Monday, June 16, 2008

The 100-Mile Diet

I just finished reading Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. I’m not even sure I remember how I came across this book…let me try to recall:

-Probably was trying to find a way to distract myself from reading for my summer class
-Remembered that I wanted to be better leisure reader this summer/utilize the public library
-Remembered that there was a book by Barbara Kingsolver about her and her daughter eating organic food or something for a year
-Googled the name of the book
-Some book named Plenty shows up too
-Log on to Bear Cat and search for Bab’s book—Baylor doesn’t have it
-Search again for that Plenty book—Baylor has it!

So Plenty is about a couple in Canada, both journalists, who learn that most food that North Americans eat travels an average distance of 1,500 miles from the farm it came from to our plate. This sort of blows their mind (and mine) and they decide on the spot to try to only eat things that are produced/harvested/raised within a 100-mile radius. It’s not easy, for most of the year they survived on potatoes at every meal. But they discover tons of different food they had never bothered to try or even heard of. They even teach themselves preservation techniques such as canning, drying, and proper long-term storing. Despite a few hiccups along the way, they end up eating the most diverse and delicious diet of their life, composed of the freshest ingredients. They discover how food is supposed to taste in its purest form, and how those tastes change depending on what part of the season you’re in. What’s more, they learn more about their community and the people harvesting/raising/catching this food. As they say so many times in the book, they become “connected to the land.”

My roommate and I were talking about the cost of our groceries each month. We definitely don’t eat as much packaged/prepared food as some which means we each eat a lot of fresh produce, and the cost is definitely going up. I recently made sangria for a few friends and bought two apricots for $2.99! I spent over $12 on just the fruit. I used to buy huge navel oranges in the fall but have since switched over to frozen fruit since they cost over a dollar each. Of course this is due to high gas prices, but it’s also because I’m purchasing things that aren’t necessarily seasonal and are traveling far distances just to feed my craving. As the book explains, most people don’t even know when certain produce is considered in season since we’re able to have it year round. (I just did an internet search and saw that my beloved navel oranges are in season from October to mid-January)

As soon as I started reading this I was already trying to figure out if this is possible for me to do here in Waco, TX. To be honest, it would probably be much simpler. The Hunger Farm offers a program to buy produce they harvest for $60 a month. They also sell eggs and beef and goat meat. I’ve never had goat, but I’ll go there. Homestead Heritage sells flour (something this couple was not able to acquire for months) and deli meat and all sorts of sweeteners. To be honest, it wouldn’t be that hard to add these places to my food vendors. We even have wine that’s harvested and produced less than 10 miles away! How close is Shiner…

And since I do travel to Houston/live on the bay, technically I could pick up a few items while I was down there on a visit, like fish or shrimp. I’m not so sure I trust fish around here.

Here’s a map of what my 100-Mile diet would look like:

Not too shabby! Dallas, Austin, and Bryan are within my limit, meaning hello Messina Hoff! I just need to find a local cheese maker and I'm set. Sign me up.

I definitely encourage you to read this book (and if you’re part of the BU community you can check out the copy I’m returning tomorrow!) It’s short enough to finish within a week (I read like a chapter a day basically) and they do an excellent job of explaining what the diet of North America looked like 100 years ago, why it’s changed, and how that change has affected us. They also each take turns writing every other chapter so it’s great to see the opinions of two different people involved in this experiment.

You can also check out their website for more info on eating locally.


teachhd said...

I'll do it with you. We can split the cost.

Robert said...

a few things....

i love your use of the public library. i'm too much of a consumerist for that. i love having tons of books.

i didn't know houston was near the water. actually i kind of have this idea that everything in texas is a desert (or dessert?). forgive me

elizabeth said...

I've been to the Hunger farm on a photo assignment. That place is great!

elizabeth said...

duh, you were with me! heehee
Did you take pics again?

Anonymous said...

There is a new cheese shop in Lorena.