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LINDA TURNS THE (KITCHEN) TABLES ON THE FRENCH
Geoff "Boulanger" Baker boards the Veggie Flyer across the Channel to witness the successful French launch of Linda's believer belle livre
There is an expression used in England known as "taking coals to Newcastle". It means you're really trying your luck, aiming to sell someone something they've already got in plenty.
"Fat chance" would be another way of putting it.
Both expressions may have come to some minds when Linda said she was publishing her cookbook Linda McCartney's Home Cooking in France.
The book has sold extraordinarily well in the UK and USA, but France? For starters (OK, hors d'oeuvres), France is the maison of cookery; they've got cooking in their genes there. What could another cookbook teach them?
And second, well...they eat horses, don't they? Any nation that invented the concept of the frog's leg as a meal is surely going to be looking seriously askance at the notion of not eating animals.
Wrong. The world and his mother turned out for the launch of the book as P&L flew to Versailles to host it to a battery of magazine writers, photographers and TV crews.
Linda, it seems, had genuinely turned the (kitchen) tables on the French, who were intrigued by this revolutionary idea of eating vegetables and - shock alors - amazed that the meals tasted divine. They "ummm"-ed and "ahhhh"-ed over coeurs d'artichauts aux champignons (page 110) and tarte meringuee au citron (193), prepared especially by three Michelin-rated chefs who had more rosettes between them than you'd see at a Surrey gymkhana.
No-one said "What? No meat?" (or "Quoi? Pas de la viande?"). Conversion, not just conversation, hung in the air, and the Scud-sized cigar that publisher Michel Lafon lit up was not the sort puffed by men anticipating anything less than a bestseller.
And Linda's event even won the indirect approval of France's most celebrated animal lover, Brigitte Bardot. Brigitte, her sister Mijanou explained, ate fish and would like to Go Veggie completely, except that she didn't have enough vegetarian recipes. She would lurrve a Linda cookbook.
Today France, then, tomorrow the rest of the world...