Originally published last fall for MBT. Reprinted today because it's relevant, yo. Happy Earth Day.
Part 1: The Prose
Think Globally, Eat Locally. That’s the prevailing edict to be extracted from Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon’s engaging account of their year of local eating, and the subsequent ‘locavore’ movement it has inspired.
Adapted from the pair’s blog , The 100-Mile Diet (published, ironically as Plenty in the U.S. despite the use of Imperial measures) is the telling of a Vancouver couple’s quest to reconnect with the food that they eat, the land that they inhabit, and the frightening impact that food production and distribution has on our planet. It is a stark reminder of how far removed we are from the food that we consume, and just what destruction occurs in the chasm between field and table. Am I scaring you?
I hope I’m not, because The 100 Mile Diet, written in a conversational, he said/she said leapfrogging of the two authors’ voices, is more celebratory than sensational; more discovery than despondency, and more about success than surrender.
And while the idea is remarkably simple – eat (almost) nothing but food produced within a 100-mile radius of where you live for one year – the challenge proved to be anything but. I know, by now you’re saying, ‘See? It’s impossible to do. Especially in a place like Toronto where we live under a blanket of snow 7 months of the year.’ But bounty was not the couple’s problem – once they began investigating and educating themselves, they realized that there is a lot of delicious, seasonal, different and desirable food waiting outside the grocery store walls. The challenges were more about overcoming the notion that food gathering and preparation is an inconvenience, as well as adapting to a diet that did not include sugar, citrus or anything processed.
As the challenge evolves, we are treated to a veritable cornucopia of gastronomic victories, exciting agricultural discoveries and enough domestic bickering to keep the reader involved, invested and inspired.
Alisa and James complement each other as writers, and, I would assume, as partners; Alisa possesses a dry wit and somewhat dour demeanour that is often buoyed, but just as often annoyed, by James’ enthusiasm, insight and sensitivity. I have to admit that I developed a bit of a literary crush on James while I was reading – and once I saw the pair in person, I was even more smitten. He’s a charmer, that James, as the room full of middle-aged members of the Aurora Environmental Action Committee, me and my bff will attest to. (Side note – after the presentation I had to re-read the part about James wading naked in a Northern BC river, incorporating my yummy new visual) But I digress – the point is that the pair was as engaging in person as they are on the page, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing of their post-experiment life. You might be surprised to know that it still consists of almost all locally produced food. All-in-all, a delicious read, although, I hope it’s not thought-provoking – I hope it’s action – provoking.
But we’ll leave that for Part 2.