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Desire for beauty, sustenance, and intoxication – a meditation on plants and man

Michael Pollan, Chase Hall, "Bates Contemplates Food"Michael Pollan is one of the most interesting writers I know looking at the natural world, and, more particularly, at the politics, economics, cultural  and health issues around food. He has the most magical, open mind; the ability to take the everyday and look at it like a true artist – thus forcing the reader to look anew at his/her own everyday.

Here, he looks at four plant species whose development The Botany of Desireand spread has been closely linked with Homo sapiens – the apple, the tulip, the cannabis plant and the potato, and considers the evolutionary advantage from the plant perspective. The book uncovers history, folk-law, economics, politics and much more.

cannabisPollan delivers much fascinating information and has the lightest and most passionately engaged of writing styles. He is a wonderful raconteur. I read this book with a wider and wider smile, thoroughly delighted and enchanted.

This book reminded me in many ways of Anatomy of a Rose: The Secret Life of Flowers by Sharman Apt Russell. Both authors have the ability to be fascinatingly informative whilst simultaneously managing charm, entertainment, profound thought and beauty.

Both effortlessly illustrate Blake’s:Potato

To see a world in a grain of sand
And A heaven In a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity In the Palm of Your Hand
And eternity in an hour

They are writers who can take the mundane, and open it to deep meaning, philosophical complexity and educationBlack TulipA small factual teaser from the tulip section – the most prized and valuable tulips were those variegated by fine filigrees of crimson patterning upon the primary colour base. But this was caused by the presence of a virus, so over time, plants grown from bulblets broken off from the ‘parent’ bulb would grow weaker and weaker – so increasing the rarity and fabulous cost of the prized variety. The evolutionary gainer from mans’ ‘meddling’, not the tulip, but the virus, which we disseminated!
The Botany of Desire