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Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locallyby Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon
Synopses & Reviews
Like many great adventures, the 100-mile diet began with a memorable feast. Stranded in their off-the-grid summer cottage in the Canadian wilderness with unexpected guests, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon turned to the land around them. They caught a trout, picked mushrooms, and mulled apples from an abandoned orchard with rose hips in wine. The meal was truly satisfying; every ingredient had a story, a direct line they could trace from the soil to their forks. The experience raised a question: Was it possible to eat this way in their everyday lives?
Back in the city, they began to research the origins of the items that stocked the shelves of their local supermarket. They were shocked to discover that a typical ingredient in a North American meal travels roughly the distance between Boulder, Colorado, and New York City before it reaches the plate. Like so many people, Smith and MacKinnon were trying to live more lightly on the planet; meanwhile, their "SUV diet" was producing greenhouse gases and smog at an unparalleled rate. So they decided on an experiment: For one year they would eat only food produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver home.
It wouldn't be easy. Stepping outside the industrial food system, Smith and MacKinnon found themselves relying on World War II–era cookbooks and maverick farmers who refused to play by the rules of a global economy. What began as a struggle slowly transformed into one of the deepest pleasures of their lives. For the first time they felt connected to the people and the places that sustain them.
For Smith and MacKinnon, the 100-mile diet became a journey whose destination was, simply, home. From the satisfaction of pulling their own crop of garlic out of the earth to pitched battles over canning tomatoes, Plenty is about eating locally and thinking globally.
The authors' food-focused experiment questions globalization, monoculture, the oil economy, environmental collapse, and the tattering threads of community. Thought-provoking and inspiring, Plenty offers more than a way of eating. In the end, it's a new way of looking at the world.
"Over a meal of fish, potatoes, and wild mushrooms foraged outside their cabin in British Columbia, the authors of this charmingly eccentric memoir decide to embark on a year of eating food grown within 100 miles of their Vancouver apartment. Thus begins an exploration of the foodways of the Pacific northwest, along which the authors, both professional writers, learn to can their own vegetables, grow their own herbs, search out local wheat silos and brew jars of blueberry jam. They also lose weight, bicker and down hefty quantities of white wine from local vineyards. Their engaging narrative is sprinkled with thought-provoking reportage, such as a UK study that shows the time people spend shopping the supermarket-driving, parking and wandering the aisles-is 'nearly equal to that spent preparing food from scratch twenty years ago.' Though their tone can wax preachy, the wisdom of their advice is obvious, and the deliciousness of their bounty is tantalizing-if local eating means a sandwich full of peppers, fried mushrooms, and 'delectably oozing goat cheese,' their efforts appear justified." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This very human and often humorous adventure about two people eating food grown within a short distance of their home is surprising, delightful, and even shocking. If you've only talked about eating locally but never given yourself definitions — especially strict ones — to follow, I assure you that your farmers' market will never again look the same. Nothing you eat will look the same! This inspiring and enlightening book will give you plenty to chew on." Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets
"Plenty posits a brilliant, improbable, and finally deliciously noble notion of connecting to the world by striving first to understand what's underfoot. Beautifully written and lovingly paced, it is at once a lonely and uplifting tale of deep respect between two people, their community, and our earth. Plenty will change your life even if you never could or would try this at home." Danny Meyer, author of Setting the Table
"A funny, warm, and seductive account of how we might live better—better for this earth, better for the community, better for our bellies!" Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The remarkable, amusing and inspiring adventures of a Canadian couple who make a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment.
When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.
The couple’ s discoveries sometimes shook their resolve. It would be a year without sugar, Cheerios, olive oil, rice, Pizza Pops, beer, and much, much more. Yet local eating has turned out to be a life lesson in pleasures that are always close at hand. They met the revolutionary farmers and modern-day hunter-gatherers who are changing the way we think about food. They got personal with issues ranging from global economics to biodiversity. They called on the wisdom of grandmothers, and immersed themselves in the seasons. They discovered a host of new flavours, from gooseberry wine to sunchokes to turnip sandwiches, foods that they never would have guessed were on their doorstep.
The 100-Mile Diet struck a deeper chord than anyone could have predicted, attracting media and grassroots interest that spanned the globe. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating tells the full story, from the insights to the kitchen disasters, as the authors transform from megamart shoppers to self-sufficient urban pioneers. The 100-Mile Diet is a pathway home for anybody, anywhere.
Call me naive, but I never knew that flour wouldbe struck from our 100-Mile Diet. Wheat products are just so ubiquitous, “ the staff of life, ” that I had hazily imagined the stuff must be grown everywhere. But of course: I had never seen a field of wheat anywhere close to Vancouver, and my mental images of late-afternoon light falling on golden fields of grain were all from my childhood on the Canadian prairies. What I was able to find was Anita’ s Organic Grain & Flour Mill, about 60 miles up the Fraser River valley. I called, and learned that Anita’ s nearest grain suppliers were at least 800 miles away by road. She sounded sorry for me. Would it be a year until I tasted a pie?
— From The 100-Mile Diet
About the Author
Alisa Smith is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for Reader's Digest.
J.B. MacKinnon is the author of the acclaimed narrative nonfiction book Dead Man in Paradise.
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