I searched the web to see if anyone else out there in Google land was as crazy as I am. The answer is yes.
First, a tip of the spatula to Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon for their 100 mile diet experiment that launched a whole local eating movement. It’s a nigh on to impossible goal for most of us, and they set a high bar for courageous eaters to reach for, crawl under, jump over – or perhaps avoid, criticize and complain about.
From the book description on Amazon:
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.
Sounds about like what I am learning.
In Richmond BC some people did a 10 mile diet for 10 days – for some it’s an annual affair, perhaps like our polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day. Read about it here. You’ll see they are learning some of the same lessons.
Then I discovered the Power River Eat Local campaign. The challenge: eat 50% of your food from within 50 miles of your home for 50 days.
If all this seems like a stunt, and not a very fun or useful one, consider this story.
There’s once was a man in a village with a complaining wife and several noisy children living in a small house. He was going nuts, so he went to the Rabbi to see what could be done. Maybe the Rabbi could talk to his wife. Or his kids. Get them to … well… quiet down and give him some peace. Instead the Rabbi strangely asked about his livestock.
“Three chickens, a rooster, 6 ducks, a donkey and a cow”
“Bring them all into the house and come back in a week.”
“But Rabbi, you don’t understand. My house is already too small and too noisy. With all those animals … ”
“Do as I say and come back in a week.”
Being a devout man, he did as the Rabbi said – and returned in a week.”
“So!!! What do you expect. We are ALL going crazy now. It smells. There is nowhere to sleep. It’s noisy from morning til night. Rabbi, this is pure hell.”
The Rabbi appeared to be thinking. Maybe he has remorse the man thought.
“Go home and put all the animals out of the house and come back in a week.”
“What!! Rabbi, why did you make me bring them in only to put them out again.”
“Do as I say and return in a week.”
The man muttered all the way home, though he was glad that the braying and the squawking and the crowing and the mooing would be over. He did as the Rabbi said and returned a week later.
“Oh Rabbi, what joy! Our house is quiet. The children’s voices are music to my ears. My wife is such a good woman and well yes, she complains a little, but so do we all. I am a happy man.”
“Just as I thought,” the Rabbi replied.
The point in case I haven’t sharpened the pixels enough… after 10 miles, 50 seems downright luxurious. And only 50%. Well, piece of cake – which I think they can have if they have wheat in their fifty huge mile radius.
I was interested that they immediately saw with dismay on that the 3 c’s are missing – and missed. Coffee, citrus and chocolate. I chose to have two of them – caffeine and limes. You’ll love to read their blog after reading their description of their experiment – they have reflections, resources, recipes and heroic stories of hyper local eating. Clearly they’ve gone on the same adventure as I have. And write about it with the same delight as I am.
I love the spirit of discovery we all seem to stumble into. Oops. No wheat, no grain, no oil, no salt, and no caffeine, chocolate and citrus. Hyper local eating is like extreme sport. I know one of the world champs in running a kayak over high waterfalls and while I’m not as cocky, full of myself, daring (or young) as he is, but I do smell a bit of that pride at doing the difficult. Hyper local eating is like trekking. Like Lent. Like fasting. I one time did a 10-day meditation retreat in the manner of Goenka, the marine drill sergeant of Vipassana. No writing. No reading. No eating after noon. No talking. 10 hours a day of sitting or walking meditation. I broke out in hives. I had to do self therapy, consoling myself for how hard it was. I wrote a book and revised it… in my head. One day, desperate to capture my insights, I recalled like a junkie that I did have a lipstick pencil in my backpack and a receipt in a pocket and I huddled in the bathroom scribbling coded messages for my future self.
All such experiments in truth, undertaken in good cheer, send you to your Source for a check up. You enjoy the discovery, wince at the humbling view in the mirror and feel cleansed and enlightened. You return to “normal life” not quite as normal. I feel lucky to be in the clan of adventurers in a new way of eating. Well, new to us in this dawn of the 21st century.