Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You know that what you eat you are...

Someone was asking me if John Lennon was a vegetarian. Well, here is all the information I've been able to find on the subject. This is a topic that is particularly interesting to me as I have been a vegetarian for more than 10 years!

First we have a quote from a British teen magazine, in which John answered a questionnaire. When asked about vegetarianism, he said:

"I've not come across it. If people want to eat nuts that's okay with me. I wish I could do it, the way I feel about animals."

I'm not sure of the year this magazine was published but I would guess it was probably 1964 or 1965.

Within another year or two, however, John's friend Pete Shotton said that John had stopped eating meat and would offer him vegetarian burgers and sausages whenever he visited him at his home in Weybridge. [Source: "John Lennon: In My Life" - Pete Shotton]

It was around the same time that George Harrison also became a vegetarian, probably in 1967 for religious reasons due to his interest in Hare Krishna and the Maharishi. As far as I know, he stayed a vegetarian until his death.

Joshua Green, the author of "Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison", attended several recording sessions with George. He said there would always be 'huge trays of vegetarian food' in the studio.

"The thing that repelled me about eating meat was the idea of killing animals. But the main issue is that it's not healthy and not natural." - George Harrison

Paul McCartney was the third Beatle to give up meat, along with his girlfriend Jane Asher.

"Jane made the dinner. It was all vegetarian; Paul had just become one, like John and George."
[Source: "The Beatles - The Authorized Biography" - Hunter Davies, 1968]

Paul later went back to eating meat until the 1970s, after his marriage to Linda.

"We stopped eating meat many years ago. During the course of a Sunday lunch we happened to look out of the kitchen window at our young lambs playing happily in the fields. Glancing down at our plates, we suddenly realized that we were eating the leg of an animal who had until recently been playing in a field herself. We looked at each other and said, "Wait a minute, we love these sheep - they're such gentle creatures. So why are we eating them?" It was the last time we ever did." - Paul McCartney

Paul's former publicist Geoff Baker said, "It's true that Paul and Jane discovered vegetarianism together during their trip to an ashram in India in 1968. But it wasn't until he was together with Linda that he developed the powerful anti-meat convictions he still holds today."

Ringo was less keen than the others to give up meat as he suffered stomach problems due to a childhood illness. When the Beatles visited India in 1968, one of the reasons Ringo came home earlier than the others was because he couldn't eat the spicy vegetarian food.

"John and George were already vegetarians so for them the diet was nothing strange. Paul liked the Indian cuisine but the spices were too strong for Jane. Ringo had spent long periods in hospital with peritonitis as a child and found the food much too hot for his taste. Mal Evans assembled a stock of eggs so that he could cook Ringo fried, boiled, poached or scrambled eggs, and Ringo himself had resourcefully brought along a suitcase of baked beans, just in case." - [Source: "Many Years From Now" - Barry Miles, 1997]

When Ringo went to Hunter Davies' for dinner one day, he warned Davies that the Beatles were vegetarians now. Davies' wife, Margaret Forster, cooked a vegetarian meal for him, but when Ringo arrived he explained that although he was vegetarian he didn't actually like vegetables and would rather have beans on toast!
[Source: "The Beatles, Football and Me" - Hunter Davies]

Ringo was asked about his diet in December 1973 and replied, "I eat meat twice a year. On Bonfire Night I have a sausage and Christmas I have a turkey with the festivities, because it is exciting. I am getting excited over Christmas. So they are the only two days I have it."
[Source: "The Beatles After The Break Up" - Keith Badman]

In a 1995 interview, Paul McCartney said, ""We all turned out to be veggie. Ringo's walking around with, like, a bag of seeds, so healthy".

Returning to John Lennon now, his diet for the remainder of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s was mainly vegetarian, although he did occasionally go back to eating meat now and again.

"I don't think animals were meant to be eaten and worn. We have enough resources to do without them. It's common sense to me that you shouldn't eat most of the chemically treated rubbish most people seem to stuff themselves with. The trouble is most vegetarians don't get enough protein. My diet's based on meal, bread which Yoko makes, rice and no sugar. We have honey if things need sweetening." - John Lennon

May Pang, John's partner during his separation from Yoko in the mid 1970s said that "he'd also go through food periods - during Walls And Bridges, he was into my Sunday cooking of a total English breakfast".

John and Yoko were also macrobiotic, as they explained to David Sheff, who interviewed them in 1980 for Playboy magazine:

SHEFF: What does your diet include besides sashimi and sushi, Hershey bars and cappuccinos?

LENNON: We're mostly macrobiotic, but sometimes I take the family out for a pizza.

ONO: Intuition tells you what to eat. It's dangerous to try to unify things. Everybody has different needs. We went through vegetarianism and macrobiotic, but now, because we're in the studio, we do eat some junk food. We're trying to stick to macrobiotic: fish and rice, whole grains. You balance foods and eat foods indigenous to the area. Corn is the grain from this area.

This website has a great cartoon drawn by John Lennon in 1968 to advertise the macrobiotic restaurant, SEED.

In his song "Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)" from the 1973 album Mind Games, John makes several references to macrobiotics:

When I'm down, really yin
And I don't know what I'm doing

People who follow the macrobiotic philosophy believe that most things in life are either yin or yang. The way to achieve harmony is by the correct balance of yin and yang.

Yin = The 'feminine' qualities of gentleness, sensitivity and spirituality
Yang = The 'masculine' qualities of aggression, ambition and curiosity

According to the rules of macrobiotics, foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang should therefore be avoided.

When I'm down, real sanpaku
And I don't know what to do

This excerpt from the book "All You Needed Was Love" by John Blake explains the meaning of the word sanpaku:

"You," Yoko told John one day after gazing into his eyes, "are sanpaku".

Sanpaku, she explained patiently, was a Japanese term meaning literally 'three whites'. If a person was sanpaku it meant that the irisis of their eyes were turned upwards so that white could be seen on three sides. The condition had been recognised for centuries in oriental countries where it was thought to signify poor physical and psychological health - caused primarily by an unwholesome diet.

...The two of them had together pored over photographs of the Beatles and realised that, though none of them were sanpaku in their early days, now all of them were.

Yoko explained that sanpaku could be cured if the person followed a macrobiotic lifestyle and ate the right types of food. This led to John's lifelong interest in macrobiotics.

You can find out more about this at Wikipedia's macrobiotics page.

If anyone has any other interesting facts or quotes on the subject of the Beatles and vegetarianism/macrobiotics please feel free to comment on this post!


Anonymous said...

very interesting, thanks! i knew Paul was a veggie but wasn't sure about the others. sorry i dont have any more info for u. Ringo is so funny. lol!

Anonymous said...

How is it then that, despite being off and on so-called vegetarians and purporting to be so spiritual, John and Yoko had TWO ROOMS full of fur coats in their New York apartment? Seems by that that they were about as spiritual as George Bush! Very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

It is a little disappointing that they were only on and off. It's better than nothing, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Why'd you say Paul went back to eating meat after marrying Linda in the 70s? He didn't. He never went back to eating meat as far as I know. The quote you shared was even about how much of a vegetarian he was during his marriage with Linda. He was a vegetarian but he wasn't particularly adamant about it until he married Linda, is essentially what Geoff was saying.

Louise said...

Sorry, I think you misunderstood what I said...or maybe it's my fault for not making it clearer. What I actually said was 'Paul later went back to eating meat UNTIL the 1970s after his marriage to Linda', meaning the period between first discovering vegetarianism with Jane, and the day he and Linda were watching the lambs in the fields.

I hope that helps. Sorry if I confused you!

linda_lee110282 said...

Lennon never was a real vegetarian. His "vegetarianism" was a fad. That was what Pete Shotten witnessed. He still used fur coats througout the 70's and used to eat meat hidden from Yoko. Jack Douglas, "Double Fantasy" producer, witnessed him eating (meat) hambugers. He didn't the macrobiotic diet.

Paul only became a real vegetarian in the 80's. As far as I know. Linda was much more unto vegetarianism than him, and he also ate meat in secret. He finally became a vegetarian when he found a satisfatory substitute for bacon (he loved bacon). By the way, Jane Asher isn't vegetarian. Just because she cooked a vegetarian doesn't mean she is one. Her cook recipies contain meat.

Louise said...

Linda - I didn't say John was a 'real vegetarian' - I said that he experimented with vegetarianism, that for periods he was mainly vegetarian, but sometimes he would eat meat. I agree it's disappointing that they wore fur coats, but I'm really focusing on the food aspect in this article.

As for Paul, I did try to explain in the article that his becoming a vegetarian was a slow process. I don't know much about Jane at all - thanks for the information about her. According to the quotes I posted, though, Jane was also experimenting with vegetarianism for a while, at least in the 1960s.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on the Beatles' eating habits. All I have done here is put together as many quotes and facts as I could find. I thought people might find it interesting.