Lasting Local

Last night, I snuggled up in my bed with a cup of warm milk, bowl of popcorn, and The 100-Mile Diet. I was finally able to finish the second half of the book, and dive back into James and Alisa’s journey on the special diet.

Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet. Toronto (ON): Vintage Canada. 266 p.

After reading Guns, Germs and Steel, The Triumph of Seeds, and Omnivore’s Dilemma, I noticed how remarkably easier it was for me to jump back into The 100-Mile Diet. Not that any of the other books were not interesting themselves, they just focused more on the informational side of things, whereas James and Alisa really take you along for a more human experience – an experience containing joy and surprise, but also frustration. I loved how the book contains informational aspects, but also how it contains James’ and Alisa’s frustration as they keep asking themselves why they are eating locally.

Back in January when I first started the book, I really found this 100-mile diet an impossible task – one that would be even more impractical for a busy (and very broke) student like me, and for low income families. Now, after finishing the book, I realize that it is not so impossible, especially here in Kamloops (where we have local wineries and breweries for the rougher days). The one big thing I realized from James and Alisa, is that the effort and time you put into making food is not time wasted. I think my generation is the generation that likes the notion of eating healthy but is way too lazy to truly attempt it, and that include me. When James or Alisa describe how good the food actually tastes after they attempt to make something completely new, like James’ spaghetti or Alisa’s chum soup, it really struck a chord with me. Feeding yourself shouldn’t be chore, it should be something you look forward to, something you can experiment with, and something you can use to surprise or bond with someone else. And furthermore, knowing what is on your plate, where it came from, if you helped pick it from an orchard, and how much time it took to make can really help you enjoy the food more.

I was shocked when Alisa wrote of a new UK study that stated, “the amount of time people now spend driving to the supermarket, looking for parking, and wandering the lengthy aisles in search of frozen pizzas or pre-mixed salads is nearly equal to that spent preparing food from scratch twenty years ago” (Smith and Mackinnon 159). Well there went my excuse for not having time for local food! Although, it does take more time to drive out to farmland, gather food, store food (by preserving it or canning it), and make it from scratch, I think that it’s worth it. People (especially me) are always way too caught up in their busy lives to stop for minute, enjoy a good moment and go try things they “think” they don’t have time for. I also think that this aspect may have been one of the advantages of living in a big family, as the western world used to and most of the world today still does. In a big family, perhaps responsibilities could have been allocated more evenly – instead of just two people going out to the farms, collecting, and cooking, everyone could pitch in and there would be less waste.

Another surprising fact that Alisa shares is that “over 40% of America’s crops [are] lost or thrown away” (Smith and Mackinnon 162). This speaks directly to the paradox that we still have people starving all over the world. How is this possible when we are throwing out almost half of the food we produce each year?

Other than these profound questions I kept asking myself throughout that book, I found the rest of the novel more calming and peaceful than the first half. In the latter part of the book, James and Alisa develop deep-rooted appreciation and likeness for the 100-mile food, and begin to realize that they prefer this food over what they used to eat. They face very different challenges of preserving and storing food through the winter, than their previous challenges of finding local food and getting used to a lack of variety.

However, I did find Alisa’s short rants about life with James to be a bit annoying. I understood that there were times in which things did not go as planned with the local food (like with the weevils in the flour), and that may have certainly strained their relationship,  but it seemed like she was sort of blaming the shortcomings of her own life on James. Apart from that, I thought both Alisa and James did a fabulous job writing of their experiences with food, and it was really exciting to read about them becoming local celebrities in their community and all over the world.

In the end, I’m glad I read this book. It really illuminated issues about why people should eat local, and it helped the reader feel that this could be a realistic and practical approach to eating because James and Alisa set such a great example. These two authors didn’t skip out on any of the hard parts or any of the good parts, so that in the end the reader could take away an almost unbiased opinion and create their own. Looking back at my first blog and comparing it to this one, I can see a drastic change in opinion – one that I am very happy about.

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