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Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet Paperback – April 22, 2008
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This very human and often humorous adventure about two people eating food grown within a short distance of their home is surprising, delightful, and even shocking. If you’ve only talked about eating locally but never given yourself definitions—especially strict ones—to follow, I assure you that your farmers’ market will never again look the same. Nothing you eat will look the same! This inspiring and enlightening book will give you plenty to chew on.”
—Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets
“Plenty posits a brilliant, improbable, and finally deliciously noble notion of connecting to the world by striving first to understand what’s underfoot. Beautifully written and lovingly paced, it is at once a lonely and uplifting tale of deep respect between two people, their community, and our earth. Plenty will change your life even if you never could or would try this at home.”
—Danny Meyer, author of Setting the Table
“A funny, warm, and seductive account of how we might live better—better for this earth, better for the community, better for our bellies!”
—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
“Engaging, thoughtful…packed with natural, historical and personal detail.”--Liesel Schillinger, The New York Times
“Succeeds because Smith and MacKinnon don’t give a ____about being normal. Locavorism isn’t normal—that’s the point—and they fly their freak flag with bemused pride, giving themselves over to the mania that infects the newly converted….One imagines Kingsolver at home on her sturdy homestead shaking her head and clucking at those ‘trendy’ kids, but they’re the ones I’d rather have dinner with.”--Martha Bayne, Chicago Reader
About the Author
Alisa Smith is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for Reader's Digest.
J.B. MacKinnon is the author of the acclaimed narrative nonfiction book Dead Man in Paradise.
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The authors provide a lot of insight into what we consume and how we consume it. Although the book doesn't strive to be life changing, I have to say it is habit changing. Even if you don't choose to eat locally, you won't be able to resist looking more carefully at where your food is from.
The recipes at the beginning of each chapter are a nice plus!
One peeve I had is that the authors claim to be vegetarians "with the usual caveats" that they eat quite a variety of meats throughout the year. Huh? There are no caveats in vegetarianism. You either are one or you are not -- and the authors are not. I find it curious that they constantly seem to worry about "protein" (which drives a lot of their meat and fish consumption) but without apparently ever researching the facts on how much protein one needs and how to obtain these from plant foods. Or if they did, I would be curious what they found out. This is the sort of information that would have been useful to read about -- instead of the family problems of his brother, or long descriptions of how much she is obsessed with real estate.
"Plenty" by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon is the story of a family determined to eat locally. They vowed for that a year, they would not eat anything that traveled more than 100 miles to get to their plate. The book is many stories of this year. They went through challenges and victories but "Plenty" tells their story of the 100-mile diet.
Smith and Mackinnon live close to a fish shop, they also had easy access to cheeses, eggs, and butter. This food they had no problem with, but throughout the book they would think of things that they wanted that would be very difficult to get. Wheat was one ingredient that was difficult for them to get, and without wheat they had a hard time making bread. The book is full of ways that they got around their deficiencies. For example when they wanted to make bread without any wheat, they found a way to make bread from turnips.
This book did a great job of addressing both the importance of eating locally and how extremely difficult it can be. Some things that our culture has come to enjoy on a daily basis, just cannot be produced locally. For example, it is very difficult to grow coffee beans anywhere but the correct climate. Every time they were close to failing, they found a way to get around eating something produced far away. I also liked how the book was set up. Each month of the year was a separate chapter and at the beginning of each chapter there was a recipe of something that they made during their yearlong 100-mile diet.
By the end Smith and Mackinnon had done what they set out to do. They proved that even in this day and age of globalization and a flat food system, living off the land around us is still possible.
There is so much wrong with this work I can only scratch the surface. They make reference, over and over again, to Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. They claim to have read those books, but they never seemed to notice that the Ingalls family did not grow all of their own food. They didn't even try. The authors of "Plenty" also make a bug fuss about Ingalls' "The Long Winter" and how resourceful the Ingalls family was. But they choose to ignore that the family, the entire town, was starving and they were waiting for food from over 100 miles.
The fact is, the last folks who ever ate within 100 miles are...well, no one really. Hunter-gatherers range far more than 100 miles. Farmers trade. These authors don't bother matching their ideals with reality. They just state the reality they wish for and expect everyone to believe them.
They are ignorant of the real world. They come up with all sorts of statements, it's cheaper to grow organic, there are famines all over the world all the time, the world is a less "natural" (in terms of wild areas) then at the time of their grandparents. They make such statements over and over. And they offer not one footnote to show where they get their information.
I wonder in what world organic food is cheaper than "inorganic". We all know the cost of organic food. The authors would, I suppose, blame that on the greed of ... someone. Organic farmers love the earth and all around them and so would not, I assume, price gouge. The authors simply make the statement and never ask why the real world doesn't act like they expect.
In fact, the world today, by any measure, is better off agriculturally then it was in 1950. There are no non political famines today. Places like North Korea are suffering food shortages, but that is because of their government. The nations of the world produce enough to help, and are willing to help, but the North Korean government prefers a starving populace.
In 1950 the population of Canada was between 15 and 16 million people. In 2010 it was 34 million. In 1971 there were 780000 hectares of land in agricultural use, today 650000 hectares. Today the people of Canada are suffering from an increase in obesity. The land no longer under the plow has reverted (for the most part) to habitat. These authors even admit that the land their cottage in the bush sits on has reverted to nature without reflecting that modern agriculture that has allowed that to happen. The bear they so admire would have been shot by any self respecting farmer. The bear survives because of modern agriculture is so very good that it produces an abundance on less land.
Modern agriculture is a miracle. This is a world in which the poorest people are getting fatter instead of dying in the streets from starvation. This is a blessing our ancestors never imagined could happen. Let's thank modern farmers for their hard work. Yeah, things aren't perfect. But for goodness sakes, starvation no longer stalks the population. A horror going back to the beginning of time has been vanquished. Let's celebrate.