Smith, A., & Mackinnon, J. B. 2007. The 100-mile diet: A year of local eating. Toronto: Vintage Canada.
Regrettably, I did not get to finish more than two chapters in to “part 2” of my reading of the 100 Mile Diet. I read what I could in between plane rides to visit my family and friends in the West Kootenays, amidst the chatter of fellow excited Easter-weekend travellers in the crowded Vancouver airport. Once back at home, I was overtaken by heaps of food, desserts, laughter, story-telling, egg painting, hiking, movie watching, and other festivities. Before my departure back to Kamloops, my mother and I were even able to fit in some time in the garden, the sun being a warm and welcome companion to the still crisp air. Now that the frost is presumably gone for good, we were able to take stock of some of our perennial herbs from the year before, many of them already sprouting bright green and healthy, rooting their way through their pots in to the garden soil with impressive strength. With my grandmother’s help, we proceeded to cut back last year’s dry and dead remains. I couldn’t help but ponder that what is true for plants is sometimes true for humans: it is often necessary to let go of the dying parts of ourselves so that we can grow back anew; thriving.
I feel that this sentiment pairs well with James’ chapter on November. He describes the falling apart of his brother, Sasha’s, marriage, and life, in general; everything left in ruins. However, this allowed him the space to make his life exactly what he wanted it to be from that moment forward. As James remarked at the end of the chapter, “For the first time in years he sounded just like the brother I used to love to fight” (p. 191).
In the chapters October and November, James’ and Alisa’s relationship seems to be taking a turn for the worst. I found these chapters to be particularly heavy with emotion, and emptiness. Alisa feels that she is able to imagine “three dozen other potential lives, each representing some opportunity never taken or currently within reach” (p. 164), and she also describes how in some way her restlessness may actually represent a lacking feeling of being rooted in place. It seems she is unable to cut the cord of her “mundane” life with James, and simultaneously uncertain if this will solve any of her problems. James reveals a more uninhibited side to his character, which shows that he is also reaching his breaking point. He not only admits to binging on (completely non-local) beer and chocolate chip cookies during his stay with his family in Kamloops, but after his return he frankly states: “we need to get some wheat or I’m going to go out of my fucking mind” (p. 175). The overall tone is mildly discouraging; both parties seem to be growing weary both of their food project and of each other…What’s the point? Although I can relate wholeheartedly to Alisa’s feelings, which are growing stronger the older I get – I feel that there are so many potential paths to be taken that it is overwhelming to have to settle for just one – if there is any place I would be most alright with settling for, it would be where I spent my childhood, and where my parents’ spent the majority of theirs. I feel lucky to know that perhaps my feeling of “placelessness” has an expiry date, for when I’m done exploring the larger world I already know where my home will be (and always has been).
A final notion that stuck with me in “October”, Alisa’s chapter, is her discussion of Sahlin’s “fundamental observation [that] “Stone Age” peoples had discovered that leisure could be secured with minimum effort, rather than a series of technological marvels that have never yet liberated us from lives of hard labour” (p. 159). I personally think this idea is so timely to the world we are living in, and that is perfectly highlights the importance of local food to perhaps changing our modern, fast-food, fast-life driven society for the better. Lately, amidst travel and deadlines and material goods and the noise of the city, a simple life – with only what is needed – has become more and more attractive to me. And eating locally is one way that we can begin to manifest simpler lives. That is the point. The act of letting go of packaged foods, foreign foods, and chemical-laden foods is a rebellious act of laying a path to a new future, and for every unneeded thing that we can let go, space is created for family, friends and the good things in life to be savoured. I like to believe that I’m on this path and that I’ll get to thriving someday.