Minna Pick is the wife of the late Philip Pick, founder and former president of the Jewish Vegetarian Society. Their daughter Vivian wrote a letter to the Jewish Chronicle in the 1960s, asking if there were like-minded vegetarians who wanted to meet, and she also posted up notices at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied. For many years Minna collaborated with Lady Dowding and the organisation Beauty Without Cruelty.
At roughly what age did you become vegetarian?
I was very, very young indeed, in fact I can’t remember exactly when – I was so young. My family used to have fish for Friday night, which Jewish people usually do, and I would push it away and just have the vegetables. That’s why one day, when I met my husband, my mother said it must be “bashert” (fate) – it was meant to be. He had no bother converting me because I was already vegetarian!
What made you become vegetarian?
I couldn’t tell you – I was too young, much too young. All I know is that I wouldn’t eat the meat and I wouldn’t eat the fish. So I just ate the vegetables.
What is your favourite vegetarian meal?
Oh dear – now you’re asking! Since my husband died I don’t do anything like the cooking I used to. I eat very small amounts now – salads and things like that.
Which is the best vegetarian restaurant you have been to?
Shearns in Tottenham Court Road was wonderful! We used to go there for meals because the food there was so good. The Rabbonim used to go there to eat because they knew it was kosher. It was very nice food there – really lovely food. That was the one I most enjoyed. I can’t remember when it closed down. After that there was the Vega in Leicester Square. We used to be very friendly with the owner Mr. Fleiss. He and his wife Jenny were such a lovely couple – so nice. And his clientele were wonderful – if they came to his restaurant, they had to be vegetarian. Roy Fox’s band used to come there and we used to sit there and listen to them talking. There was a minister who used to go there and he used to have a special little room and sit and eat on his own! Shearns and Vega – these are the two restaurants in my mind that I will never ever forget.
Where is the most vegetarian-friendly place?
I think England is the easiest. It’s also very easy to be vegetarian in Israel – you don’t even have to say anything, you just order what you want and there are no questions asked!
What has been your worst experience as a vegetarian?
I have never found it difficult to be vegetarian. We always chose very carefully where we ate. People knew what we were and they respected us for it. My husband was an important person – an architect – and we ordered what we wanted, and we got it. Some people used to say at the table “oh that does look nice!”
When we got married we had a vegetarian wedding. There were some people who said they wouldn’t come because they were worried about what they would eat!
Can you recommend any good vegetarian resources (cookbooks/guides/websites/etc.)?
When something comes naturally to you, you don’t look around for books – you don’t need books. But my husband was a wonderful cook – he taught me how to cook.
What’s your “signature dish” (and can you give us the recipe)?
My husband used to enjoy soup and I used to make him lovely soups. And he used to like fruit cake. He enjoyed whatever he ate.