Mary McCartney On Meat-Free Mondays & Her Favourite Hong Kong Eats

Mary McCartney On Meat-Free Mondays & Her Favourite Hong Kong Eats

Long before anti-plastic movements and alternative proteins, photographer Mary McCartney was an eco-conscious vegetarian. It wasn’t a big political statement or part of a trend: it was just how life was. “We’re a lifelong vegetarian family,” says the internationally renowned photographer. “We’re also a foodie family, so it was always a positive thing: we were very determined to not feel as if we were missing out on anything so we would always talk about food and how to fill that gap on the plate.”

mary mccartney, vegan, veganism, plant-based, sustainability, paul mccartney, linda mccartney, eco-friendly, green movement, green monday, green common
Self-portrait | Image courtesy of Mary McCartney

‘Filling the gap’ was exactly what her mother, Linda McCartney, did in 1991 when she launched Linda McCartney Foods, a range of meat alternatives that at the time pioneered the non-existent ‘alternative protein’ market which today has become the future of food. “I worked on the brand with mum, and when she passed away, we reviewed it to see how we were going to carry it on. I still consult and work on it, to keep things fresh, but the messaging is still the same and we believe in it as a family: it’s about providing affordable, convenient food you can trust.”

What started as lifestyle developed into a mission to help the world eat better—both for themselves and the environment—which is what brought Mary to Hong Kong last month. After co-founding the “Meat Free Monday movement” in 2009 with her father, Sir Paul McCartney, and sister, Stella McCartney, Mary was introduced to David Yeung of Green Monday who shared a similar vision. “A friend of mine who lives in Hong Kong said to me, ‘I’ve got this friend David who’s coming to London, I think you should meet him.’ We had a really great meeting, we agreed on so much of our philosophies, and we kept in touch over the next couple of years. We’d been talking recently about the school marches, and I told him I wanted to be more involved, I want to do something more global—and that’s when he invited me to become an ambassador for Green Monday.”

mary mccartney, vegan, veganism, plant-based, sustainability, paul mccartney, linda mccartney, eco-friendly, green movement, green monday, green common
Mary McCartney at the Green Monday International Ambassador Launch | Image courtesy of Green Monday

There has certainly been a shift in eating habits over the last couple of years, as public opinion becomes more focussed on sustainability. In Hong Kong, 23.7% of people now identify as ‘flexitarian’, meaning they make an effort to ensure they eat vegetarian at least once a week—the goal of the Meat-Free Monday and Green Monday movements. “While I’ve been in Hong Kong, I’ve been checking out the plant-based food scene here, which is really starting to take off,” Mary told Compare Retreats over dinner at Grassroots Pantry. “This place is great because this is how I would eat more day-to-day, but we also had an incredible tasting menu at the Grand Hyatt, and Impossible sliders at Please Don’t Tell the other night.”

Aside from her work with Green Monday, Mary has authored multiple vegetarian cookbooks, and is an internationally acclaimed photographer, working for brands like Mandarin Oriental and National Geographic. “I’m taking some time just now to consider how to marry my photography career and passion for food together. I end up promoting the food-side anyway, but I’d like it to be more a part of my full-time career, although travelling for work I do get to sample different vegetarian food cultures wherever I go.”

Her work with Mandarin Oriental has taken her from Bangkok to Bodrum, where she did a shoot with Rami Malek (“He was incredible, very amusing and funny”), but her favourite spa is a lot closer to home. “I actually went to the London Mandarin Oriental in January—it was best friend’s birthday so we went there for a spa day and had salt scrubs which were amazing, followed by a really incredible massage.”

mary mccartney, vegan, veganism, plant-based, sustainability, paul mccartney, linda mccartney, eco-friendly, green movement, green monday, green common
Mary joins as an Advisor and Impact Investor to Green Monday and Green Common respectively | Image courtesy of Green Monday

Travelling for Mary isn’t always luxurious spa suites and Oscar-winning photo subjects though: her work has taken her to some pretty extraordinary places and situations. “I was doing an assignment on wild horses with Nat Geo a while back in Snowdonia, Wales. So I went up there to shoot, and the moment I stepped out into the field—even though these horses, they’re about 100 metres away from me—they turned and ran. I thought, well now I’m really screwed, I’ve got this assignment and the horses run every time I set up my camera. The problem was, I’d come straight from the city, with a city mindset and a city wardrobe that was all wrong. It took three days to settle in: I spoke to the local farmer and I got into the pattern of nature. After three days I could walk right up to these horses and they’d look straight into the camera. But it was amazing that when I arrived, they could really sense that city anxiety.”

Other than her plant-based diet and trying to shake that ‘city anxiety’ with regular doses of nature, Mary keeps her wellness routines simple. “I’m very into my cleansing, I’m religious about it, it doesn’t matter what time I go to bed, I cleanse. I try to exercise every day, just because it makes me feel great — just 30 minutes, wherever I am, in the gym, even if it’s just you know walking on the cross-trainer. I keep hydrated, drink a lot of water. It’s nothing radical, just the little things to keep me well.”

Striving to continue raising awareness on the issues in our food industry surrounding climate change and animal welfare, Mary is optimistic that the new collaboration with Green Monday is on the right tracks to spread the word. “It’s becoming something that can be a lifestyle choice and it’s not something you have to do but it’s something you want to do. When you put those glasses on and change your perspective from what you’re missing out on to what you can discover, you kind of look around and it opens up a whole new world.”

Learn more about Mary’s work with Green Monday here, and follow Mary’s adventures and photography on Instagram. 

Rebecca Cairns

Editor & CCO

Hong Kong-based writer and editor Rebecca Cairns helped develop Compare Retreats from concept to creation as founding editor and has formerly written on travel and wellness with Hong Kong Tatler and The Culture Trip. Her editorial work has taken her all around the world and she is a qualified NASM personal trainer and an avid runner. When she's not travelling, she's planning her next trip, taking hikes to the beach or scribbling away in boutique coffee shops. You can follow her travels on Instagram @jetsetcreate.

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