15 September 2010

The United States of Amsonia: A manifesto

Last week I read The United States of Arugula by David Kamp. It is a fun little history of the rise of the food movement in the US -- starting with the early ground breakers like Julia Child and James Beard all the way to today's world of foodies and celebrity chefs.
While reading it, I kept thinking: When is this going to happen to the plant world? When will we be talking about celebrity gardeners?
In the early pages of the book, it was almost the same story over and over: the future food world star grows up never really having thought about food, only to discover (usually on a trip to France) this whole other universe: food not just as a source of calories, but rather Food as Art. Food as something important to be thought about, talked about, and lived for. As the movement matures, people have the same epiphany all over this country as they discover for the first time that there is something beyond canned vegetables and processed cheese food product -- food that is worth being passionate about.
What I realized is this: people in the pre-Julia Child James Beard US didn't ignore food because they weren't interested -- they had simply never thought of it, had never had it presented to them quite that way. The same is true for gardening. This country is full of people who are not passionate gardeners simply because they've never thought of gardening as something to be passionate about. All over this country, people are living with the gardening equivalent kraft macaroni and cheese -- chemical soaked, unnaturally green lawns and a few pots of uninteresting, scentless petunias -- when they could be reveling in the joyous wonders found in the pages of catalogs of companies like Plant Delights, Arrowhead Alpines, and Annie's Annuals.
It is time we gardeners stood and up and showed the rest of the country what they are missing. Time we declared that a horticultural masterpiece like the Lurie Garden in Chicago is every bit as significant a piece of art as the paintings housed in the more traditional art museum next door. Time we spoke of gardening as a passion for a life time, as the way to live connected with and supporting nature rather than destroying and abusing it. Time we said the word "gardener" with every bit of smug self-satisfaction heard in the voices of people calling themselves "foodies."
I think the time is right. The food movement itself, combined with the economic troubles, are funneling more and more people into vegetable gardening -- a gateway drug to the other wonders of the gardening life. We have wonderful crop of gardening spokes people -- nursery men like Tony Avent whose politically incorrect catalog covers and plant descriptions state loud and clear that gardening is hip, writers and communicators like Ken Druse and Dan Hinkley who speak loud and clear about gardening and plants in all their complex, marvelous, endlessly entrancing glory. Here on the blogosphere, gardening is ranting, dangerous, punk, strange, quirky, funny, and just feakin' cool.
The revolution is coming.


mr_subjunctive said...

Time we said the word "gardener" with every bit of smug self-satisfaction heard in the voices of people calling themselves "foodies."

No, not that. Anything but that. People haaaaaaate smug self-satisfaction. Or any kind of smug, really, self-satisfied or no.

Joseph said...

Good point Mr. S... Smug is bad. But with a bit of pride, anyway.

Gail said...

Hear hear!

Cyndy said...

Love that thought, as I love Tony A., Dan H.and Ken D.! I'm trying to nudge my youngest foodie son into gardening, tempting him with pots of exotic peppers and herbs. What should we call the cool hipster gardening enthusiasts? Dirties? Of course, that might seem a little quirky :)

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I loved the line,"All over this country, people are living with the gardening equivalent kraft macaroni and cheese." It is so true. Your post gave readers a lot to think about. But my vote, even though I do not have one, for funny, is http://grumpygardener.southernliving.com/. I visit him every day and actually missed him last week during his vacation. Hilarious. Your blog can qualify as well.Cute comics.

danger garden said...

Well said! I am lucky to live in a foodie town, that is also a gardening town. We have dedicated garden writers in out local paper and an entire section of the paper once a week. I forget what it's like out there in the "wasteland" - no put down intended. I think the revolution is coming...

Joseph said...

Cyndy, Dirties... I like it. I have to say, as I typed the word "quirky" I instantly thought of your purple spray painted allium seed heads, and knew I had to link it to you.

Of COURSE you have a vote. There are so many great blogs out there, I could have gone on linking forever. I'm going to have to go check out Grumpy Gardener.

Danger Garden,
I am SOO jealous. But also hopeful.

Carol Michel said...

We gardeners are still often looked upon as a bit eccentric about our gardening. I think that scares some people a little bit. The same was true of cooking. Before Julia Child wrote her cookbook, people were afraid of "fancy cooking", and the chefs who cooked that kind of food, but she made it seem possible for anyone to do it, to cook like that. We need to make gardening seem possible for anyone to do, too.

And thanks for the link!

Nic said...