160.9344 Kilometre Diet.
I am fascinated by numbers. I am also a food professional. These things immediately had my ears perked up tall as I heard about this new “theoretical greening of people’s food intake”. Sounds wonderful (if your brain is green-thinking), but is not entirely practical.
The idea is this – you aren’t allowed to eat any food that isn’t available unless it was gathered / harvested / processed no more than 100 miles from your home. This is to stop the unnecessary fuel costs that incur with our present system of food importation. What a great idea! Think of all the greenhouse-gas emissions we could stop! Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon came up with this, have written books on this (gee, it took me only a paragraph!) and are flogging this idea on the web http://100milediet.org/ . Yeah, ok I get the general premise, and I guess that John. Q. Public might also need recipes and such to help him along, so a website to keep it perpetuating is ok.
I have seriously thought about the merits of this interesting theory of how this will improve the world. I live in Victoria, BC. What kinds of foods do I have to my disposal? Firstly, what’s 100 miles from me? I am going to use ‘Crow flies miles’, not ‘bumpy un-straight miles’... also I am going to use miles even though I live in a metric country. 160.9344 kilometres from the center of town (I’m pretty close to this) gets me half of Vancouver Island up to about Fanny Bay, all of the lower Frazer valley up to Harrison Hot Springs. Washington state from its west coast to the North Cascades and Mt Baker national parks, Southeast to Riverbend, and south including all of the Olympic national park to just north of Olympia. I get all the Gulf and San Juan Islands to eat from. Now there’s where I can eat from. Now then... what to eat?
Canada food guide... that’s a good idea. Let’s look there next. For an under 50 adult male like me, I should have the following;
- Fruits and vegetables 8-10
- Grains 8
- Milk and alternatives 2
- Meat and alternatives 3
This is better laid out on the Health Canada website, but is basically a one cup serving size (average).
Now here comes the problem with this diet: Grains. There are not enough grown within my catchment area... at least not the right type. Yes we have seasonal corn that is grown, and it is delicious I might add! But the bulk of what is grown in the Frazer valley is silage Corn. Corn that we humans wouldn’t eat as it is too tough and dry for our taste. We do grow Barley (beer, hooray!), Oats, and Rye in BC, but this is primarily in the Peace River region - 90%. Some is grown in the Frazer Valley, but not enough. As for my neighbours in the south, Washington does grow many varieties of grain, but all east of the Cascade Mountains. Bummer.
Fruits and veggies are not a problem; carrots, Cabbages, Daikon, Bok Choy, potatoes, beets, melons, squash, legumes. Apples, berries and grapes and Hazelnuts. Tomatoes, Lettuce, Cukes, Peppers and a tumult of fresh Herbs are constantly available from our local greenhouses.
Milk and Cheeses? Easy! There are many a local dairyman happily squeezing the teat, and many Cheesemakers producing lovely edible curds!
As for meat, we have Beef, Pork, and Lamb. Poultry like Eggs, Chicken, Duck, Quail. Fish that includes (only locally available!), Trout, Salmon, Octopus, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Crab. Our local protein availability is great!
The problem still is the grains... There aren’t enough in the area (at least not to keep ourselves healthy according to the Canada Food Guide). We must import! Or do we? One Acre of prime grain-land can produce between 1500-2000 loaves of bread. That’s enough for me! But this area is too wet for grain... wet... grain... RICE! Why doesn’t someone grow rice here? They don’t. Other that a few boutique ‘Wild Rice’ farms, the production is not happening.
So, according to the Canada Food Guide’s daily suggestions, me and my family would not be able to follow this 100 mile diet due to the lack of available grain supply. Can I let this one thing slide? Perhaps...
Will I miss some other things in my pantry? Soy Sauce, Sesame oil, Spices, Salt... Salt? SALT!? Yeah, no salt for you! Not in BC! The nearest Salt mine is in Saskatchewan... in Canada. But wait - Washington State! There’s a gourmet Salt company in Woodenville Washington! Hah! I found my salt. Without salt, man cannot live, this includes me!
Spices are going to be missed on this diet. Since the days of Marco Polo who travelled thousands of treacherous miles without the use of fossil fuels to bring back spices, we have all enjoyed how the flavours of our foods have been enhanced. Wars have been fought and continents populated because of this! Our world was shaped in part due to the spice trade! Now let’s all forget that and become foodie luddites: no spices here on the west coast.
No Cinnamon buns or Coffee too.
COFFEE! NO FRIKKEN COFFEE!?!?! What kind of stupidity was this?! A diet without coffee? OK. No Coffee or tea or Bread. Can’t do it. I’ll have to import coffee and grain for my bread. 100 miles BAH!
Can we look at our world? Can we decide what makes it good? Can we try to stop degrading it as much as we have? Let’s not look at our diet alone, let’s look at our daily life. To stop creating a larger ‘Carbon-Footprint’ was the original goal of the 100 mile diet (quite an arbitrary number when taken out of context: why not 100 kilometres, or 30 furlongs? Why not 46.5 leagues?). The best way to decrease your CF is to not use any vehicle that burns petrol. Live where you work. Don’t get a job where you have to commute at all! If you are an employer, take command of your employees lives and build them housing that they can walk to work from. Don’t travel. Ever. Stop using public transport. Bicycle everywhere. Only farmers should have the right to use fossil fuels. Ships should go back to sail. Electricity can only be allowed for the people who live next to wind, solar, hydro plants... and only if the metals that are used in their construction were completely recycled from existing stockpiles. Guarantee one acre per person, given to all through a lottery-system where the best land can be unified in a collective to help improve the efficiency of production. Etc. Etc. Etc.
We cannot go back. We cannot become the agrarian fiefdoms that we were. We cannot till the soil without killing some worms. Anything that we touch affects something that we didn’t intend to. The wealthy among us can have a lower CF because they can afford to. The poor have to fill their childrens' bellies with cheap pasta-from-the-box that was imported from Ontario. They have to buy bread and peanut butter. We as a society have the means to change, but... The wants from the ‘Haves’ will always outweigh the needs from the ‘Have-nots’. And there will always be ‘Haves’ and ’Have-nots’. This disparity creates the need to buy Strawberries from Chile; for that special occasion!
I will try to buy locally as often as I can. But I cannot guarantee that the pork chops that I get didn’t come from a processing plant in Red Deer Alberta, or the Salt I get didn’t come from Saskatchewan, or my cheese wasn’t from Ontario. I won’t buy apples from New Zealand, or Lamb from Australia. But I will buy Oranges and the odd Avocado from California, Spices from India, and Malaysia. And I will buy my flour from wherever it comes from in Canada, ‘cause I need my grains!