On a recent Sunday in May, Tama Wong warns me, “It’s a little crazy.” Her phone keeps pinging with texts and emails from chefs ordering: “I take all,” and “I want ground cover and flowers,” and “I’ll take some of all of them.” When Tama recently posted a photo of a violet, she received an almost instantaneous response from a Midtown Manhattan chef, “I’ll take one hundred—those are sick.” By Tuesday, Tama’s white van is packed with seventy-five different plant species ready for imminent delivery to twenty Manhattan restaurants, a two-hour journey from her driveway in New Jersey.
A decade ago she was a corporate finance lawyer. Now, she’s a full-time forager and meadow doctor.
On the upper west side of Manhattan, on the first floor
of the Museum of Natural History, sequestered in a dim corner is a slice of a mammoth sequoia, God’s
torso, I think as I gawk at this hunk which germinated from an infinitesimal seed in the year 550 AD, the year St. David converted Wales to Christianity. The year it was cut down, 1891, was the year the zipper was invented. None of us staring at this shard of a sequoia had even been born yet.
I wanted to go to Iowa because the landscape I live in resembles punched pillows and rumpled bed quilts after a thrashing night of insomnia and Iwanted to see it’s opposite; I wanted to feel the vast flatness, experience the
taut sheets of king- sized openness, to drive through a Sahara of soil: though Ohio, across Indiana, into Illinois and Iowa, the heart land, but most of all, I wanted to lay eyes upon Uva Turnbull’s collection of dirt.
Not just any dirt, but 159 cream jars of dirt from around the world on display
for all to see in Sidney, Iowa.