The clearest proof that this year has been a promo for purgatory have been the ongoing kale wars fought out in the suburbs and beyond. In this time of failing systems, shortages and rumoured shortages, many people have taken to growing their own vegetables.
There’s been a flight into self-sufficiency, a flare-up of the primeval urge to conjure life and the future from plain dirt. It’s a type of genteel doomsday prepping. My friends have had raised beds raised by tradies, oblong frames of massive timber filled with manure and soil and sprinkled with seeds and stakes and little signs announcing: lettuce, spring onion, radish, zucchini, cucumber, tomato, beans, chili, peas and f—ing kale.
As Bruce Pascoe so wisely told us, the splendid endless crops, bounteous harvests and wondrous hanging gardens of the Indigenous brought no hint of envy or rancour into their world. But white people never learnt how to share an Eden and will conspire over a bean and wage war over a marrow.
Friends here bring homegrown vegetables to each other as gifts and array them on their kitchen benches as if in Tiffany’s window. Then they lie about how vegies in their garden can’t help but climb as high as an elephant’s eye, so green is their thumb, when, in truth, they have laboured long and generally brought forth undistinguished marrow and slater-mauled sugar snaps.
Occasionally really fine vegies are produced, and these are on-gifted many times, each giver claiming to have grown the thing. A perfect capsicum will orbit our town like a baton in a never-ending relay of deceit.