Say what you like about them, but I wouldn’t have got where I am today without a good food scandal every so often. The Tesco horsemeat saga is merely the latest chapter: in recent memory, over the white noise of pesticide contamination, there’s been salmonella, e-coli, foot and mouth, “mad cow”, bird flu, genetic engineering. In the war of worlds, all battles lost by the military-industrial-agricultural world; all sparking minor flurries of interest in sustainable alternatives, some of which is sustained. The growth in organic food and farming, in localised food systems, over the last three decades, can be traced in some part to such publicised calamities.
These scandals serve as reminders, snoozed alarms, of what is going on relentlessly under our noses, even as attention drifts to the next news story. They are all legally born of the modern food system’s complicated, heavy, input and supply chain, tethered to the twisted logic of profit.
I think this is a time of reminders. The seed swap event at the Hornbeam Centre on Friday was a reminder of the eternal promise of seeds, and the power of cultural exchange and community: people power buzzing and swarming through the cracks in the edifices of corporate power, in the belly of London.
On the day the last of the dry asparagus stems was fed to the wood burner, we began mulching up the asparagus beds, remembering the sleek spears’ sliding white to green, and their sublime spring succulence.
I’m remembering how the spring seed sowing schedule is meant to go again; remembering to check on the plants again; rediscover them as they rediscover growth. They are remembering themselves. As we remember again, after The Long Trudge through the winter garden, how to handle the hoe and plug tray: we re-member ourselves of planet Earth.
The bird song, the freshest green, the chitting seed, the golden light. It all comes flooding back.