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TBT: Elitist Salad (Be a Carer, Not a Karen)

The politics of home gardens change as abruptly as the weather in a Michigan spring, don't they? I wrote the "Elitist Salad" post below during the reign of Michelle Obama, when opponents of Democratic women went ballistic over Mrs. Obama tryin'a tell people to eat der vegibles. Remember the screaming? The First Lady was compared to Marie Antoinette, and Hitler, and Satan, and the childhood trauma of your mom making you eat broccoli. Salad greens were labeled "elitist." Setting aside the obvious fact that Michelle Obama forced no one to eat a single vegetable, I found the outrage over elitism hilarious, as the granddaughter and great-granddaughter and probably thousandth-great-granddaughter of subsistence farmers, who... let's just say, were not elites.

Now that we are in America's next recession, the outrage against a Democratic woman who is trying to keep people healthy is coming from... Karens? Karens who cannot bear to live without access to golf courses and motorboats and Up North vacation mansions and lawn care services and acrylic nail servants? Karens who are so high-maintenance that they cannot fathom surviving on a free $600 a week on top of regular unemployment? Karens who think they'll die if they are asked not to do summer recreational activities in the snow?

This time around, we have a fake Republican mobster for president who eats nothing but McDonald's, and all the Karens of Michigan (and Ohio, apparently, because why not) are rising up to demand their right to plant victory gardens by trucking in swastikas, those racist flags misunderstood to be "Confederate" flags (in Michigan... we're in Michigan, losers!), and flooding Governor Whitmer's office with whining and shrieking over her emergency pandemic closure of in-person doodling around in the aisles of large home garden centers. For a couple of weeks. At a time when the ground is FROZEN ANYWAY.

Deep breath.

Listen, Karens. I am one of your kin, a white suburban mom. I am both educated and practical. I have inherited some basic, 101-level, inter-generational wisdom about gardening. Take note, please, and rejoice. The governor has not ruined your life. Three things:

1. It takes years of hard work on your land to grow food in a serious way, not a tinkering-around-in-the-garden-cute-hobbyist way. Calm your fitbits. Your pastimes and Instagram accounts are not more important than the lives of first-responders and essential workers and grandparents.

2. If you are already a serious gardener, congratulations. You bought your seeds and supplies back in February or March, or if you're really hardcore, you saved your own seeds after last fall's harvest. You've already started your first crops indoors, in your greenhouse or sun room or under those expensive grow lights you invested in months or years ago. It is not yet time to plant anything in the ground. There is nothing you need at the store right now.

3. If you feel like you will LITERALLY DIE if you can't start hobby-gardening this very second, stop panic-tweeting, because you can still have your garden and eat it too. The mean old governor did not forbid it. You can order your garden toys online or via curbside pickup. The only thing you cannot do is diddle your disease-vector human body through the aisles of a large garden center, breathing and rubbing up on everything. You will have to find some other, safer escape from the inside of your home if it has become that unbearable to be cooped up with your family or your own miserable thoughts and feelings. May I recommend calling someone who truly cares about you, or taking a stroll along an empty street, or forest bathing? Forest bathing is trendy. You can 'gram it.

Okay, now that you've calmed TFD, you may discover that you can, in fact, enjoy gardening this year as a wholesome hobby or as a nutritional supplement for your family at a time when, yes, supply chains for certain crops will surely be disrupted temporarily.

Meanwhile, if you have the time and the energy to complain to the manager--I mean, the governor--about her restrictions on your hobbies, you probably have the time, energy, and very likely money, to get involved with some activism that is actually helpful for your community. You could, for example, do some advocacy for *real* farm workers or donate money to your local food bank. Taking action in these ways can help you feel less rage and helplessness, more satisfaction, more inner peace, and more gratitude for the blessings you have in your life. It can help you feel connected to others and important in a real, meaningful way. Stopping to think about how you can help others can in turn help you to transform from a Karen to a real carer whose sense of self-worth is not based in middle-class consumer shopping choices.

And that is as healthy for your heart and mind and soul as trading in your McDonald's habit for fresh garden greens is for your body.

If you like, read my old joyfully snarky post about enjoying my first harvest during the last Great Recession.

Elitist Salad

I harvested my first summer crop yesterday!

I picked organic spinach, green onions, and radishes. My mom went to a farmer's market in town and picked up some Amish greens and strawberries, and we made a big, organic, local, "elitist" salad (as some of the paunchy pundits say about Michelle Obama's White House garden).

Accompanying this was a snobby pasta-and-greens dish which included collard greens, beet leaves, broccoli leaves, cabbage leaves, bok choi, and brussels sprouts leaves. All are rich in nutrients and flavor. And it feels positively bacchanalian to kneel down in the dirt and pull them from the soil.
Remember, healthy eating is a privilege! I know I should be doing my duty as an American and consuming McDonald's to support the economy... but I guess I'm just spoiled.

I hope my sarcasm is more than clear. All people have the right to be healthy and eat fresh, nutritious foods. I created my garden with no equipment except a spade and my own body. My soil is not great--just whatever was under the suburban lawn that came with my house. I have purchased no fertilizers or fancy things to mix in the soil--just composted scraps from my kitchen. I have no expertise in gardening, just a couple of how-to books. I don't even have a sprinkler system set up or anything. The wind and rain do their thing, and once a week or so, as needed, I drag the hose out in the early morning and water for about 20 minutes.

There are lots of excellent gardening books at bookstores now, for beginners who live in all settings, from rural or suburban (potential homesteaders!) to landless apartment dwellers (container gardeners!).

Next week... I pull up my first set of potatoes to make spicy Indian vegetable curry with amchur (mango powder). Ah, so haut monde!

Happy harvest!


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