Food For Thought

MacKinnon, J.B., Smith, Alisa. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Pg 1-149.

At first glance at this book, my eyes did an automatic roll as I foreshadowed much boredom from a typical university class read. Although I immediately proved myself wrong as I began to read this fascinating journal of Alisa and James, and their journey through a year of local eating.

Both journalists successfully document their trials and triumphs of their year long challenge, as well as adding several statistics and historical data in an interesting and possessing manner. I found this book easy to read from the first page, as though I was reading a story instead of absorbing all of this important information that Alisa and James sneakily fit in-between the lines.

The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating touches on several important topics revolving around community culture, agriculture, the economy of the food industry, etc. While reading, I found myself resurfacing thoughts from deep inside my mind about health, local eating and the challenges it possesses, the state that our natural earth is in, and so many more dire topics that we seem to not think about quite enough these days.

I found it quite interesting and refreshing that James mentioned the fact that local eating is indeed expensive. It is unfortunate that if one wants to do do good for their body and reduce mass market food with chemicals, eat organic and locally, as well as help the local business, it is sometimes not feasible due to the price.

This book made me aware of how far food can travel. It is something we never give a second thought to, but when you hear the numbers, it is rather alarming. Alisa and James find out that the “typical distance from farm to plate at more like 2,500 miles… in other words, worlds apart.” pg 30. It is even more alarming to hear that is number is increasing.

Alisa mentions how eating locally means sometimes you eat a lot more of one type of food, maybe a lot of potatoes or apples, depending on your area. This is a challenge that I would not have though of before starting the 100-Mile Diet. I am so used to eating whatever I feel like at that moment. Picking up any ingredient from the Superstore down my street. Do I feel like Mexican? No problem, Señor Froggy is five minutes away. We are so used to having a diverse palette at our disposal, and local eating would not allow for such a degree of range in meal choice.

Although local eating consists of more frequent use a smaller range of ingredients, you find yourself immersing yourself in the world of diversity for these ingredients. James and Alisa come to a realization that there is a seemingly countless number of variations in one ingredient, for example, all the different types of tomatoes. I found this very enlightening and felt a beckoning call for a challenge. It made me want to experience more variations of the ingredients I use, and perhaps become an expert on one. Perhaps honey? Hot peppers? Tomatoes? Wine is a given.

This book also made me ponder the meaning of the word homemade. I often pride myself for my above-average( I like to think, anyways) cooking and baking skills. I boast about my delicacies being homemade, and think about how in this day and age, this is impressive. So many people are buying their lunches at work and school, ordering dinner, and shopping in the frozen isle. It has become a notable skill if you can make a homemade meal. Throughout the book, Alisa and James talk about skills such as canning your own food, hunting your own meat. Aren’t these the real impressive skills? Sure makes cooking a homemade quinoa salad sound easy.

As I was reading, I came to the realization that food and memories are so closely linked together. Food truly creates memories. James mentions how his relationship with Alisa basically blossomed over a meal of pizza. Food brings people together. When you have more contact from the very beggining with the ingredients that make up your dinner plate, you are creating memories there too. You are meeting the people who grow your food, making life long connections. You are spending quality time with your loved ones, picking out the perfect ingredients in the field or at the local market. So as I mentioned earlier, yes, you may be eating a less diverse variety of foods when opting a local diet, but you are gaining memories and experiences. You are choosing to be a little more connected in a world where most people have a screen in front of their face, waiting for their frozen meal to heat up in the microwave. Alisa and James’ friend Ruben put it in perfect words when he said, “if grocery shopping were always like this, it wouldn’t be a chore.” pg 60.

I noticed that James makes a point to mention that even if you are eating locally, you may still not be fully aware of what your ingredients are going through. Perhaps if you buy from a market, you still do not have a true connection with your ingredients. Someone else is putting love and care into the cultivation of your food. The history of your ingredients has vanished.

Although many people would claim that the history of their ingredients is important, this notion seems to vanish when it comes to meat. As a vegetarian, this irks me. James puts it simply as,”the anonymity is in part a comfort: plastic wrapped ground beef does little to remind you of the carcass of a cow.” pg 48. I found this statement very truthful. When it comes to the meat people eat, people tend to be blind. How can you be so concerned about the pesticides in your veggies, yet eat KFC for lunch, or go buy the cheapest cut of meat at the grocery store without second thought? As James says,”packaged and processed foods share few of their secrets.” pg 48.

As well as all the previous topics i mentioned that this book covers, Alisa and James also touch on some other very important subjects that I found interesting. How meat production uses an abundance of resources just to produce one pound of meat. Statistics on illnesses related to food, how much food is available to us and how much we waste. Where to the draw the line when eating locally. Is it really local if the livestock is feeding on non-local feed? Veggies grown in manure from local cows that ate non-local feed? I could literally go on forever on the eye opening topics and concepts that this book pulls together.

So far, this book is great. I am learning so much, as well as rethinking the way I live my life.

~”It’s no secret that we, as a society, have been losing the traceability not only of our food, but every aspect of our lives.” pg 55.~

-Anisha

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