Monday, June 11, 2007

The 100 Mile Diet - Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

The Basics: The 100-Mile Diet, Alisa Smith and J.B. (James) MacKinnon, 2007, 266 pages, hardcover, published under the title Plenty in the USA (apparently so it doesn't get stuck in the diet book section along with all the Atkins and Weight Watchers books).

How I found it: This book has been heavily hyped in the alternative media that I frequent, including The Tyee, Canadian Geographic,, Treehugger, and Kootenay Co-op Radio's Deconstructing Dinner.

What's it about?: Alisa and James are two Vancouver-ites who decide to eat only food from 100-Miles of their home for a year. Although Vancouver is in the fertile Fraser River valley and there are lots of farms around, their experiment proved much harder than they thought it would. The book is about their struggle to find local food, the adventures they had tracking down necessities like sugar (from honey) and flour (from an experimental Vancouver Island wheat farmer). They also meet lots of great farm people and rediscover their relationship with each other.

Did I like it?: I loved this book. I think it took me less than 24 hours to read. James and Alisa are very endearing people, and in a lot of ways they reminded me of myself and my life. The bravery they showed in taking on this experiment is commendable. I was also really impressed with how well they were able to write about their experience without sounding holier-than-thou or having to justify themselves. Those were main complaints about Judith Levine's Year Without Shopping, and by the end of her book I couldn't stand her. By the end of reading The 100-Mile Diet, I felt as if they were long lost friends and that I should call them up to go to the Halifax farmer's market with me, then come over for an awesome dinner.

Will you like it?: This is a good book for people interested in food politics, environmentalism, etc. But, it is not a sky-is-falling type book. It is about real people, real farms, and real food. It is about getting to know the region around you and what you can get from the earth. It is a book that makes you want to plant a garden in containers in your balcony and bike to Richmond or Delta for farm-fresh produce on the weekends. It is inspiring.

But don't take my word for it: The usual collection of literary and reader reviews from Amazon, some from the blogs Lectio and Green LA Girl, another from Treehugger, one from The Tyee, and the official 100 Mile Diet website.

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