Smith, A., & MacKinnon, J. B. (2009). The 100-mile diet: A year of local eating. Vintage Canada. October to February
Sitting in a sunny library in North Vancouver I power read the entire second half of ‘The 100-Mile Diet’ in under 3 hours, barely looking up from the pages. The winter months, from October to January, went surprisingly smoother than I had thought it would. Although James and Alisa had their fair share of bumps in the road. “I waited until no one was walking by- surprised at how embarrassed I was to be a Dumpster Diver- and then I grabbed it.” (Pg 152) I related to Alisa as she scored a large pot almost new for free; being a broke university student there are quite a few pieces of furniture and knick knacks around my apartment that I’ve found on the side of the road with “free” signs attached.
The cold, rainy Vancouver winter had James and Alisa at each others throats, each dealing with their own demons. But with the moments of desperation came moments of hope. Like when Alisa successfully made soup, and they found wheat at long last. I learned a lot about food in these chapter and I often found myself looking up the ingredients they were using. I was sad that I didn’t know so many local foods like red kuri squash, sunchokes and mizuna. One thing I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to make is sauerkraut, “Alisa had been left to endure the stench, which is not unlike an unflushed urinal at the end of a long summer day; and the scum and hairy mold which must be skimmed from the surface of the liquid everyday; and to the fruit flies, clouds of which appeared one day with immediacy that leaves one in awe of insect dynamics.” (Pg 179) No thank you.
I really enjoyed learning a bit about the Gulf Islands from the locals through Alisa, “His Grandfather had only a small boat, he said, and he remembers how the old man would speak to the humpback whales as they pass. None have come by for decades.” (Pg 195) Reading this gave me a beautiful heartwarming image of an old man speaking to the sea, then broke my heart to learn there are no longer humpback whales there, it’s terrifying how much our world has changed. When Alisa talks about getting the kelp for her soup, “The harvest is the most beautiful kind of agriculture, not even uprooting the plants from the seabed; rather, the kelp is mowed like a lawn.” (Pg 207) I had never thought about kelp agriculture before, it left a funny image in my mind of an aquatic lawnmower trimming the kelp.
I loved when James says, “It wasn’t a meal; it was a memoir. We had become a part of the story of our food.” (Pg 230) Every ingredient was a memory or a story, not just a mundane trip to the supermarket; how could you not enjoy your food more than usual. Alisa and James end their year with a trip to Mexico for a friends wedding, where “In many places, a ten-mile diet would have been enough.” (Pg 249) It’s incredible how much easier it is to obtain local foods in such a fertile place that depends less on long distance food relationships. At last James and Alisa had made it through a blossoming spring, a fruitful summer, a challenging fall and a daunting winter, eating only what their surroundings` had given them.
Having read the first half of this book at the beginning of the semester, I had to look back at my very first blog to refresh my memory. In doing this I realized how crappy my first blog was, and smiled knowing that I had gained the valuable skill of creative writing over the past few months.