THE BLOG
07/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sir Paul and The Queen Give Fruits and Veggies The Royal Treatment

Cross-posted from The Green Fork.

England and America have historically enjoyed a "special friendship" exemplified by a friendly rivalry and a rich cultural exchange: silly sitcoms, shameless reality shows, cheery and cheesy chick lit, Hollywood's Los Anglo-cized adaptations of Jane Austen, and so on. They've got Nigella Lawson; we've got Rachel Ray (hey, no fair! can we trade?) They've got Jamie Oliver slaughtering a chicken live on British tv, we've got Mark Bittman asking carnivores to only come out at night--or, as he frames it, "Go vegan till 6."

The latest trans-Atlantic trend swap's got the Queen and "Macca"--that's Sir Paul, to us yanks--stealing a page from the U.S.-led "Eat The View" kitchen garden revival and the Meatless Monday movement, two high-profile pro-produce campaigns that are heating up faster than a solar oven in a food desert.

First, Queen Elizabeth adopted Michelle Obama's urban ag agenda by starting her own kitchen garden on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The Queen and the First Lady have been forging a "special friendship" of their own in recent months, as evidenced by the spontaneous hug Michelle Obama gave the Queen at a reception, to the horror of the protocol police.

Who knows, maybe the Queen's growing friendship with our foremost ambassador for fruits and veggies was a factor in her Majesty's decision to authorize a new victory garden. It's been a long time since the Queen last dabbled in edible landscaping, according to the BBC, which noted that "This is the first time vegetables have been grown in the backyard of the monarch's London residence since World War II."

The BBC story included a photo, taken in 1940, showing the Queen as a young princess wielding a spade and a rake. This time around, the Queen's delegating the digging to her staff. Claire Midgeley, the deputy head gardener, explained the motivation behind the garden:
"We are trying to promote growing your own food and vegetables, getting families and children involved, getting their hands dirty. It's a growing movement throughout the country and we're just hoping to encourage that."
Michelle Obama said much the same thing yesterday as she joined the fifth-graders who helped plant the White House kitchen garden back in April harvest 73 pounds of lettuce and 12 pounds of peas:
"This gorgeous, bountiful garden has given us a chance to not just have some fun -- and we've had a lot of it -- but to shed some light on the important food and nutrition issues that we need to address as a nation...I want you to continue to be my little ambassadors in your own home and your own communities."
As the Washington Post reported, the First Lady gave a 14 minute speech proving that her foray into front yard farming is far more than the feel-good publicity stunt it may have seemed to skeptics:
The 14-minute speech was a marked change in tone from the series of fun-filled photo ops on the White House South Lawn, all of which have felt like school field trips with one very famous chaperone. The first lady talked about the importance of tackling obesity and the ways to do it: by improving access to fresh produce in low-income communities, offering more nutritious food in school breakfast and lunch programs, and overhauling how American families eat...

...Obama also explicitly linked healthful eating to two major legislative initiatives: the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which fund school breakfast and lunch programs, and health-care reform. American eating habits, she noted, have changed dramatically since she was growing up -- "and I don't think that was that long ago."

During her childhood, she said, fast food was a treat, desserts were reserved for special occasions, and all the kids in the neighborhood went home to have dinner with their families. Since then, childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed: Nearly one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, and diet-related health issues cost $120 billion annually. "Government has a role to play," Obama said. "We need to make sure we offer [students] the healthiest meals possible to make sure we give these kids a good start to their day and their future."
If the First Lady and the Queen's shared desire to promote food gardening and healthy eating seems like an unprecedented pairing, Brits witnessed an even more improbable UK/US alliance this week when Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono--famously blamed for breaking up the Beatles--came together on Monday to announce the launch of Sir Paul's Meat Free Mondays campaign.

By coincidence, America's version of the go-veg-once-a-week movement, Meatless Monday, relaunched its website on the very same day, so there's plenty of momentum growing on both sides of the Atlantic for this campaign to start your week off doing something significant to curb your carbon 'foodprint.'

Given the role that livestock production plays in producing greenhouse gas emissions, cutting back on our meat consumption just makes sense, and making a habit of doing so one day a week is a win-win, benefiting your own health and the planet's. As Moby, who's as famous these days for his NYC vegan café Teany as for his music, said at the Meat Free Monday launch:

'If I point my finger at someone, saying, "You should be a vegetarian," they're just going to get annoyed...There is definitely a risk [of] alienating people. Maybe one day a week, consider what you are doing. 'We're saying, do this for your personal health and in the process you help animals and you help the environment.'
It's heartening to see two of Britain's best known citizens lobbying on behalf of a plant-based diet, or what Michael Pollan--another Meatless Mondays advocate--calls "the resolarization of our food chain." Here comes the sun, indeed. I just hope this trend endures longer than Madonna's marriage, or David Beckham's hairline. This is one cross cultural exchange that we really need to nurture.