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Daddy-A

Living on the 100 Mile Diet

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Daddy-A   
"But what," I reply, "will we eat all winter?"

This may seem like a peculiar question in an age when it's normal to have Caribbean mangoes in winter and Australian pears in spring. However, on March 21, the first day of spring, we took a vow to live with the rhythms of the land as our ancestors did. For one year we would only buy food and drink for home consumption that was produced within 100 miles of our home, a circle that takes in all the fertile Fraser Valley, the southern Gulf Islands and some of Vancouver Island, and the ocean between these zones. This terrain well served the European settlers of a hundred years ago, and the First Nations population for thousands of years before.

Full Article

The authors, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon will be writing twice a month about their efforts. Read about them in The Tyee (local on-line news site with a Birkenstock bent).

Could you live on the 100 mile diet? As I live in the city as the authors, I'll be following this closely. The link within the article on "ecological footprints" is NOT for the mathematically challenged!

A.

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TPO   

I think I could do it. Within a hundred miles of my house I have fantastic farms that produce fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. Even in the winter, we have some farms growing lettuce and tomatoes all year in greenhouses. We have local wheat and buckwheat as well as local butter and more.

But to do this I would have to give up coffee and orange juice. I could learn to love local apple juice for breakfast, but where would I get my caffeine fix??


Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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cdh   

Hmmm... 100 miles, eh... I don't know if it would work today or not... Living in southeastern Pennsylvania 50 years ago it would have been easy... the NJ coast is within 100, as is the Chesapeake bay... Lancaster county produce... plenty of local dairy and beef and poultry...

Today I don't know how much commercially available stuff from those locales is in my markets... We do get very local stuff in one particularly long-established supermarket... but local seasons for produce are short... I don't know that there is a constant supply.

Even if stuff is grown around you, you may have to strike up unheard-of commercial relationships with the growers... which would be much easier if you have the PR aspect of writing an article about what you're doing. Many wouldn't want the headache of retail sales to everybody walking in off the street.

Neat idea, though.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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This is a fascinating concept, and and interesting essay. However, there is no way I could do it here.

From what I know is grown within 100 miles, I would be living basically on bison and beef. Fresh vegetables would be available from July through September only - our frost dates run from May 15 - Sept. 15, and often shorter. There would be almost no grain or fruit products. If I were allowed to hunt in town, we could supplement our diet with venison and bunny rabbit :-).

I do garden, but there is no way I could grow enough for even the two of us to live on during the winter, due not only to time considerations, but to the considerable amount of preparation the soil around here requires to successfully grow non-native plants (food).

Marcia.


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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At first when I read this, I thought this is 100% doable. My hundred mile radius includes great farmers markets and people producing great products in Maryland and Virginia. But then, the thought of NO COFFEE AND NO SUGAR brought the idea to a screeching halt for me. I truly admire their reasons for wanting to attempt this one hundred percent. Does anyone know if even 50 or 100 years ago in the U.S. people only ate what was local? I'm no food historian by a long shot, but even then I don't think people were able to eat only on the basis of what was available locally. I mean, for instance, rice and sugar are produced in this country in abundance in the Carolinas as well as Louisiana. So 50 - 100 years ago only the people who lived within a 100 miles of those states had rice and sugar? Doesn't seem very likely.

I think it's commendable that they want to take this all or nothing approach. However, IMHO, it would be better to try for a 50%, 60%, or 80% adherence to the 100 mile rule. It would definitely be a much tastier and eco-friendly thing to do than nothing at all.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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glossyp   

I first heard about this a couple of months ago from an article at SF Gate and I've spent a bit of time thinking about it. Here in Hawaii, we would have plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, various meats including beef, pork and chicken, sugar and coffee. We would not have rice, a real staple of our diets, nor any other grain product. I would really miss bread.


"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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In the July issue of Gourmet, Bill McKibben reports on a similar experiment in eating locally. For seven months, beginning in September, he ate almost entirely food grown within his watershed, which is probably under 100 miles, in Northern Vermont. He made "what might be called the Marco Polo exception--I considered fair game anything that your average 13th-century explorer might have brought back from distant lands." This exception allowed him to use spices like pepper and ginger, and I suppose would take care of the caffeine problem. It's quite an interesting article; McKibben uses the experience to explore our changing culture. He also says it was the best winter eating of his life.

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I first heard about this a couple of months ago from an article at SF Gate and I've spent a bit of time thinking about it. Here in Hawaii, we would have plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, various meats including beef, pork and chicken, sugar and coffee. We would not have rice, a real staple of our diets, nor any other grain product. I would really miss bread.

Yes, but if this were to support ALL the people who lived in Hawaii, we wouldn't be able to produce enough to feed the populace. Think of the poi shortages, or the problem getting milk during the last West Coast shipping strike, and how people stock up on rice, shoyu, Spam, batteries, and toilet paper whenever a hurricane or shipping strike is threatened!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Verjuice   

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods by Gary Paul Nabhan is an interesting account of his year spent eating only foods grown or hunted or foraged within 250 miles of his Arizona desert home. I found about the book in one Saveur's 100 issues a couple of years ago.

I can't figure out how to provide an eGullet sponsopred Amazon link (where is it in the Help features? A search come sup empty).

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melkor   

It would be quite easy to do here in California, an awful lot of what we eat each year is local - our largest source of food during the summer is our garden. That said, not being able to drink wine from all over the world would be a deal breaker. Besides, someone might object to me going for a 90 mile drive for pizza...

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Let's see, I live in Helsinki, where it is cold and dark 9 months of the year. I'd probably lose a ton of weight on a steady diet of pickled herring, rye bread, and potatoes. There might be a little ice fishing for pike and whitefish, but no shellfish or even shrimp. Even the reindeer farms would be too far away. But crayfish and wild strawberries in the brief summer season make up for a lot. No arctic cloudberries, however--too far away.

We are allowed to forage even on private land, so there might be dried berries and mushrooms. Finns even eat a kind of poisonous morel. Korvasieni must be boiled several times in changes of water before they are edible. I can imagine that extreme hunger led to this discovery.

After living in Paris and San Francisco, I find the ingredient availability here very limited, even with several flights a week bringing food from all over the world.

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anzu   

In central and northern China this was what people were doing involuntarily up until as little as fifteen years ago. There are probably still regions where it is still going on.

Winter in these regions are long, cold, and miserable. People living in the country may have had a little more variety from plants from summer that had been stored, dried, or pickled.

In the cities, it meant that you ate cabbage, pickled cabbage, daikon, and wheat products. For months. Maybe here and there you might be able to afford a little meat or fish. Or then again, maybe you might not be able to afford it...

I wanted to slit my wrists after just a couple of months of eating that stuff. And I can't imagine ever doing it voluntarily.

But seriously, I think the whole premise is wrong if they consider they are acting as people did in times past. Talking globally here, anyone who could afford it supplemented their diet with foodstuffs brought from further away. And as soon as people get out of utmost poverty, they add such foods into their diet.

In the past, this was obviously the case with luxury items such as sugar or spices, but it was also the case with less prestigious items as well. For example, how many people throughout the world were adding locally sourced salt into their food? Precious few, I should imagine. How many people WANTED to add salt into their food? All of them: the human body requires salt to function, and the vast majority of people historically were not living within 100 miles of either the coast or a salt mine. So where were they getting it from?

If one takes a look at earlier trading patterns you will see that a hell of a lot of it was moving food from one place to another. I'm not an expert on the entire history of trading food across the world, and my background is historian, rather than food historian.

Nonetheless, I do know quite a bit about Chinese trade in previous centuries. People were shipping, among other food products, dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, tea, wine, salt, soy sauce and rice within China, and there were highly established (and controlled by the government and taxed by them) trading routes from China to Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam (these last two of course then being known by different names), etc. And a LOT of what they were shipping was food items. The distances being covered were a lot more than 50 or 100 miles.

On top of that, this type of trade goes beyond just food. It also played an important role in the spread of knowledge such as science, geography and medicine, and it led to borrowings (improvements) in agricultural practices and food preparation. In fact, it had more impact than just these factors alone. For example, it did of course influence the type of economy and food production in the areas exporting those products. The idea of working with a single crop that was chiefly exported is not a new one that has appeared only with the advent of cheap modern transport.

And this type of exchange is an ongoing one, and is not always a bad thing, no matter how much opponents of globalisation might like to argue otherwise.

Moving away from history to the present day. Can you imagine how the environment of local regions would suffer if EVERYONE went foraging for foods to supplement their diet? Can you imagine how local producers would suffer if the only market they sold to was the local one?

Thank goodness more people aren't doing it.

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Toliver   

Funny you should mention this...One of eGullet's food bloggers, jwagnerdsm, sort of did what you're proposing: "Food Blog: jwagnerdsm, Eating Iowa"

For one year he and his family would consume only that which was grown, made or reared in Iowa (not sure how large a state Iowa is...whether 100 miles is too constricting). He found it extremely difficult, at first. I give the guy (and his family) kudos for even attempting it. He wanted to bring about an awareness of what is available locally and to support his local ag community. It makes for interesting reading.

Unfortunately, the website he has in his signature is no longer working.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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barolo   
In central and northern China this was what people were doing involuntarily up until as little as fifteen years ago. There are probably still regions where it is still going on.

Winter in these regions are long, cold, and miserable. People living in the country may have had a little more variety from plants from summer that had been stored, dried, or pickled.

In the cities, it meant that you ate cabbage, pickled cabbage, daikon, and wheat products. For months. Maybe here and there you might be able to afford a little meat or fish. Or then again, maybe you might not be able to afford it...

I wanted to slit my wrists after just a couple of months of eating that stuff. And I can't imagine ever doing it voluntarily.

But seriously, I think the whole premise is wrong if they consider they are acting as people did in times past. Talking globally here, anyone who could afford it supplemented their diet with foodstuffs brought from further away.  And as soon as people get out of utmost poverty, they add such foods into their diet.

In the past, this was obviously the case with luxury items such as sugar or spices, but it was also the case with less prestigious items as well. For example, how many people throughout the world were adding locally sourced salt into their food? Precious few, I should imagine. How many people WANTED to add salt into their food? All of them: the human body requires salt to function, and the vast majority of people historically were not living within 100 miles of either the coast or a salt mine. So where were they getting it from?

If one takes a look at earlier trading patterns you will see that a hell of a lot of it was moving food from one place to another.  I'm not an expert on the entire history of trading food across the world, and my background is historian, rather than food historian.

Nonetheless, I do know quite a bit about Chinese trade in previous centuries. People were shipping, among other food products, dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, tea, wine, salt, soy sauce and rice within China, and there were highly established (and controlled by the government and taxed by them) trading routes from China to Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam (these last two of course then being known by different names), etc.  And a LOT of what they were shipping was food items. The distances being covered were a lot more than 50 or 100 miles.

On top of that, this type of trade goes beyond just food. It also played an important role in the spread of knowledge  such as science, geography and medicine, and it led to borrowings (improvements) in agricultural practices and food preparation.  In fact, it had more impact than just these factors alone. For example, it did of course influence the type of economy and food production in the areas exporting those products. The idea of working with a single crop that was chiefly exported is not a new one that has appeared only with the advent of cheap modern transport.

And this type of exchange is an ongoing one, and is not always a bad thing, no matter how much opponents of globalisation might like to argue otherwise.

Moving away from history to the present day. Can you imagine how the environment of local regions would suffer if EVERYONE went foraging for foods to supplement their diet? Can you imagine how local producers would suffer if the only market they sold to was the local one?

Thank goodness more people aren't doing it.

Anzu: You said it much better than I could.


Cheers,

Anne

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lmc   
It would be quite easy to do here in California, an awful lot of what we eat each year is local - our largest source of food during the summer is our garden.  That said, not being able to drink wine from all over the world would be a deal breaker.  Besides, someone might object to me going for a 90 mile drive for pizza...

Reading this article yesterday I thought it would be very easy to eat this way, living in San Francisco. I had not thought of the wine predicament, though!


"The smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us...."

Marcel Proust

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therese   

Not only could I do it, I have done it, though not in my present locale (Atlanta) but in southwest Virginia, on my grandparents' farm. They produced virtually everything they ate: vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat. They canned or pickled or preserved or froze all summer long so as to have a varied diet during the winter. Never mind 100 miles---it was unusual for them to eat something from farther than 10 miles away. They did buy things like salt and sugar, of course, but even coffee and tea weren't an issue, as they didn't use them. No alcohol, either, though berry wines and moonshine were readily available in the area (and there's now real wine produced in nearby Yadkin Valley).

It would be harder in present day Atlanta, as one uses up a good twenty miles of the radius in city, but I think it could be done.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Could you live on the 100 mile diet? 

I guess I could do it, but I wouldn't want to. The thought of being without coffee makes me start to shake. Even worse, I don't think even the fine wines of the Finger Lakes or Long Island are within 100 miles of me, not to mention the makings for a nice martini.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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But seriously, I think the whole premise is wrong if they consider they are acting as people did in times past. Talking globally here, anyone who could afford it supplemented their diet with foodstuffs brought from further away.  And as soon as people get out of utmost poverty, they add such foods into their diet.

In the past, this was obviously the case with luxury items such as sugar or spices, but it was also the case with less prestigious items as well.

On top of that, this type of trade goes beyond just food. It also played an important role in the spread of knowledge  such as science, geography and medicine, and it led to borrowings (improvements) in agricultural practices and food preparation.  In fact, it had more impact than just these factors alone. For example, it did of course influence the type of economy and food production in the areas exporting those products. The idea of working with a single crop that was chiefly exported is not a new one that has appeared only with the advent of cheap modern transport.

And this type of exchange is an ongoing one, and is not always a bad thing, no matter how much opponents of globalisation might like to argue otherwise.

Moving away from history to the present day. Can you imagine how the environment of local regions would suffer if EVERYONE went foraging for foods to supplement their diet? Can you imagine how local producers would suffer if the only market they sold to was the local one?

Thank goodness more people aren't doing it.

Beautiful, thoughtful post. Bravo!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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TPO   

Instead of trying to buy everything locally, maybe a better experiement would be to buy local produce and meat whenever possible. It bugs me to no end that our grocery stores are filled with apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho, and blueberries from Michigan when I live in Maine. Other states get to enjoy our products, and we all get stuck with fruit and vegetables that spent a week or more on a semi before getting to our table.

Then the remaining produce, meat, and other necessary items could be purchased from locally owned stores. Money spent at locally owned stores stays in the community, instead of going out of the state and country like the money spent at my "local" chain markets. Then the local producer of orange juice doesn't suffer, nor does the local coffee roaster or the local market owner.

Then you could reach the goal of supporting local entities and eating better, fresher foods without sacrificing the variety in your diet or huring local farmers and storeowners.


Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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It was a very interesting article, thank you, first of all, for posting it.

I think I would be able to live on the "100 mile diet" easily because-well, I live in the tropics, so I have no problems growing food during those hard but beautiful months of autumn/winter. Just right here in this apartment that I live in which has a little garden, I already have choco, sweet potato, potato, and bok choy growing easily. It'd actually be pretty fun to do that, but where would I get my wheat? I LOVE breads and pastas and do and can make my own, but I don't know of anyone growing wheat within a hundred miles of my location. :o! That'd be the hard part.

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Behemoth   

I suppose the combination of corn and soybean is a complete protein...

(I apparently can't even get the spelling right in one lousy sentence!)


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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therese   
...not to mention the makings for a nice martini.

No local producers of distilled spirits? Well, then, make your own. Potatoes = vodka, corn = moonshine/bourbon, etc.

The premise behind living this way is that you eat what you have, and you have what you eat. My grandparents didn't eat olives because they didn't grow olives (or eggplant or zucchini or lots of other things), but what they did eat was amazingly good, so good that they didn't feel any sense of privation.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Interesting sense of scale I'm getting here - in the UK a 100 Mile radius seems pretty big! For me it would cover most of the south (Including the isle of wight - good for tomatoes and garlic!), most of London and quite a big chunk of the English Channel.

I couldn't see any problem in living off that.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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rjenkins   

i, too, saw mckibben's article in gourmet, and really liked it.

but isn't one's ability to do the 100-mile diet sort of linked to what season you start it? for example, i'm right now buying crates of fresh produce to can, dehydrate or freeze from the farmers market nearest to me in northern Illinois. i'm reasonably confident that i could, with some sweat equity, provide for those lean months of winter by working like a beaver right now.

but if i tried to begin such a plan in october, i'd be in dire straits pretty shortly.

so the author of that couldn't make jam without sugar. but she could have canned or frozen those strawberries to use in sauces later in the winter.

and if the argument is that freezers aren't ecologically sound, then i'm stumped. how would you cook -- over renewable wood?

this illustrates a theme that presents itself over and over in my thoughts: that in the last 100 years or so, we've lost the mental attitude (and the know-how, sometimes) of being self-sufficient.

can't get rice or white potatoes? eat wild rice... or sweet potatoes ... or bashed parnips ... or turnips ... or carrots ... or rutabaga ... or white beans ... or black beans ... or red beans ... you get the idea.

just one person's opinion.


Robin Mather Jenkins

Chicago Tribune

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Daddy-A   
It bugs me to no end that our grocery stores are filled with apples from Washington, potatoes from Idaho, and blueberries from Michigan when I live in Maine. Other states get to enjoy our products, and we all get stuck with fruit and vegetables that spent a week or more on a semi before getting to our table.

I was thinking about the same thing over the weekend.

My son & I were camping on the coast of BC, and we were looking for oysters, or at the very least a decent fish monger where we could get some clams or something. Best we could do was a "fisherman" with a freezer full of salmon. (not saying there were no fish mongers, just that we couldn't easily find them) Yet on the same trip we were able to go to the local grocery store and get mangoes, papaya and dragon fruit.

It just seems wrong.

A.

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