Monday 10 August 2009

Book Review: "The 100-Mile Diet - A Year Of Local Eating" by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

I just finished this book that I've owned for about a year. It's called "The 100 Mile Diet" by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. The book chronicles their attempt to eat locally for an entire year - specifically within 100 miles of their home. They chose 100 miles because they live in Vancouver; the surroundings of which are a cornucopia of amazingly good local food. The suggested local food line is actually 200 miles. This is drawn from Dr. William Rees' Ecological Footprint calculator. However, after analyzing their location, Alisa and James decided that would be FAR too easy for them, and that 100 miles was a bit more of a challenge with them living in the Pacific Northwest. I find it remarkable how they did this - just picked up and took on the challenge from where they were at that moment. The idea was born from a meal which they miraculously prepared while staying at their cabin in Northern British Columbia where they were virtually cut off from the outside world. They had friends visiting, and the only thing they had on hand was a cabbage. So, they and their friends went into the forest to forage, and what they came up with was the most amazing meal they had ever tasted. After the meal, they went home with an idea forming in their minds.

The thing about local eating, is that it really may be one of the most important ways we can make a difference in the world. Not only is it more nutritious to eat locally (nutrients are lost with the amount of time that food is out of the ground and thus - the farther it travels), but the fact of the matter is that we have lost touch with our food chain. Do we know where our meat is coming from? Do we know what is in our meat? (see entry below re: Fast Food Nation) Do we know how our vegetables were grown? Do we know that they were ethically traded? What sorts of things are we taking into our bodies? In my mind, almost no question to do with our physical bodies is more important. What are you putting into your body? I'm not saying I know exactly what I'm putting into my body all the time, but heck - I'd like to, and I do try. Beside the nutritional, and the health factors - eating locally is a VERY effective way to lower your carbon footprint. Do you know how far your food travels to get to your plate? Do you know how many gallons of oil are in your meal? Not only are we talking about travel costs here, but also petroleum products such as pesticides and herbicides used on your food. You wouldn't believe how much energy goes into one single plate of food. That's something to think about.

There are lots of websites with excellent ideas about how to eat locally, not the least of which is Alisa and James' site... (link)

There was also a local experiment which (according to Steve) has some links to the 100 mile diet experiment. The project was called "The Fife Diet" (link) Steve knows the guy who did this one apparently.

This brings me to my sad news about the garden... :-( Well, here it is - Sue Anne went to Germany for a couple of months to do research, and Steve went to Canada for a month, and because I had no money to get on the bus to Dunino (it's £7.05 round trip to St. Andrews alone) - our garden is pretty much dead. There are things alive in it, we just need to salvage them from the weeds. So, yes - we have a garden in Fife - we were part of the Fife Diet - however sadly it turned out. How great would it be though, to grow your own food, and obtain other food locally, and live off of it for a year? Or maybe - forever? (as much as one can) I think - that's pretty much my dream. It's even possible for flat dwellers such as myself to obtain an allotment from the city council, and grow food on it. It really isn't that hard.

I may have been dubbed the "garden murderer" in our recent attempt at this sort of project, but with a reasonable amount of do-ability and elbow grease, it's totally possible to carry this out. Alisa and James are proof. Some of you may remember that I did a book review in May of 2008 about another family who did this project. It was called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and her family. They did the same thing, but they took much time to prepare for their year of local eating. What I loved about Alisa and James, is that they just did it - right from where they were at that moment - they decided to just eat local for a year. They're true heroes in my books.

Some links to help you on your way to local eating...

Slow Food International

Slow Food UK

The Fife Diet

100 mile diet

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Scottish Association of Farmers Markets