*Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.
Plenty falls in that category of books one might call "food memoirs." In Lu's recent review of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which I still have not read--bad me), she noted that is some ways the book already felt dated, as today many more people have again begun paying attention to where their food is coming from. This book was published in the same year (2007), so I'm sure that the same point could be raised here. But that in no way took away from my enjoyment in reading this book. And I still learned from it.
Alisa and James came across as real as real can be. I adored them both. They wrote this book with an honesty that captured my heart. James is one of those people who when he comes up with an idea, he commits to it wholeheartedly. So when he proposed that he and Alisa should spend an entire year eating only foods produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia, Alisa knew that is she agreed it would not be some half-assed effort. Still she agreed, and the 100-mile diet was born.
James and Alisa write the book in alternating chapters, each chapter encompassing a month of their experience. We get glimpses of their respective childhood's and how their relations with family and food intersect. We witness the stress of this venture exacerbate a rocky period in Alisa's and Jame's relationship. But mostly we hear about their adventures in finding local food. And through them, meet other interesting folks--fishermen, beekeepers, walnut farmers, and the list goes on.
James and Alisa do sometimes talk about the state of the environment and agribusiness and the like, but that is not the focus of this book. It is a memoir, a story of their experiment. I never felt a tone of condescension in their words. And they certainly don't claim that everyone can, in terms of their life situation, eat a purely local diet. (Believe me, they don't sugarcoat their experience or try to make it sound easy even for people sharing their class advantages.)
You know, on a personal level, I tend to stress myself out quite a bit over things like this. The only way I've been able to find some sort of peace within myself is to consistently tell myself that every action I make has consequences. (This applies to much more than eating locally.) And I just try to continually up the number of "good" choices I make. (And yes, "good" is in quotations because it is infinitely more complicated than that.) When it comes to the issue of eating locally--yes, we have a garden that we expand yearly, we can and freeze and dry in season foods to use throughout the year, we shop at local farmers' markets, etc. BUT try as I might I have yet to able to give up coffee (not to mention spices, citrus fruit, etc. etc. etc.), we have by no means cut processed foods entirely from our diet, I have not mastered the art of replacing all our sugar with honey...seriously, this list could go on forever. And you know, even if everyone who was in a position to make better food choices (and so many people simply aren't) did so, it wouldn't come close to fixing all the things that are wrong in our food systems anyway. Doesn't mean I should quit doing what I can do though.
Anyway, like I said, that's not what this book is--the authors do not claim to have all the answers. Instead they tell a personal story with charm, humor, and heart.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that they included a recipe with each month. And OMG--how I want to try the one for Maple Walnut Crepes. Sheesh, I'm drooling all over again just thinking about it.
(This was originally intended to be part of my food/gardening themed reading wrap-up, but it seems I got a bit chatty, so I figured I ought to just give it its own post.)