A rock’n’roll socialite who wouldn’t harm a fly
Fashion–setting celebrity Meg Mathews gives her time to act as one of PETA’s campaigning ambassadors, and recently created a range of vegan handbags in conjunction with Wilby Clutch. Vegan
Life asked her about her personal vegan principles.
Meg, what kind of relationship do you have with food – would you describe yourself as a ‘foodie’?
Yes, absolutely, but I don’t really cook – I have a vegan chef! I’ve had him for two years. His name is Sean Paul Redding, he’s a Texan and he used to be the chef at Manna, the amazing vegan restaurant in
London. I found him on Gumtree several years ago when I was looking at switching to an organic, raw food diet – but he was my best friend before he became my chef.
I don’t ‘own’ him – he is a freelancer and works for lots of other people, too, going to their homes or on tour, or just doing occasional vegan dinner parties. He’s cooked for Radiohead, Coldplay and Mel B. He
comes to my house twice a week and rocks up a whole load of dishes to go into my fridge: salads, vegetables, brown rice… then I can do the fun bit and add my choice of tofu and any other extras I fancy.
The good news for Sean Paul is that I’ll eat practically anything – the only things I can’t stand are green beans. Oh, and carrot and coriander soup, that seems to be the standard thing that gets offered to vegans
these days, wherever you go, and I hate it.
I make the decisions about what I eat – I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks so where his recipes use things like French cheese or yoghurt, I just substitute vegan ingredients like soya yoghurt and tahini. If the recipe says pesto, I’ll use a raw vegan pesto.
You can really eat anything as a vegan. I can eat junk food, if I want to. If I want sausage, mash and baked beans, that’s not a problem. If I want southern fried chicken, that’s easy to do with tofu. If I want a doughnut, I go to Vx on London’s Caledonian Road and have the best doughnut imaginable, not to mention chorizo and melty cheese ciabatta breads… Whatever anybody else is eating, there is a vegan equivalent.
What happens when you attend events where food is served?
I’ve learned (the hard way) to eat before I go out! At charity events and balls, they will always cater for vegans, that’s standard these days, so I never end up with nothing at all on my plate. If it’s going to be a buffet, or a long night with just canapés, I make sure I’m not hungry when I get there, and I have things like nuts and olives in my handbag to snack on. It’s the same when I’m travelling, on a plane or a train. Virgin Trains do breakfast, but it’s likely to be bacon and eggs, so I’ll usually take a green juice with me.
Are you a big fan of juicing?
Yes, I have about three juices every day. They’re always completely green: I love spinach, kale, fennel and (always) avocado… anything green that’s lying around! It all goes in. If I need more of a pick–me–up I’ll add a little bit of lemon.
Why did you go vegan?
I went vegan on December 5th 2012. I’d been reading a lot about nutrition and healthy diets and I think it built up inside me because I can’t put my finger on one particular thing that made me decide to
change – it just happened. I’d always thought of myself as an animal lover, I never wear fur or buy cosmetics that are tested on animals… but then I watched a video on dairy farming and that was just horrific.
If there is one animal welfare issue I would like to campaign about, it would be factory farming.
I’ve always loved animals. I have a Boston Terrier called Oscar. I’ve got a bit of a reputation for jumping into swimming pools to rescue bees and wasps that are drowning, and when I’m walking my dog in the park I stop every five minutes to take the worms off the path! I feel a very strong connection with animals, always have done, and I love having them around me.
When did you start working with PETA?
We started working together in January 2014, when I became one of their celebrity ambassadors. Making myself available to talk about animal welfare and eating vegan was my choice, though, I don’t think that vegan celebrities should feel pressurised to keep talking about their diet if they would rather keep it private. Veganism is just a way of life, not a flag to be waved about. Vegetarians don’t all jump around telling people about it, I think maybe vegans get too much pressure to go on about their lifestyles.
I’m a designer, and creating handbags was something I had always wanted to do, so when PETA approached me about that, it was a great opportunity. Discovering the new non–leather materials, such as cork, has been a real eye–opener and it has been wonderful working with Wilby Clutch, I’m a massive fan of theirs.
Are there any vegan–friendly shops or designers that you like to buy your clothes and shoes from?
If I’m buying designer fashion, then for me it’s Stella McCartney, every time, I love her. But I find good things dotted all over the place, and these days there’s plenty of good stuff on the high street.
I do still have a lot of leather handbags and I have been criticised and told that I can’t call myself a vegan because of that, but I can’t afford to replace everything in my wardrobe straight away, so it will take time for everything I wear to be completely animal–free. I’ve been out with vegans who will just eat a little bit of a non–vegan dish, like mashed potatoes with butter, if there’s nothing else around and they are really
hungry. For me, that’s a no–go area. I think if you have ‘just a little bit’ of butter that’s a bit like an alcoholic having ‘just a little bit’ of wine. I guess we all draw the line somewhere, and it’s about your intentions, not about being perfect.
Taken from Jan/Feb 2015 (Issue 3) Vegan Life Magazine