The 100 – Mile (FYI, Canada is metric) Diet

Smith, A., & MacKinnon, J, B. (2007). The 100 Mile Diet: a year of local eating. Vintage House, Toronto.

Smith and MacKinnon two Vancouverites wrote the 100-mile diet to chronicle their decision to only consume food grown within 100 miles of their home for one year. The ultimate local food challenge! With no preparation the couple began the diet on the first day of spring in 2005, March 21st for that year. From this starting point the book is organized into the proceeding months, detailing the trials and tribulations of this young couple through the seasons.

While the couple’s original inspiration for embarking on the challenge hinged around the shocking revelation that the “food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles (2,400 k/m and 4,800 k/m) from plate to farm” (p. 3), it ultimately led them to revelations: about the anonymity, lack of variety and traceability of modern food; sense of place in the community; and their relationship with each other. In essence this story tells the harrowing tale of peoples disconnection with their food and communities and in response to this the authors set out to prove that it doesn’t make sense monetarily, ecologically, communally or healthily to have well travelled food. What pursues is not dogma; rather alternating between Smith and MacKinnon chapter to chapter are the personal perspectives on how and why to change ones relationship with food.

What particularly bothered me about this book was the continual rhetoric on the simplest of food discoveries. The dialogue on salt is a prime example, pretty early Alisa not being able to find locally produced salt in the supermarket declares, “No Salt? It was only the staple seasoning of the entire world. I could taste it in the air, but couldn’t buy it in a box. We would have to ration the two-pound bad of Oregon sea salt that was already in our cupboard” (p. 25). Tasting it in the air not being a hint enough it takes the couple the better part of a year to discover that “Salt is everywhere” (p.258) and that “there is nothing miraculous about making salt. Put the seawater on the stove and boil it down…”(p.261).

The 100 Mile Diet centers on the arguments: can we eat locally?; and why should we eat locally? The authors give a pretty convincing account that it can be done and I am in agreement that for the most part one can eat locally (coffee doesn’t count). Saving me from using my brain the Smith and MacKinnon provide thirteen reasons why we should eat locally: “taste the difference, know what you’re eating, meet your neighbours, get in touch with the seasons, discover new flavours, explore your community, save the world, support small farms, give back to the local economy, be healthy, create memories, have more fun while travelling, [and most importantly to] remember everything about food and cooking is a metaphor for sex” (SF, p. 6).