Eating What We Are
I finally got around to reading "The 100-Mile Diet" by Alisa Smith and James B Mackinnon (entitled "Plenty" in the US -- I don't know why they came up with a different title for you guys. Isn't that kind of weird??). Actually, my name in the queue at the library hold listings finally came up. It was a good read -- funny, warm, quirky, non-self-righteous.
It's also like a gauntlet being tossed down. Eat locally. Pull thy head out of the sand. Take up this quest.
We've sort of being eating a sort of local diet for a long while now. Mostly the meats and veges. But it's that final push we've never done, the business of saying No More. This book has inspired me. I mean, if they can do it...
Food is a metaphor of a culture. North American food is cheap, low-interest, low-taste, and low-nutrition. This is what we as a people have become. We'd rather import garlic all the way from China and put our local farmers out of work than to pay two bucks more per bushel. It's been bouncing around on a boat for two weeks, but we don't care.
Doing the 100 mile diet brings up some really interesting problems. Where will I get sugar, rice, and flour in eastern Ontario?
The truth is I don't know. The likely answer is that I won't. And that's something we have to work out one item at a time. I have to let go of the ideas about food that are tying me to an insane global agro-food business.
For now, sugar is coming from maple syrup (50 km), honey (40 km), and corn syrup from the grocery store that I have rationalized since Ontario grows lots of corn that this is sort of maybe local syrup. The muffins this week weren't so bad, especially with the local pumpkin mush (30 km) to help sweeten them. I am now trying to persuade one farmer at the farmer's market to grow sugar beets next spring and then find an elderly German immigrant to teach her how to turn them into syrup. Maybe you can process sweet corn into syrup in the same way. Has anyone ever tried it?
Maybe I'll try it this weekend.
Is eating local a spiritual principle? I don't think quakers ever made a distinction between everyday living and spiritual living. This little quest is like a prayer for the earth, to make it better.
And as we head into Thanksgiving weekend, it's good to think of food prayerfully.
We can, truly, eat ourselves into being again.
From the second-last chapter, when Alisa and James are at a local food restaurant with a table full of local food critics. A bottle of wine had been presented to them (200 miles), and everyone at the table had hesitated to accept it:
I had expected the 100-mile experiment to be a platform to think about many things, among them a long list of bummers from climate change to the failure of whole generations to learn how to recognize edibel mushrooms. What I could see around thetable now was a less tangible consideration: a sense of adventure. We are at a point in world history where bad news about the state of the Earth is just as jaded and timeworn as the idea that there is nowhere left to go, nothing new to explore. Put those two statements side by side, however, and something hidden is revealed. Of course there are new things to do, and no shortage of them. We need to find new ways to live in the future. We can start any time; we can live them here and now .