Big Question Marks

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Goodbye, pad thai?

Last night we caught an amazing show on TV that really started us thinking. "The 100 Mile Challenge" follows six families living in B.C. who agree to eat only foods grown within a 100-mile radius of their homes for 100 days. Sound simple? Not exactly. The idea comes from a book written by James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith called The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, in which the authors began thinking about what was actually on their plates, and decided to see if they could survive (happily) solely on locally-cultivated food. The authors were successful in their mission, and many others who've followed in their footsteps have been as well, and so we began wondering if we could do so ourselves. Surely we must already eat many foods grown in Ontario, right?

Wrong.

After a look in the fridge, we found asparagus from Mexico, strawberries from California, and even our eggs were American. We started to think about our daily staples — rice would be out, our regular cereals, and more than likely our bread. (One of the biggest issues the families on the show had was sourcing wheat grown in their area — imagine craving BREAD!) A few of the other foods the families in the challenge would have to give up grudgingly included coffee, tea, sweets, and beer — in fact, one woman decided to drive around her locale searching for chicory root, which she'd heard was something of a substitute for coffee when roasted and steeped. What could we actually eat if we were to take on the challenge? We started doing a little research of our own.

A 100-mile radius around Toronto luckily takes in the bountiful Niagara region (hooray fruits and wine!) and from driving around Ontario, we do know there's plenty of farmland. Still, we definitely have a lot to learn when it comes to our local produce. In Toronto there are a number of weekly farmers' markets held in parks around the city, including nearby Trinity Bellwoods, Dufferin Grove, and Riverdale — so we might not starve entirely. But if we were to do it, would we run into the same troubles as the families on the TV show with sourcing wheat? Sadly, it would also be goodbye to pad thai, dumplings, mangoes, and all of the Asian staples we've so grown to love since travelling. And sourcing local food also seems to necessitate having a backyard garden, a car, and a lot of time (a few things we don't have).

Still, we applaud the people who are taking the 100 Mile Challenge, and will continue to mull over the idea with the hopes that one day we'll do it ourselves. We all should be supporting our local producers and reducing our carbon footprint by NOT importing our food thousands of kilometres if we can help it. At the very least, we'll try to buy more local food — and we can tell you from experience that the Niagara cherries we bought at the Cambridge farmers' market were far better than the ones purchased at the grocery store, just as one example. Take a look in your fridge and tell us what you find! Just a little... err... food for thought.

A few other resources:
Eat-local.ca : A Canadian site that eases the search for local food.
The 100 Mile Challenge : The 100 Mile Challenge TV show site.
The 100-Mile Diet: Authors Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon's site.
Localeating.ca : An online community helping Canadians eat locally.

2 comments:

Laura said...

Hooray for being Locavores!
We are not complete locavores. But we do try as much as possible to source all our fresh ingredients from our local area. Our produce and meat comes from the awesome Farmer's Market of farms in our county.
I would think you could manage a pseudo-pad thai. Perhaps your spices would not be locally sourced, but you could make your own noodles easily enough ( alittle elbow grease and time) and substitute the bak choi etc with local veg.
I have really enoyed the gradual changes we have made over the past year to grow more of our own veg/herbs, source in our county and reduce food wastage. We have found that there is so much we can make ourselves with little inconvenience and at much lower cost, and usually with better tasting results! Yum!!

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