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The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating [Paperback]

Alisa Smith , J.B. Mackinnon
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2007
The remarkable, amusing and inspiring adventures of a Canadian couple who make a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment.

When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.

The couple’s discoveries sometimes shook their resolve. It would be a year without sugar, Cheerios, olive oil, rice, Pizza Pops, beer, and much, much more. Yet local eating has turned out to be a life lesson in pleasures that are always close at hand. They met the revolutionary farmers and modern-day hunter-gatherers who are changing the way we think about food. They got personal with issues ranging from global economics to biodiversity. They called on the wisdom of grandmothers, and immersed themselves in the seasons. They discovered a host of new flavours, from gooseberry wine to sunchokes to turnip sandwiches, foods that they never would have guessed were on their doorstep.

The 100-Mile Diet struck a deeper chord than anyone could have predicted, attracting media and grassroots interest that spanned the globe. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating tells the full story, from the insights to the kitchen disasters, as the authors transform from megamart shoppers to self-sufficient urban pioneers. The 100-Mile Diet is a pathway home for anybody, anywhere.

Call me naive, but I never knew that flour would be struck from our 100-Mile Diet. Wheat products are just so ubiquitous, “the staff of life,” that I had hazily imagined the stuff must be grown everywhere. But of course: I had never seen a field of wheat anywhere close to Vancouver, and my mental images of late-afternoon light falling on golden fields of grain were all from my childhood on the Canadian prairies. What I was able to find was Anita’s Organic Grain & Flour Mill, about 60 miles up the Fraser River valley. I called, and learned that Anita’s nearest grain suppliers were at least 800 miles away by road. She sounded sorry for me. Would it be a year until I tasted a pie?
—From The 100-Mile Diet

From the Hardcover edition.

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It's not surprising that authors/partners Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon's attempt to eat locally for one year--that is, consume only foodstuffs cultivated and harvested within 100 miles of their Vancouver pad--became a sensation first on the web and then in book form. As the green movement catches fire worldwide, heaps of people are discovering with alarm (as the authors did) that most meals consumed by North Americans travel a planet-busting average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate.

While no one denies that New Zealand lamb served with Peruvian asparagus, California lettuce and German Riesling is mighty fine and ridiculously affordable at present, it's also a fact that the cost detailed on the supermarket receipt does not reflect the true cost (environmentally, politically, socially, spiritually) of hauling that bounty across the globe.

Indeed, Smith and MacKinnon's local (and thus, seasonal) eating experiment reveals all sorts of truths that are disturbing, debatable, fiercely readable and enormously important for the welfare of our environment. Readers are bound to see themselves in the authors' shoes throughout 100-Mile Diet, never more so than at the start of the trial when Smith and MacKinnon hit the local grocery store looking for chow that meets their criteria.

"There was nothing there for us. Nothing. It would be a year without ice cream. A year without salad dressing. A year without all-purpose flour, soup mix, olives, olive oil, Miracle Whip. Without ketchup, Cheerios, Peek Freans Fruits Cremes, peanut butter, Rip-L-Chips, Philadelphia cream cheese, Tabasco sauce, Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder, creamed corn, Minute Main orange juice, no-name cola, Eggos, bulk pine nuts, Orville Redenbacher's popcorn, chipotle peppers, High Liner Multigrain Tilapia Fillets…"

"A single supermarket today may carry 45,000 different items; 17,000 new food products are introduced each year in the United States. Yet here we were in the modern horn of plenty, and almost nothing came from the people or the landscape that surrounds us. How had our food system come to this?"

Underpinning the drama of the authors' quest to discover whether eating locally is even possible is their own 14-year romantic relationship, which teeters on the edge of collapse throughout the year. The 100-Mile Diet is a revelation and required reading for anyone who eats. Cheap grub will never look so cheap again.--Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Nothing you eat will look the same! This inspiring and enlightening book will give you plenty to chew on.”
—Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets

The 100-Mile Diet is inspiring in its honest striving to discover what has been all but lost.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Engaging, thoughtful essays packed with natural, historical and personal detail.”
The New York Times

“A highly readable, sometimes funny, and very personal book–with just the right nutrient content of hard fact to balance the spice of memoir.”
Times Colonist (Victoria)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
100 Mile Diet is a candid portrayal of an ambitious couple who, during a twelve month period, strive to "do the right thing" ecologically by making every effort to consume food and beverages whose origins lie within 100 miles of where they are living at a point in time. Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon truly get back to the land, as they forage in the woods in British Columbia for mushrooms and other edible flora, cart their raw materials back to their humble, television-free log cabin, and prepare, cook and eat their meals.

This high level of vertical integration, in which the couple all but abandon the outputs of big agribusiness, results in food procurement and preparation becoming, at the very minimum, a part-time job. In other words, the current state of affairs in North America make such a lifestyle virtually unsustainable; at the end of the year of eating locally, the authors relish the prospect of eating food that is either heavily processed or comes from far away.

The authors make a valiant effort to locally source key foodstuffs such as fish and flour. They discover that it is often frustratingly difficult to meet such needs locally. The authors' year-long local eating experiment includes many stressful periods, as the couple debate food gathering and preparation options; for them, it is not a matter of just pulling a Swanson dinner out of the freezer and slapping it in the microwave.

North America has dumbed down its diet to an unnecessarily narrow variety of choices, thanks largely to industrial agriculture. Much of our mainstream `normal' diet consists of corn, tomatoes, wheat, apples and potatoes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How shall we live? May 30 2007
Is it possible to eat locally, and what would it be like? To answer that question, the authors embarked on an experiment: a year of local eating.

But why eat locally? The authors start with the obvious carbon-footprint reason - the 1,500 or more miles that a typical meal travels to our plates, a number only made possible by cheap oil. Other more subtle reasons quickly emerge, and much of the interest of the book comes from exploring these reasons.

The book is the product of two specific people, living and writing in a specific place. It is a personal narrative, and needed to be written in the first person. This is done by simply alternating perspective - first chapter MacKinnon, second chapter Smith, etc. It works, and is far preferable to the third person they resort to for the short epilogue, or a fused first person where "I" becomes meaningless. (Yes, I've seen it done.) The format is straightforward: a month-by-month diary. Food is shared with friends; family crises, work assignments and relationship troubles come when they will. All are woven into the story, all somehow adding to the themes of the book. Also added to the recipe is a significant amount of research and interview: scientists, farmers, fishers and natives are given a voice.

The specific place is Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific coast. European civilization came late to this region, and not all the changes to it's ecology have yet been forgotten. As a resident of the same city, my familiarity with the area certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the book. (But no, in case you're wondering, I don't know the authors.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rich Delicious Life Sept. 8 2009
In the 100-Mile Diet, a Vancouverite couple endeavour to source their diet within a hundred miles of their apartment for one year. Along with mouth-watering descriptions of meals that they cook and share with their family and friends, the book documents with humour their trials and results of sticking to this strict yet inspiring diet.

As they discover locally harvested foods unknown to them before such as spotted prawns and pumpkin honey, they become familiar with food producers in the Greater Vancouver Region and learn about its surprisingly diverse food industry. Through these discoveries, they reflect on their ties to others, including their relationship with each other, and affirm that local eating is an act that nourishes not only their lives but also their communities.

The book also touches on the downside of the global food industry such as the hidden environmental cost of shipping food across thousands of miles and the demise of small-scale farmers pitted against agricultural corporations. Showing the possibility of local eating, the book encourages the reader to live a rich, delicious life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring, and very well written Jan. 8 2008
By Trenzy
This very personal account is a very inspiring and motivational book. While reading this, I couldn't stop telling people about the ideas, the stories and the passion of what i was reading. I checked the local farm market schedule midway through the book and am very excited to be going this week.

I think some other people are missing the point. This book isn't trying to convert everyone to a local diet. They don't always make the most environmentally friendly decisions, but it's the connection with the food and where it comes from, that's what is the moral of this story.

Between knowing your own fisherman, to making your own salt... to just knowing the season of what is fresh and local. The simple concept of 'who knows what asparagus season is' hit home... and I immediately downloaded the local crops information.

Too often, we are trying to cut spending and we hurt for it. Paying good money for good food is something definately worthwhile. I'm not going to pickle my vegetables, and live on beets for the winter... but it's a story that really makes me question what I'm eating, and where it comes from.

Consequently, I haven't been to a fast food place since reading this. Much better of an argument for me than fast food nation, or supersize this. The was truly a gem.
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