Gone. Gone, gone, gone. And in their place, photos that look like they came from a 1983 Betty Crocker cookbook, accompanied by faux-folksy text that could have only been written by an intern, like "Pistou Basil: Discovered in France, where they pair the tiny leaves with aromatic olive oil to make a highly flavorful pesto."
REALLY? So you’re saying that over in France, they put basil and olive oil together? What an original combination! I’m so inspired!
Or this depressing description of the Mini Magic Mix Winter Sqaush: "They are also beautiful gathered on the porch for a fall harvest presentation." Fall harvest presentation? Although I’m cheered briefly by the possibility that the ex-employees of Blueprint have found gainful employment again, the joy is fleeting. The catalog is awful, and the pictures make me sad in a way that I can’t quite articulate. You know those posters of bountiful piles of vegetables that you might see in cheap gold frames on the wood-paneled walls of bad Italian restaurants? You know how faded and tired the vegetables look, and how they only serve to remind you of the sad fact that nothing you’re about to eat has even vaguely resembled one of those vegetables for the longest time?
That’s how I feel about the new Cook’s Garden catalog. The magic has rubbed off. It’s clear to me that there’s nothing special about these seeds, that they don’t come from the leathery old hands of some Italian grandmother who’s been saving them just for some right-thinking eager young American couple like Shep and Ellen. No, these seeds come from the same corporate seed vat that all seeds come from, a vat probably located in a laboratory in Japan. Who are we kidding?
Paging through this catalog sent me into a funk from which I still have not recovered. "Garden Peach" is "the tomato that won our live tasting on The Today Show some years ago," as if I care what happened on The Today Show today, much less "some years ago." A curled parsley is described as "the hands-down winner…based on comparative taste tests," without any indication as to why I should get excited about an unnamed comparative taste test.
I can’t remember the last time a seed catalog made me feel so morose and uneasy. Even Mr. Ball’s introductory note reads like barely comprehensible and poorly translated stereo instructions. ("we extended our search for flavor to basils, root crops, legumes and fruited vegetables…")
Well, you keep on that search for flavor, Mr. Ball. If you find it, let me know.