I Think We Should Plant The Seeds

A modest proposal from the op-ed desk of The Action Cookbook Newsletter

2020 has been a difficult year so far, to say the least. We’ve all been through a lot lately, and with a shade under five months still remaining in the year, we’ve still got a long way to go before it’s over. Even the luckiest among us have had to learn whole new ways of living basically on the fly, from curve-flattening to distance-socialling to the fresh horrors of “reopening”. We need to cut ourselves some slack.

We need a change in fortunes.

We need to try something new. 

We need to plant the seeds.

Warning about suspicious packages of seeds appearing to be from ...

You know what I’m talking about. News reports have widely circulated of mysterious, unlabeled packages of seeds arriving unsolicited in mailboxes around the country. The packages often have Chinese writing on them, but there’s no explanation of what the seeds are or why they’ve been sent. Some have speculated that it’s a “brushing” scam, where unwitting consumers are sent a package they have not ordered so that the vendor can place false reviews in their name, an explanation that does not make sense to me in the least and I will not dwell on long enough to understand. 

The seeds might be just the ticket to changing our fortunes in 2020.

Here is a detailed list of reasons why I think we should plant the seeds.

I. They were a gift and we are not in a position to be rude at the moment.

Listen, we’re not exactly the most popular kid on the block right now. Americans are currently allowed in something like eight other countries, and our international approval rating is roughly the same as Domino’s Pizza before they did that rebrand where they admitted their pizza was crap. We do not have the luxury of arrogance or indifference right now. It appears as though someone has sent us a gift. What if, later on, whoever sent them comes by for a visit? They’re walking around the United States, looking at the Grand Canyon or Charlotte, North Carolina or wherever, and they’re like “hey, uh, what happened to those seeds I gave you? Did you plant them? Where’s the cool plant that they were supposed to grow into?” and we have to be like “well, uh, the State Commissioner of Agriculture told us to throw them in the trash, so we did”.

We’d look like absolute jerks. (More so.) We’ll never get invited anywhere again, and we certainly won’t get any other cool new gifts. What if the next gift was going to be something really cool, like a skateboard or an XBox or universal health care? They’re just going to give it to a more grateful country, like New Zealand.

II. What if we actually ordered them and just forgot about it?

Have we genuinely ruled out this possibility? I mean, I order a lot of stuff online without thinking too hard about it, especially since the pandemic started. Then, a few days later, I’ll check the porch and be like “what the hell’s this package?” and remember that I ordered six pounds of yeast or tiny glass bottles for homemade hot sauce or a bootleg Baker Mayfield jersey. Can you be absolutely positive that you didn’t see some cool plant on Instagram recently and place an order for these seeds? I can’t. I might have ordered them. We don’t want to waste my money.

III. Gardening is the one chance we have to show off right now.

You don’t think I’m posting all of these pictures of tomatoes right now just because I love vegetables so much, do you? Of course not. This is about something bigger. This is war. There are limited ways to show off right now, especially since you can’t share pictures from concerts or international vacations or in-person sporting events. Posting pictures of the stuff you grew in your own garden is the one true flex we have left.

What if we’re scrolling social media, and we see that Germany’s posted a picture of their garden, and they’re like “Siehe, meine schönen Gurken!” and we can be like “yeah those are great cucumbers, but check out THIS” and then we hit ‘em back with whatever these seeds are. It could be something really great. A special melon. Glow-in-the-dark chili peppers. An invasive vine species that will strangle our native fauna and cripple our ecosystem. Some really good heirloom tomatoes. Who’s to say?

The point is, we can’t let Germany just post those cucumbers without having a surprise comeback ready in our back pocket.

IV. What if it’s a magic beanstalk?

We could use it to climb out of here.

IVb. Or, like, an escape room clue.

The whole country is an elaborate team-building exercise right now, and we’re overlooking the first clue. We plant the seeds, and a flower grows. A key falls out of the flower, and we use it to open a drawer. The drawer has a note in it, and the note is like “there’s a secret door in Minnesota where you can sneak out.” Boom. We’re gone.

It’s worth considering. 

V. I want to see what happens.

This is the most important thing, honestly. I am very, very bored. I cannot enjoy watching sports right now, knowing that they’re twenty minutes away from getting cancelled again and the players are putting themselves and their families at an unnecessary personal risk for our entertainment. I watched every episode of What We Do In The Shadows in the last eight days and I’m out of new shows to stream. I don’t want to exercise.

I need something to be excited about, and the seeds offer everything I could possibly ask for. Intrigue. Mystery. An air of danger. The chance to water something for five minutes each night and call it an accomplishment. You know how kids love those weird ‘surprise egg’ things that are elaborately packaged and take forever to unwrap and then there’s just some cheap plastic crap inside? Same impulse. I want to know what’s inside these seeds.


2020 has been a difficult year. We have struggled through pandemic, severe recession, widespread social upheaval and unstable leadership. There are many ways in which things can still get worse. We are either stuck at home or left wishing we were. Sure, there’s a possibility that the seeds could unleash an environmental catastrophe that lasts for years, ravaging our ecosystem and collapsing our food supply. 

But there’s also a chance that they won’t. 

And I like those odds.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)


Hey! Did you know I’m writing a book and releasing it right here on this newsletter? Well, you should know. It’s called The Red Zone: A Football Story From A Hot Planetand it’s the story of a struggling semi-professional football team in a climate change-ravaged version of the year 2070. It’ll release in eight installments over the next several months; the first installment is available free to all at the link above, and the second one is coming next week.

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