and we liked to sit down and eat traditional meals together. It's like, How do you keep that tradition still and that feeling without having to eat a roast? We talked about food a lot, so I'm quite confident about it. I'm not intimidated by it. I really enjoy cooking the way that I do, so I think that really is a big benefit because I think that's sort of how the show came about is that I would cook for friends and they'd say, "Well look, if I could eat like this, then I'd definitely consider eating less meat or going veggie." Then I said, "Okay, I'll start showing how to do it more and see where that takes us."

It seems very approachable, too, because you're pulling from your own experience as a vegetarian.

Also, it's doable without having to go and buy tons of different products that you're only going to use for one recipe. You can just have a bag of frozen sweet corn in your freezer and a bag of peas, and you can make lots of different things with them.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

What are some of your tips for someone who is thinking about going meat-free for a few days a week or just trying to cut back on meat?

My dad, Stella, and I promote something called Meat Free Monday, and in America, there's Meatless Mondays, which is an idea to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment to eat one day a week vegan or vegetarian. I really do believe it's your own personal decision. If someone's interested in looking at a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle more, try it out, enjoy it, and don't become intimidated.

There are just so many different recipes now at your fingertips on the internet and in cookbooks, so just spend a bit of time looking at recipes with some of your favorite ingredients and try them out. Just try one thing at a time and build it up from there. Don't just think, "I have to do this all in one day" but think, "I'm going to try this," and then gradually, you just suddenly realize, "Actually, I'm hardly eating any meat anymore because all of the recipes I'm turning to happen to be plant based."

My advice is to not push pressure on yourself. If you want to do it, then try to make it something that you enjoy and not give yourself a hard time.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

You talked about having frozen corn and peas in the freezer—what are your other fridge and kitchen essentials that you always have on hand?

I love lemon; you can put a squeeze of lemon in lots of things or add lemon zest. I always have garlic and onion. I love tamari or soy sauce. They're great for putting into soups and gravies. I like to just put that on some mushrooms with some thyme. I also like Worcestershire sauce. You put it in a Bloody Mary, but actually, it's great on tomatoes, and it's one of my secret ingredients in my chili. You can put things like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce together—those things just add real umami to cooking.

I am aware of eating a variety of things, so I used to be very much just always eating pasta, but now, I try to eat more beans, lentils, and things like that. One of my preferred beans is black beans because they are really great. They're really packed with protein, but also, they hold their shape really well, and they take flavor really well. I love black beans for tacos, or I make burgers with them. Sometimes, I'll just get canned beans and put a handful in a salad. Those kinds of things just add a bit of texture, but there's also a health benefit without being too righteous about it. I love white beans as well, like cannellini beans or similar. I tend to put them into soup to blend instead of potatoes just to add a bit more protein as well. They have a creaminess to them.

I also love sun-dried tomatoes. You can add them to pizzas with chargrilled artichokes—those things you can get in jars in olive oil. My main obsession is probably extra-virgin olive oil.

Mary McCartney on Her New Show and How to Eat Meat-Free

Photo:

Courtesy of Discovery+

What are the go-to recipes that you turn to when you've had a busy day and haven't really thought about cooking?

Maybe a noodle bowl. There's one recipe in the show where you can buy these ready-cooked udon noodles. It's sort of inspired by flavors of the Far East. It's really quick. I have a jar of miso paste in the fridge. I just boil a kettle and pour that over the miso with the noodles, so it becomes like a broth. I might stir fry some greens or some mushrooms and put them all in the broth, and it's done. You can also bake some tofu or something to add another level. It's really quick, and it's one of my favorites at the moment because it's so fast and everyone will eat it in my family. It's good when you get one thing that everyone likes.

Next up: This Olympian Is on a Mission to Make Mental Health a Priority in Sports

Related Stories