The 100-Mile Diet (well the first half of it)
The first assignment I was given in this class was to write a bit about The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.
Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet. Toronto (ON): Vintage Canada. 266 p.
I had never heard of the book before, but I had heard of the 100-mile diet as a TV show. After reading the book, I realized that the 100-mile diet was thought up by two Canadians living in Vancouver wanting to eat in a more sustainable way. The book is written in first person by the two Canadians themselves, Alisa and James. The couple are writers living in modern-day Vancouver who have some inspiration to help decrease climate change. James, for instance is an avid bicycler as “he rides even in the North Pacific monsoons of December that obscure vision, that freeze your bones” (Smith and MacKinnon 21), and also shops sparingly in defiance of materialism. Alisa is less extreme, but still shares the same earthly views as James. The two stumble across the idea of eating locally when they spend a particularly delightful dinner at their remote cabin in northern BC. The couple and their friends ran out of food for dinner, and thus caught, picked, and foraged for a meal. The experience of eating food and knowing the exact whereabouts of it, and the tastiness of the meal led the couple in attempting to recreate it in Vancouver. They then decide to try and eat food produced only within a 100 miles of where they live for one year. Thus, the first half of the book alternates chapter by chapter from James’ to Alisa’s perspectives and journeys through each day on the diet.
My first thought of this whole book and the 100-mile diet concept was, why? Why does it make a difference to eat locally? How does one or two people eating locally make a difference in the long run? How is this sort of diet going to work for someone like me – someone who has 8 university courses, 2 part-time jobs and volunteers twice a week? Or for someone who has low socioeconomic status, or is busy with a full time job and 3 small children? What I’m trying to get across is practicality in today’s North American world. I admire the courage and the bravery these two people had to try this diet, but while they are eating locally, the trucks and planes bringing in food from across the globe are still coming – the fossil fuel emissions are still happening. The prices of this imported food are out-competing the local organic food – although this couple can afford to buy it, what about the average starving student, or the single mom or single dad? And what about the time it takes to go and hunt for this food, and then to cook it? James and Alisa are writers who seem to work from home most of time, and are able to spend time preparing and cooking. I know that this would never work for me because I need easily accessible instant food (food that I can chow down on after 4 lectures, and a lab, then be good to go for work).
With these thoughts running through my head, I then kept reading and soon discovered a list of reasons to eat locally at the back of the book. Okay, so its not just the fossil fuel emissions, its getting into contact with your food again, and about developing relationships with my food, family and friends. So then I thought, maybe this could be possible for a lot more people, maybe we could all benefit from a government who supports global produce trade a bit less and local farmers a bit more. And I read on with a more open mind.
For a book about plants and eating (not my usual Stephen King thriller), this is one is pretty good. For one, adding recipes to the beginning of each chapter is very ingenious, and adds more realism to the book (as in, yes these meals are real and James isn’t just a magician in the kitchen). I haven’t tried any recipes out so far, but poached salmon with wine cream sauce sounds exquisite.
Secondly, the description in this book is simply astounding. When I read about “the freshness of the fish, the earthy goodness of the spuds that had sopped up the juices of mushrooms and garlic” (Smith and MacKinnon 3), or about the sandwich James had made for Alisa as “layers of bright red greenhouse peppers and fried mushrooms peeked out beneath delectably oozing goat cheese” (Smith and MacKinnon 37), it seriously made me reconsider my Mr.Noodles with toast.
The last thing I really liked about the book, that I’ll say for now, is the way that both of these people write about scientific facts on food distribution and global warming, it doesn’t exactly make you feel outright guilty or shameful. I think that their slow realization to what the food industry has become is what most of us would rather go through, rather than watch one 1-hour documentary horrifying you about chicken nuggets for the rest of your life. I believe they are trying to inspire a deeper understanding, one that will continue on with the reader throughout his/her lifetime. Heck, its already gotten to me. The other day, I started explaining the book to my mom, who was shocked. My mom is originally from India, and loves plants; we have jade on our kitchen table, bamboo in all the washrooms, and a small garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, thyme, and oregano in the backyard, as well as a plum tree and two apple trees. She told me she had never even given this topic a second thought before, and that she was glad that I had told her so she was more informed.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the book is very informative, and in a bit of sneaky way since it is decorated with recipes, and descriptions of savory foods and scenic lands. So far, I’m learning quite a bit, and I’m thinking about how my ‘practicality’ questions can be answered more and more.
Feature Image – saw/iStockPhoto
Book cover – http://www.amazon.ca/The-100-Mile-Diet-Local-Eating/dp/0679314830
Author picture – Random House Canada