10 Mile Diet

From this day forward…

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OMG. I still have so much to tell you. About my new food rules. About a Mr. Potato-mouth (a guy eating only potatoes for 60 days). About what I just learned at a Green Energy Fair from local farmers about policies that help and those that hinder local food systems flourishing. About the skinny on phat (our food-system related love-hate relationship with our weight that rises and falls like the tides.) About our global eating dilemmas that are far more daunting than what’s for dinner. But one thing at a time.

It’s October 3. Brazil is electing its new leader (did I tell you I’m leading a trip there?). And I’m eating… tada! basically the same stuff with a few extras.

I decided for my “re-tox” to not have any new rules, just notice what I am choosing. Here’s the list so far:

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Almond Butter
  • Toast
  • Pumpkin Seeds (anyone know a local supplier? Where do all those seeds go after Halloween?)
  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Hard cheese
  • An orange from the fridge and some broth from the freezer
  • Some tasty dishes prepared by friends at a potluck on Friday. They celebrated at sundown the completion of my month by witnessing me biting into… a home made but non-local cracker.
  • A see-through soup with plastic wrapped crackers at a conference I spoke at yesterday. Hunger hit. It was… well… food-ish.

Woohoo. Party down Vicki.

One lesson. Appropriate eating isn’t just hyper-local. It’s also eating what’s been lovingly prepared by friends. Eating to quash hunger when you are far from home. Eating what you have, even if it’s from your distant past as a promiscuous eater (eating around).

Another lesson: Cooking at home from scratch with real ingredients is waaaay different from eating “out and about” – dishes and products with many ingredients that come from unknown and diverse places, including altered cells of plants and labs. Does a nut grown in Brazil have any issues about coming to rest in a Clif bar with grain grown in the USA and dried fruit from Africa? Do I have any issues with this?

The big question isn’t which foods get added. The big questions are how “local” will be part of my “food rules” in the future, and what I will do not just as an eater but an activist – how what I’ve learn can help others live.

Here’s what I see for my future as a local eater.

Next year, all things conspiring for the good, I can grow a more intentional garden. I’ve been getting about a pound of food a day, often more, from my garden all month. Tomatos were lousy but beans and squash and lettuce and carrots and kale have been bounteous. Imagine doubling that with some careful stewardship of that plot. Imagine doubling that again if I grow winter squash, for beets, potatoes, rhutabagas and turnips for storage. I think the deer and bunnies are safe for the nonce. As people have become aware of my experiment this month, they’ve given me food as well. Tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, green beans. Hopefully next year I’ll have enough to return the favor.  Call that 5% of my food.

Eating 20% from Whidbey (call it a 50 mile diet)  should be a piece of cake (so to speak). I can get my meat and eggs and lots of veggies and milk locally. And that is a big part of my diet.

Another 20% from 100 miles would open up a lot more options, take me North to the border with Canada, south to Olympia, east to the foothills of the Cascades, and West into the rich fishing grounds of greater Puget Sound as well as to the Olympic Peninsula where I hear they now grow grain.

Another 10% within 200 miles would give me all the grain and apples I want from Yakima and Wenatchee and Bluebird Grain Farms in the Methow Valley. I’m blessed to live in Washington State.

For the rest I have 45% exotics. Spices, oil, nuts, prepared and packaged foods (like crackers or those TJ little tubs of yummies) or “local food” grown elsewhere (coffee, tea, chocolate!!!).  I have no idea if these are the right percentages. It’s some rules of thumb, concentric circles with me at the center of my very own food system.

I know me. I will forget. I will be in a hurry. I will want the convenience of packaged foods. I used to give myself a hard time about my infidelity to my rules, but now, being older, I know that rules are guidelines, not prisons. I could set a lifetime constraint as I have this month as a way to be excruciatingly aware, but I choose “moderation in all things”, balance, good cheer (the store and the spirit). If I want something, I won’t forbid it. I’ll just do it eyes wide open. And interested. Food and judgment don’t mix – they turn the stomach. I will be kind to myself and others as we stumble towards an ethical relationship with food.

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