Smith, A., MacKinnon, J.B. (2007). The 100-Mile Diet: a year of local eating. Toronto: Vintage Canada. p. 1-147.
James MacKinnon has an idea – what if he and his partner, Alisa Smith were to source their food within a 100-mile radius from where they live? Well, the two decided to take the plunge. The 100-Mile Diet is the story of two Vancouver-based journalists, Alisa and James, who document their journey of eating locally for an entire year. In the first half of the book, which reads from April to September, the authors not only provide captivating insight into where our food comes from, but the challenges that come with finding local ingredients in our modernized world. In the couple’s quest to search for local cuisine, topics pertaining to the sustainability of agricultural crops and fisheries, as well as the idea of ‘traceability’ are intertwined.
“And there I sat, separating mouse shit from wheat berries with a credit card,” (p.63). One thing that I have been loving about the 100-Mile Diet is the hints of humour that Smith and MacKinnon subtly place into their writing. Though they do tell tales of their struggles and feelings of doubt, “How will we survive?” (p.16), Alisa and James both have the ability to find the good in every difficult situation that is thrown their way. One example occurs in the month of May when Alisa is struck with a craving of fresh greens; their solution was to return to their garden plot only to find leaves of chickweed and dandelion. To some, this event may have caused disappointment, although Alisa and James’ response to the handful of greens they each harvested was that “whatever else they may be, weeds are optimists,” (p.44).
Also, I feel as though I have been going on this journey with Alisa and James; from their humble beginnings, to their new-found realizations of where their food is sourced, from the trips made to discover new local delicacies, and now their adventures in ‘Paris of the North’. In every chapter, there is always an idea, thought, or place that I can relate to, their trip to Westham Island (p.51) for example. This past summer I visited the Reifel Bird Sanctuary; the drive into the Sanctuary passed miles of farmland as far as the eye could see! I remember driving past fields of blueberries, strawberries, corn, peaches, you name it – it was there (well, almost!) I am born and raised in Kamloops, and the feeling of being surrounded by agricultural crops was very unfamiliar. But, being immersed in the farming country, I realized the vast amounts and varieties of produce, among other animal products, that can be produced right here in British Columbia.
Alisa and James also discussed the topic of traceability, which I enjoyed and reflected on. They state that “It’s no secret that, we, as a society, have been losing the traceability not only on our food, but of every aspect of our lives,” (p. 55). I felt really connected to this statement, as it is so true in regard to our current global society. I fully admit to not always checking where my food comes from, but one thing that I have rarely considered is how the food was produced, or under what conditions.
Overall, The 100-Mile Diet has greatly changed my perspective on food in general; I am catching myself check produce labels in grocery stores, and I’m trying to be more cautious as to where my food comes from. I’m looking forward to reading the second half of this book, and seeing how Alisa and James’ year of local eating comes to an end.