I was disappointed that Christopher Ketcham neglected to mention Alisa Smith's and J.B. MacKinnon's book 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, published in spring 2007 by Randon House Canada, before Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It was put out in the US under the presumably more marketable title Plenty, and will be out in paperback in October under its Canadian title, according to Amazon.com. Smith and MacKinnon are not novelists, affluent landowners or wandering hippies, but two Vancouver, BC, freelance journalists who have shared their struggles and pleasures of finding and eating food produced within a 100-mile radius. Their diet included things they raised in their city garden plot as well as foods scavenged and bartered near a very rustic (no electricity or plumbing) cabin they own in the wilds of BC, accessible only after riding a ferry, two trains, and then a hike through the woods. Theirs is a warm and open account of the highs(eating fresh walnuts and the first strawberries of the season and chanterelles and asparagus) and lows (really missing the carbs from all that wheat we eat until they could find a wheat farmer within 100 miles of Vancouver) of the localvores' commitment to community-supported agriculture.
And for me that is really the main point of the 100-mile diet. It is not a trendy new thing. It is what my grandparents who were dairy farmers in Virginia did every day of their lives. It is making a conscious decision about how you spend your precious food dollars, and I for one would rather give my money to someone who is a steward of the land than to a faceless corporation that cares little about your or my health or the products they produce.
Yes, it is often a budgetary stretch to buy organic every week, and the farmers' market can be more expensive and less convenient than the local supermarket. But when was the last time you actually enjoyed going to the store? I was born in 1950 and probably didn't eat fresh pineapple until I was an adult and I have survived just fine. My grandmother, born in 1896, probably ate it a few times in her life and she lived a very full life until 90. Frozen and preserved food is usually frozen and preserved at the peak of freshness, and if done properly, has as much if not more nutritional value and flavor than the fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets in the dead of winter. But if you want to eat that pale, pasty thing they call a tomato in February, be my guest. I'd rather use the tomatoes I put up the way my grandmother taught me in a soup or stew, and wait for summer to eat the real thing.
Anna C. Noll
Sep 28 2007 - 6:31pm