100 Mile Diet (1st half)

Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100 mile diet: a year of local eating. Toronto (ON): Vintage Canada Edition p. 1-148.

The 100 mile diet is a novel about a couple who decide to eat locally for an entire year. The chapters are based on the months of the year starting in March and I will be responding to the book up to October. The authors switch every chapter giving two different perspectives of the story and are written in a journal type entry.

The couple decide to start this diet due to the impact of two events. The first being a wonderful meal they enjoyed in Northern BC that they foraged themselves and a study that found North American food travels on average 1,500-3,000 miles. This statistic sparks the couple to eat all ingredients within 100 miles. This proves to be quite challenging in the beginning as the couple struggles to find local food sources. Eventually, they find their footing and along the way learn that local eating is not only possible, but the food that can be grown in their region was more than they imagined.

A paragraph that I found quite powerful was on page 5. The author implies that he and his partner were environmentally conscious. However, as he says, “[they] had no cause to feel holier-than-thou…[they] were living on an SUV diet”. This gave me a realization that many of the small environmental efforts we make individually and as a society that we applaud ourselves for are in vain when we consider that our food selection makes such a large part of our ecological footprint.

One point I would like to bring to light is the fact that the authors, who were vegetarian for 15 years, were forced to abandon their vegetarian diets. As Smith says on page 71, “our vegetarian diet depended on a long distance food system”. One page earlier on page 70 she also tells the reader that it takes fourteen pounds of corn to produce one pound of meat. I find an interesting dilemma in this. The book is set in the urban environment of Vancouver, and with the knowledge that raising meat is so costly, if Vancouver residents were all to take up the 100 mile diet the livestock necessary to support the city would be near impossible to raise within the boundaries. The residents of Vancouver would be forced to drastically reduce their meat consumption and pushed towards a more vegetarian diet. I go on to believe that this is a viable option when James has a conversation with a farmer named Dan Jason on pages 95-100. The conversation with Dan brings to light that the growth of many crops that to my knowledge could not be grown in the Pacific Northwest could. This leads me to believe that the legumes and protein rich plants could be grown to supply a more vegetarian appetite if required.

The idea that our region has more diversity than I imagined is further illustrated by James in the September chapter. His talks with Richard Hebda talk about the abundance of life that I can not even fathom. Hebda also delivers a powerful message on page 144 when he says, “we don’t realize that [nature is] a skeletal form. Not understanding that it’s skeletal we also have no idea how close to perishing it is”.

The 1st half of this book is used to show the reader that although time and effort are needed, eating locally is possible. The authors are able to find many local products and farmers that they were unaware of and have been brought much more connected to their food.


One thought on “100 Mile Diet (1st half)

  1. I have also read the first half of “The 100-Mile Diet”, and find it interesting to compare my views with yours. It is intriguing to know that we both read the same words, yet were able to absorb very different points of view from them. I was captivated by the point you made about Vancouver being unable to survive on a local diet without a very plant based food system. Although I don’t know very much about crops and food production, I found myself agreeing with your concept. I don’t think the world will ever fully go back to local eating, but I feel it may be necessary in the future and you make a valid argument for what would need to be produced. I personally enjoyed Alisa Smith’s writing more while reading this book, and it seems, through your post, that you may have enjoyed James MacKinnon’s writing better. Although you don’t directly state it, all your reflections seem to be coming from statements that he made. James MacKinnon came across as a more detailed and fact-oriented writer than Alisa Smith. Your writing also seems to mirror James MacKinnon’s style and I am curious if that has to do with your interest in his ideas.
    I enjoyed your different point of view and look forward to reading about your thoughts on the second half of this book.


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