The Last Mile

J.B. MacKinnon, Smith, A. 2007. The 100 Mile Diet: a year of local eating. Vintage Canada, Toronto, Ontario. P149-262.

This semester has flown by! It is hard to believe that I read the first half of, “The 100 Mile Diet,” all the way back in the first week of January. It really makes me reflect on when I first found out we had to make a dish that had only ingredients sourced from only 100 miles. At the time, it seemed impossible, but now it’s the week of the final feast!

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Menu and my delicious food from the HCCYS Feast!


The first half of this book was the start of Alisa and James’ year long journey to eat only within 100 miles. At the start, they found it difficult to find food and know what to eat. But by the second half of the book (and the second half of their year) I could tell that eating within 100 miles had become simply part of their daily routine. I feel this also speaks to my ability to analyze these readings and write about them. At the start of the semester I didn’t know how to look for character arc, descriptive writing and the “bigger picture.” However, now that I have had lots of practice, I feel like these readings and blogs have become a lot more natural.

To be honest, I found the second half of this book kind of depressing. Alisa and James were mad at each other more than they were happy. In addition, I felt like both Alisa and James weren’t as excited as they were at the start of the book. It seems like they were fed up with eating within 100 miles. However, with the media attention they were getting, they felt like they had to continue the diet so they wouldn’t disappoint anyone. After the last discussion on this book, it seemed like the majority of the class liked Alisa’s writing better than James’. I now have to agree with them. There were sections of Alisa’s writing that were very moving.

For example, on page 163-164, Alisa describes a fight she had with James that begins with, “Why do we even bother?” This eventually leads to her questioning whether or not her and James should even be together. “I’m thirty-three years old, always broke, and merely existing in what, without having been sealed by formal wedding vows, had become a traditional marriage… Any day, at any moment, I could change everything, and while many of those alternative lives featured James at my side – the truth was that some of them did not.” I really liked, but also really disliked this section. I disliked that Alisa was questioning her future with James. It also made me feel down because it’s obvious that at this point in time, Alisa isn’t happy. However, I liked this part because it was very raw and honest. I would like to think that Alisa and James are the perfect couple but it shows that even great couples fight sometimes and question how their lives would be different if they had taken a different direction. Alisa mentions that at any moment she could change her life but the fact that she doesn’t shows just how much she loves James.

Another section Alisa wrote that really stood out for me was her visit to the Gulf Islands were she met Sylvester. It’s easy to read about how much the food industry has changed in the past 100 years but to hear about it from Sylvester’s perspective really made it more of a reality as opposed to a fact. Sylvester talks about how when he was a kid he learned to hunt, spoke his native language often and his community had a strong sense of culture. However, nowadays, no one speaks their native language, people drive instead of canoeing and go to the grocery store instead of hunt. All of these changes have resulted in a loss of culture. “I speak my language – but who am I going to speak it to? We’re going to lose our history and way of life (pg. 198).” I think Sylvester’s story can be compared to the food industry as a whole. With globalization of food, we have lost our ability to know what foods grow in our area, what fruits and vegetables grow in different seasons and what the plants fruits and vegetables grow on even look like! This reminds me of a time I was visiting a friends garden and saw a broccoli plant for the first time and I was so in shock. Something I eat all the time, yet I had never even considered what a broccoli plant looked like. New technologies and globalization have caused Sylvester and his community to lose their native culture. Technology and globalization has also caused the average person to lose touch with something so basic. Food.

I love the idea of, “The 100 Mile Diet.” Eating local is better for the environment, our health and the community. However, seeing how much time and effort Alisa and James have to put into making all of their meals kind of turns me off. I think that the average person would agree with me. Today everyone is so busy with work, school and our obsession with being connected to everyone all the time through social media. The average person doesn’t have time to travel to local farms on the weekend and spend days making sauerkraut, jam, canned fruit and bread.

This reminds me of, “Soylent.” This chemist that created a power that contains all the essential nutrients the body needs to survive. You simply mix this powder with water and you don’t need to eat. The man who invented this drink, 24 year old Rob Rhinehart, claims to not eat and only drinks “Soylent.” This powder claims to be cheap and saves the time it takes to make and eat food. Perfect for the busy person. Now this is an extreme case of losing food traceability but is it crazy to think that this may be the future?

Although I would never do the 100 mile diet, I do respect James and Alisa’s reasoning for doing so. After reading this book I plan on purchasing local food over non-local food whenever possible. However, I don’t see myself surviving off of potatoes all winter long anytime soon…

The Last Mile

One thought on “The Last Mile

  1. Lyndsey, I found your last blog post to be quite interesting. Your opinions seem very honest and practical, which I very much identify with.
    I liked reading about your thoughts on Alisa’s written work in the last half of the book. Personally, I found Alisa to be a bit annoying (as she was always complaining about her relationship and sort of blaming James for her unhappiness), but I think I overlooked the significance of her writing at times after reading what you wrote. I guess I didn’t realize how honest she was being with her feelings, and that it may have been because of living on potatoes for so long… ha ha.
    I totally agree with you – not many people have the time to go out every weekend in search of fresh food, to drive out to local farms, or to can and preserve food. This is especially true for students or low income families that are struggling with other major issues like studying, working, raising kids, exercising etc. I think I would also just try and buy locally whenever I can, but at this point in my life, I can’t go out of my way to maintain that strict of a diet. But yes, we should attempt to establish a better relationship with our food and the plants that it comes from. I once watched an episode of Jamie Oliver’s cooking show where he went to an elementary school in the US. He held up a tomato in front of the kids, and they had no clue what it was. It was really scary to watch, and I hope we, collectively as a society, can ensure that our future generations form a relationship with plants and food.

    But to be honest, I think Soylent would be amazing to have during finals…


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