Asparagus is an arrogant vegetable.
Not only does it deign to be in season in the UK for a meager eight weeks, they just look arrogant, all upright and with spears that look like posh haircuts. As such, despite not actually costing very much if you find a decent grocer, asparagus have an indelible association with fayne dayning (despite its toxic superpower over your urine). Apparently it can tell the future, too. I'd heard through the grapevine about someone named Jemima Packington, a lady from Bath who describes herself as "The World's only Asparamancer."
Packington—also known as "Mystic Veg"—makes predictions on the future by throwing the spears into the air and interpreting the patterns they make when they land. She started "reading the spears" at eight-years-old, inspired by her great aunt's ability to read tea leaves, and has since predicted everything from Big Brother evictions to British athletes' success at the Olympics. I had to meet her.
In the spirit of investigative journalism, I decided to head to the Asparafest in Worcestershire—a festival celebrating the UK-grown vegetable—to meet Mystic Veg and have my future predicted. There were barracks at the edge of the fields leading into the throbbing heart of the festival, where tired-looking fairground rides blended seamlessly with artisanal food stalls. Throngs of people were buying asparajam (really), stuffing their faces with asparacakes and a few musicians were playing garbled, presumably asparagus-y folk songs.
While trying to find Packington, people said that I'd just missed someone known as "Gus the Asparagus Man," a Wychaven County Council mascot who dresses as a giant asparagus to promote the magic veg. Tragically, he'd gone home for the day. Finally, I located Jemima standing happily by a stall with her do who was wearing a crown made of asparagus.
MUNCHIES: How do you read the future using asparagus? Jemima: The patterns are more definite. A dog-like shape might relate to a friend, whereas a butterfly could signify a trusted companion. Over the years, I've learned to recognize the different things after casting them. It just leaps out. I don't call it fortune telling—I prefer making predictions.
What's the difference? I think fortune telling is an umbrella term which can be misused. I don't profess to do that. You give me the info, passing it through to the asparagus, and I just interpret it. It's not actually saying, "Oh, you're going to meet the girl of your dreams in three months time." Fortune tellers tend to do that.
What are the most accurate readings you've done? I've recently forecasted the demise of a super-group.
Who? One Direction.
Blimey. That video of one of them smoking weed seemed to cause a schism. The asparagus suggested that it might all be over.
How did you predict that with asparagus? I know it sounds silly, but if you imagine a musical signature [points to a piece of asparagus that intersects with another], it's like the sharp symbol when you're reading music. Also, with the asparagus actually fractured, you can draw interpretations from that.
What other predictions have you made in the past? I forecasted the royal babies, both Kate Middleton's and Zara Phillips's. I was also the only person who forecasted that Gordon Brown would lose the election a year before it was called. One of the tabloids came up to me afterwards and said, "Oh, you're right actually."
Can you make predictions without meeting people? I appeared on German TV show a couple of years ago looking at the world's weirdest predictions. They gave me photos of people I had never met and asked if I read for those people. One of them was Angela Merkel.
What did you say about her? I said this is a lady with the safest pair of hands and she will be in power for a long time. I also said Boris Becker will continue to be naughty. I was right.
Amazing. Is there a particular type of asparagus that's better for readings than others? English asparagus—Vale in particular. It's so good. So accurate. When you get imported asparagus you have to factor that in. Readings might be slightly off.
Right. Have you tried other vegetables? Yes, just for a giggle. Broccoli doesn't work. You throw broccoli and it's awful. It just explodes! There's no way to interpret that.
Have you ever had people make fun of you or doubt your ability? I know one of the papers call me 'Mystic Veg,' but it doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's a big wide world we've got here and I have a sense of humor about it all.
How do you respond to sceptics? Well, there's room for everyone. I love doing instant readings. It's wonderful to meet people, especially when they come back and say I was right.
I'm ready to have my prediction now. OK. Take the asparagus properly, gently cast it and throw it into the air. I'll make some predictions from the way it lands.
[I throw it up in the air and it all lands messily on the floor]
Goodness me. Lots and lots of clashes here. It doesn't surprise me given the job that you do. I know it keeps you very busy. You've got things here that you've got to check—sort your itineraries out else your plans will be disrupted. [Points to an asparagus spaghetti junction] Look here, you're going to be presented with a challenge you're really going to have to think about. You're torn over work decisions.
Yeah, I am a bit. You will find a solution. But can you juggle both?
I don't know. Well, you've also got this very straight picture here which suggests that you know what you want out of life and how you're going to achieve it. There's also this wonderful thing here [points to another asparajunction] which suggests a jolly nice outing. It could be a stag night or a reunion of sorts. A nice jolly outing.
That all sounds nice. Forgive my morbidity, but is there any sign of tragedy? Nope. There is nothing there to suggest anything bad.
I'm relieved. Thanks, Jemima.