- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada; 1 edition (Oct. 2 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679314830
- ISBN-13: 978-0679314837
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating Paperback – Oct 2 2007
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“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)
About the Author
Alisa Smith, a Vancouver-based freelance writer who has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, has been published in Outside, Explore, Canadian Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Utne, and many other periodicals. The books Way Out There and Liberalized feature her work.
J.B. MacKinnon is the author of Dead Man in Paradise, which won the 2006 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction. His feature reportage on issues ranging from African prisons to anarchism in America has earned three National Magazine Awards.
From the Hardcover edition.
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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. These items are great in and of themselves, but the authors remind us that there are hundreds of types of vegetables and fruit indigenous to North America that, for the most part, consumers, and the industry that feeds them, choose to ignore.
The book is entertaining, informative and inspiring. It touches on both practical and philosophical issues. For example, one might intend to eat eggs that were laid by a local hen. Beyond this, one could `swim upstream' and inquire as to where the hen was born. Even if the hen was born and raised locally, what does one do if one discovers that the feed consumed by the chicken comes from far away? Does eating these eggs constitute `eating locally'? The authors allow that such analysis may border on the absurd, but these are fair questions nevertheless.
The food we North Americans eat exposes practical, philosophical and even political issues. Other things being equal, the decision to eat locally results in food having a lower carbon price tag (it took less fuel to ship it to the consumer), and often supports local farmers. However, if one has the choice of local celery grown with the help of pesticides versus organic celery that took a two thousand mile truck trip to get to your store, what do you do? Further, what if the local celery is available free of packaging, whereas the organic celery is sold in a plastic bag that took fossil fuels to produce, and will take over 100 years to biodegrade? This celery scenario is one our family faces quite often, regrettably. We usually do the politically correct thing and support the local farmer who uses pesticides to grow his celery, and forego the more healthful organic celery that, unfortunately and perhaps ironically, comes with a heavy carbon price tag.
I recommend this book to anyone who is striving to eat in a way that minimizes the ecological footprint of one's dietary choices. The book raises as many questions as it does answers - it is not a `how to' book, nor does the book pretend to be such. If enough people read the book and start to demand that their grocery stores stock locally grown items, the planet, and we who inhabit it, might all be better off.
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.
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.) However, readers in other parts of the world will be compensated with the challenge of thinking about what constitutes local eating for their region, and how the experiment would be easier, more difficult, or otherwise different for them.
There are no villains in this book. The authors tell us how things are, and what they can learn of how they were. The reader is left to ponder the role of industrial food producers, governments, oil companies - and us, the consumers. The authors are conducting an experiment, not trying to form a new religion. 100 miles was their definition of local, not the only one. One chocolate bar or one working lunch at a Thai restaurant does not send them (or you) to hell. They don't claim it's easy for city-dwellers to eat locally today - they describe the challenges as well as the pleasures and possibilities. (Just because a species doesn't grow here, doesn't mean it can't.) They don't tell you that you have to do what they did (and let's face it, not everybody has their commitment, resourcefulness or culinary skill), but they do give you reasons why you might aspire to. They don't claim that everyone in Vancouver, or the rest of the world, could switch to a 100-mile diet overnight. The point is that they did it, and they wrote a book with the power to make you think.
By choosing to embark on their adventure, the authors have explored a parallel universe of local eating. By writing about it, and with with such skill, humour, intelligence and accessibility, they have become our guides to that possible universe. In the words of my university's PhD regulations, they have made a "contribution to knowledge". They deserve our thanks.
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