100 Mile Diet

100mile

I’m not going to bore you with some miracle ‘weight loss’ plan, because that’s not really my style. But I am going to tell you about this other thing called ‘eating whatever you feel like’, as long as it is located with a 100 mile radius of your house.

I heard about the 100-mile diet last summer, and recently read another article about it in this month’s NOW Magazine. So I thought I would share some of my experiences I’ve had with the idea.

One thing I love about Toronto is the St. Lawrence Market. It’s a 100-year old farmers market, in an old building, and the old part of town. Local farmers come every Saturday to deliver their fresh produce, giving advice on the best ways to prepare/cook/eat their food. Definitely a far cry from the local supermarket where some teen-aged guy is described as an expert — all because he wears a badge on his sleeve and he took a 2 day training course in the basement of some corporate headquarters.
st_lawrence_market
768px-st_lawrence_market_flower_and_fruit_show

When I used to live in Texas, the one thing that struck me is how much the cities thrive on food, but yet there isn’t a serious food culture where the suppliers are as important as the vendors. Everyone always talks about how great the ‘Texas BBQ’ is, but it’s no different then a BBQ in St. Louis, Portland, or Boston. There is nothing unique between those examples, because they are all serving the same food, except larger quantities and different spices. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if more then 90% of all food is transported more than 1000 miles to get to your plate. We talk about building smart, yet can’t get over the meals that are grown in California, packaged in Oklahoma, and eaten in New York.

So basically the point of my story is that I’ve been trying the 100-mile diet, or as some call it, becoming a ‘Locavore’. It’s honestly not the easiest thing to do, because so many things are imported. The good thing about Ontario is that the quality of the food is so high and it’s relatively easy to find a local supplier of really anything. Yes, there aren’t any mangos, papayas, or kumquats in my diet. But I’m starting to understand how the weather impacts the quality of the produce, and when is the best time to buy certain products. Currently, I’m addicted to corn on the cob and peaches, where a month ago it was strawberries and wild blackberries, and next month will be squash and zucchini (I used to love the fall apples, but then unfortunately became allergic to them.). But basically you have to pick and chose your battles. You cannot buy everything to satisfy your cravings. Especially when your cravings become an addiction like coffee.

When I was googled the term ‘100-mile diet’, I was hoping not to many people had heard about it yet, so it might have made me look pretty smart and above the curve. But unfortunately I found quite a few websites and books about the subject. So I’m kind of behind the curve, I guess. So I thought I would share a few things off of the various websites:

12 Reasons for Eating Locally:

1. Taste the difference.
At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before. Close-to-home foods can also be bred for taste, rather than withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting. Many of the foods we ate on the 100-Mile Diet were the best we’d ever had.

2. Know what you’re eating
Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust. And when in doubt, they can drive out to the farms and see for themselves.

3. Meet your neighbours
Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.

4. Get in touch with the seasons
When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.

5. Discover new flavours
Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, yerba mora, or tayberries? These are just a few of the new (to us) flavors we sampled over a year of local eating. Our local spot prawns, we learned, are tastier than popular tiger prawns. Even familiar foods were more interesting. Count the types of pear on offer at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties–while more than 2,000 more have been lost in our rush to sameness.

6. Explore your home
Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.

7. Save the world
A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country. The ingredients for a typical British meal, sourced locally, traveled 66 times fewer “food miles.” Or we can just keep burning those fossil fuels and learn to live with global climate change, the fiercest hurricane seasons in history, wars over resources…

8. Support small farms
We discovered that many people from all walks of life dream of working the land–maybe you do too. In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That’s a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.

9. Give back to the local economy
A British study tracked how much of the money spent at a local food business stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested. The total value was almost twice the contribution of a dollar spent at a supermarket chain .

10. Be healthy
Everyone wants to know whether the 100-Mile Diet worked as a weight-loss program. Well, yes, we lost a few pounds apiece. More importantly, though, we felt better than ever. We ate more vegetables and fewer processed products, sampled a wider variety of foods, and ate more fresh food at its nutritional peak. Eating from farmers’ markets and cooking from scratch, we never felt a need to count calories.

11. Create memories
A friend of ours has a theory that a night spent making jam–or in his case, perogies–with friends will always be better a time than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We’re convinced.

12. Have more fun while traveling
Once you’re addicted to local eating, you’ll want to explore it wherever you go. On a trip to Mexico, earth-baked corn and hot-spiced sour oranges led us away from the resorts and into the small towns. Somewhere along the line, a mute magician gave us a free show over bowls of lime soup in a little cantina.

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Another trend around Toronto which is becoming popular is loaning your un-used backyard, or yard sharing.
shareingbackyardstoronto.wordpress.com
hyperlocavore.com -  (also does seed sharing and neighbourhood produce exchanges)

Even restaurants are getting into the act:

Calico, a restaurant in the Bloor West Village actually rejected the 100-mile diet, and invented the two-block diet. Where the restaurant only serves what can be grown in the backyards of it’s neighbours year round.

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Justin Zawyrucha‘s other blog posts:
Page 1      -     Blogs 111-81
Page 2     -      Blogs 80-50
Page 3     -      Blogs 49-19
Page 4     -      Blogs 18-1

One Comment
  1. August 31st, 2009 - 6:47 am
    Michelle said:

    Justin thanks soooo much for the breakdown! It’s great to see someone else trying this – although we’re not as strict as you seem to be, we’re trying someting quite similar, and finding that the office is helping! In St Louis we are offered the chance to enroll in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – http://www.localharvest.org/csa/) Where we buy a share of a local farmer’s produce and then they deliver the 10 or 20 pound boxes right here to the office. Pairing that with the recent purchase of a quarter of a cow from my sister’s farm, and our grocery bills are right about $30 – milk, juice, a little bread, and fruit…we’re eating tons of veggies and our compost bin is the happiest in the hood. Keep at it! Can’t wait to hear about some of the Ontario-Only yummies you’ve been raking in. Do you garden yourself? Even on a terrace you could do your own herbs or tomatoes….

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