Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chard remains: on gardens, power and...silverbeet

I had a column in yesterday's Fairfax food & wine supplement, 'Chard remains'.

Prompted by Lucius Licinius Lucullus (and the chard named for him) the Roman general, I'm discussing gardens and power. A sample:
The aim of war, as the great Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz put it, is the ''submission of the enemy to our will.'' And fundamentally, this means appropriating the enemy; making him the means to one's ends. Lucullus wasn't trying to destroy the shrubs he pruned or the mountains he drilled. He was attempting to ''disarm'' them, as Clausewitz put it. Wild, barbaric nature was tamed by wherewithal, engineering, brute strength and will.
His gardens became an expression of his well-known desire for glory. 
It is interesting to reflect on what might have become of Lucullus's gardens had the great general tended to them himself. Perhaps a little less emphasis on militaristic mechanism and a little more on artful organism. As so many of us know: it's harder to fashion living emblems to one's grandiosity when dealing personally with ravenous possums, fungal diseases or drought. 
Yes, the Lucullus chard does grow like clockwork - the general would've approved. But sometimes we seek a certain vital novelty instead: the surprise, reverie and bafflement provoked by the modest amateur garden.

(Photo: Eden Brothers)

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