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Nov 14, 2006 06:32 PM

Strictly local cooking

I'm very interested in the 100 Mile Diet, in which you cook and eat only food grown within 100 miles of where you live.

Has anybody tried this? I'd love to hear either your specific experiences or general thoughts about the possiblities of your region. What is it like to follow this diet in various parts of the world? Where do you live, and what ingredients can and can't you get? Sugar? Oil? Fish?

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  1. I also have an interest in this, but unfortunately am quite lazy.
    I do know that usually there are allowances for sugar and spices.
    There is always maple syrup or honey if you live in New England.
    Check out for more info on your locale.
    I pretty much eat local in the summertime, but Boston is a bit chilly for winter gardens. I do love this whole burgeoning concept though. Well, the new old concept, I suppose.
    Let us know how well you do, and check out 100 mile blogs.

    1. Where are you located?

      I'm in SF, CA and there are many CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)options in the Bay Area. We get a box of organic fruits and vegitables (and eggs)each week from a local farm less than 100 miles out of the city. It's dropped off at pickup points in the city by a biodeisel van.

      What I like about it is that I am paying the farmer direct, no middle man. The food is picked from the ground a day or two before it gets to me.

      There is a bit of a learning curve in eating seasonally. You do have to be a more dedicated cook, doing menu planning and such. Our CSA sends an email out, so you know what you are getting in your box. There is also a Yahoo group to swap recipes.

      Here is a link to find CSA resources in the USA.

      1. Fascinating topic! I've thought about this alot. For my part, in Mpls/St.P in Minnesota, we are limited by seasonality somewhat. During the growing season, we buy almost all of our produce from our farmer's market, some of which I preserve. Our red meat is from wild venison (okay - 150 miles distant) that is local, our milk, eggs and poultry are all within that radius. What trips us up is, well, winter, when we depend more on the co-ops and supermarkets for produce and fruits, typically shipped from elsewhere.

        Oils, spices, sugar (although we get great local honey),ethnic foods, citrus fruits - these are all things for which we need to go further afield (in terms of where they were produced).

        I'm curious to see responses, both from a modern day eating perspective, and from an historical (i.e how people ate within a small radius and still avoided nutritional imbalances).

        2 Replies
        1. re: cayjohan

          I don't know cay...with a short primer on canning techniques, we'd have it pretty darned good here in MSP on that diet. I can't think of many food groups you can't satisfy here besides saltwater fish and citrus fruit. Doesn't seem like much of a challenge. I'd hate to try this in SE Montana though.

          p.s. -- regarding venison, I could have clocked a nice 6-point buck with my car yesterday at high noon in Burnsville (<15 miles from the heart of Minneapolis) if I wanted to. It was just meandering around in the road in front of me before I shooed it off. Thankfully the in-laws took a few deer last week and I won't need any more meat.

          1. re: MSPD

            Okay, yes - canning is a good thing. Still, my winters growing up were filled with canned green beans, frozen peas, canned (yak!) carrots - and despite the fact that they were from our garden, they were still not "fresh." I think there is something to be said for fresh greens, and we are somewhat lacking for that in the colder climes of the US, unless we have a greenhouse grower at our disposal. So, so many of the fresh herbaceous plants that are so nutritional would be out of our reach, off-season.

            And come to think of it, vitamin C is something that we can get from cranberries - also local - and frozen for use. So much for citrus!

            Thanks for not hitting the deer. They're much better properly hunted.

        2. No chocolate? No vanilla for baking? No coffee? Imposible! Other than that it seems like a worthy goal. I might be willing to forgo the imported bell peppers, mangos and such.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Glencora

            I could live without chocolate, vanilla and coffee. I'd be unhappy without Basque cheese. But no salt? Now that's truly impossible.

            To the OP: very few people are strict about the eat local diet. Personally, I only eat produce that is local and seasonal and I try to eat locally raised meat whenever possible. I think you'll find that a reasonable compromise is much easier as a long term dietary restriction. Most locavores will make occasional exceptions for products that cannot be obtained locally, and are produced in an ethical and sustainable manner.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Morton, you make a great point about salt. Unless we live on or near the ocean or a salt deposit, salt is an import, and has always been a trade commodity. How can this be integrated into a 100-mile-diet? I don't know.
              Posters? How would, say, a Great Plains Native American tribe get salt into their diets without long-distance trade? Are there vegetable sources? Or blood from animals, used in cooking, since blood has a certain salinity?

              1. re: cayjohan

                There are natural salt licks all across the country, and that is where NA and pioneer folks got their salt. Animals find them, hunters follow the animals. Pioneers scooped up the salty soil, dissolved it in water, poured the salty water into big kettles, then boiled the water down.

                I bet if you did a google for "salt lick" and "salt creek" you could find them in every state.

          2. I personally think it's a bogus fad that will end up discouraging people from buying local because it's made the concept very rigid, which tends to undermine the goal.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              Ya know the first time I read about the 100 mile diet I thought how ridiculous! But in thinking a bit more about it, it's about moderation. You do what you can do to eat locally.

              At this point I am eating about 80% locally, including oil. sugar and salt. But that's living in the SF Bay Area for you....

              To your point, Karl, 80% is a whole lot better than the roughly 20% I was doing.

              Now, if someone can find a local source of bananas I'd eat them again. Oh those lucky folks in Hawaii....

              1. re: Karl S

                I know some people who are very involved in the Eat Local movement, and while the '100-mile diet' is sort of the advertised concept, none of them are nearly that rigid. It's not like 'ZOMG, that's from 112 miles away, I can't eat it!'

                A lot of them try for one fully local meal a week - but even 'fully local' tends to exclude stuff like salt and pepper. And most of them encourage you to find a definition of 'local' that works for you. It might be 100 miles, or 250 miles, or in your state, or from the general region of the country you live in, etc. The main goal is to recognize that organic bananas from Chile are not environmentally sounder than conventionally farmed apples from the next county over.

                1. re: Jacquilynne

                  I agree Jacquilynne. It's not a rigid thing at all. You do what you can, and it makes you think about where your food comes from. The goal is to get you to think and hopefully act in some way to move towards a more local diet. I think it can bring about alot of creativity.

                  1. re: uman

                    It comes across, unfortunately, as another bit of food religiosity, which tends to be self-subverting.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Some see it as a way to preserve small farms, save on fossil fuels, and enjoy fabulously fresh food.

                      1. re: uman

                        "Try to buy local when you can and the option is good" is a lot simpler and not suggestive of food rigorism. I would be happy with that. And I think it is a more functional message than the one presented.

                2. re: Karl S

                  Exactly... the second it goes from being the "Best" way to the "Only" way all joy is sucked out... :P