Is the 100-mile diet the secret to happiness?

Cover image taken in Bamfield, British Columbia (summer of 2015)

Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet. Toronto: Vintage Canada. p 65 – 266.

Once again I am reminded of how simple, but delicious the food from the 100-mile diet can be. Gooseberry oysters (p 64), braised dandelion greens with morels (p 106), poached salmon with white cream sauce (p 128), pumpkin soup (p 149) and maple walnut crepes (p 192). Should I go on?

The food may be simple, but from personal experience I know the challenge that the 100-mile diet presents certainly is not easy to accomplish. Finding or sourcing local food can be very complex depending on where you live and the time of year. For Kamloops, British Columbia in the winter and early spring, the local produce consists mainly of root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and beets) and a squash. The local stew I chose to make consisted of all these ingredients.

For Alisa and James, this was not only a challenge for their diet and for their resourcefulness, but also for their 14-year relationship. I liked Alisa’s writing much more because she talks about her relationship with James on a more personal level. Alisa shares her growing relationship issues with James and admits that they have “both fell back into the rut” (p 153). Her year with James had become strained and the couple fought often. At one point Alisa even thought they were “on the brink of a breakup” (p 168).

My sympathy for James increased when he went to his mothers house in Kamloops and Alisa “couldn’t seem to decide whether she would miss [him] or not” (p 173). Maybe it’s because he is finally expressing his feelings, but I think I’m finally starting to like James because I can relate to him on many levels. I understand what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know what they want and what effect that can have on your feelings and actions. Furthermore, I too do not have fond memories of my adolescence spent in Kamloops (p 174). This place is a trap and I cannot wait to escape.

My favorite part of their year is when the couple finally manages to find a wheat farmer (p 184). Could you go 7 months without bread? I certainly could not. You can feel their excitement as their challenge turned into a mission to get the flour. Their conversation with each other was comical as they talked about sending in the team (p 189) and with subject lines like “the eagle has landed” (p 190). Mission success, they got the flour. It makes sense that a sourdough bread recipe introduced this chapter.

I was impressed to hear that Alisa “craved 100-mile meals” (p 201) because the food made her feel alive and most important, happy. After this realization, Alisa also realized how happy she was with James. She decided to make him an apology soup of kelp and salmon, very similar to soup I made many times this summer. Oddly enough the soup I made was made and sourced in the same location that Alisa sourced her kelp from, Bamfield British Columbia. This was another part I enjoyed reading because it brought back fond memories of my summer of intertidal research, where I learned about the flora and fauna of the intertidal community, including the kelp. In fact, I lived with 4 kelp and seaweed biologists over my 4 months spent in Bamfield. I also enjoyed reading about their memories in Bamfield at the end of the book (p 256). This beautiful place would be the perfect location to practice the 100-mile diet due to its great diversity of local natural food sources (e.g. salmon, intertidal invertebrates, seaweeds, kelps, berries, etc.). The only thing that may impede the challenge at this location may be the fact that it is located right on the ocean on the West coast of Vancouver Island. Bamfield will always hold a special spot in my heart. The following slideshow of personal pictures only illustrates some of the beautiful wildlife that Bamfield has to offer.

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At the end of their year on the 100-mile diet, I am surprised at how much Alisa and James have learned and how resourceful they have become. They can now make “sauerkraut, pickles, crackers, jelly” (p 215), as well as preserve food in multiple ways (e.g. canning tomatoes, freezing corn, or smoking salmon). Their whole lifestyle has changed to revolve around this diet and by the end of it their “diet no longer felt ‘different’” (p 219) and it became their “new normal” (p 219). After a year of living like this, I would probably feel weird to change back to my old lifestyle.

In my mind, the most important result of their 100-mile diet was how the couple learned to appreciate and be “awestruck by living things” (p 224). Appreciating the living things in the world around us is the only way the increasing human population is going to continue to exist into the distant future. The 100-mile diet may seem impossible at fist glance, but with willingness and perseverance it can be accomplished.

Imagine how much the world would change if everyone lived by the rules of the 100-mile diet (included in the special features at the back of the book). People may just become more interconnected with the world around them.


One thought on “Is the 100-mile diet the secret to happiness?”

  1. Ainslie, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the last half of the 100-Mile Diet. I loved how you introduced the blog with some of the delicious sounding dishes, they definitely sparked my interest!
    I actually had a bit of a different opinion on Alisa’s written chapters in this half of the book – I kind of found her to be a bit whiny and annoying since she kept questioning James and her life with him. However, I liked reading your perspective on their relationship issues, and how you found that it helped you relate more to both of their characters.
    I completely agree with your last point, that at first the diet seems almost impossible (as it is expensive and time-consuming), but with effort and persistence, it can be done. It may be harder in some places than in others, and I think we’re pretty lucky out here on the West coast. Your slideshow of Bamfield was pretty neat as well, it really gave a personal touch to your blog post!


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