I’ve volunteered to take part in a ‘The 100 Mile Diet’ experiment for a month. Everything that I eat must consist of ingredients sourced from within a 100 mile radius of my Auckland home. I note that ironically the first day of this quest is ‘April Fool’s Day’.
A tiny but productive vegetable plot at a community garden is my veggie garden and I grow microgreens and herbs on my second floor apartment balcony. Other fruit, veggies and eggs come from a farmers market which has a rule of only selling produce from within a 200 km radius. That makes a distance discrepancy of a few kms...I’m not worried about that. I don’t buy much other produce from the farmers market, although they have one type of cheese, mussels, pork, bread and honey. These products are good but high priced ... they don’t fit my budget.
I’ve borrowed the book ‘The 100- Mile Diet, A year of local eating’ by Canadian authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon from the library and see that Anthony Bourdain endorses this book with ‘I think they’re nuts.’ I’m up to page 188 and the authors are finding the challenge tough to say the least. Uh, oh, what have I let myself in for?
I’m allowed five exemptions and after much thought I choose tea, flour, yeast, yoghurt and wine. I also invoke the ‘social exemption’ clause so that I don’t subject prospective hosts to this madness. Salt and pepper are thrown in as a bonus.
It’s dawning on me that this is not as simple as I first thought. Did I think I was previously living sustainably? Now the prospect of packing away my spices, soy sauce, mirrin, palm sugar, chilli sauce, fish sauce, anchovies, and rose water is daunting. No pulses either ... I’ll miss cous cous, quinoa, noodles and rice. Is it spuds for a month?
I feel smug that I’ve been growing turmeric, ginger, galangal, and myoga ginger in my allotment - that may add some fresh spice to my life, when I decide what to do with them. I’ll do something with my fresh horseradish too to add some flavour to dishes. I have a lone pineapple plant too, but it shows no sign of fruit. I’m not keen about the prospect of veggie ‘baby food’ and eggs for a whole month. I’ve got two days to sort myself out.
A jar of olives I pickled a couple of years ago languishes in my fridge. They were not great but now take on a new and improved aura. A friend gave me three litres of gorgeous Spanish Olive oil; it’s been pushed to the back of the pantry. Buying costly, albeit good, kiwi olive oil for cooking seems extravagant. Butter maybe, and blow the cholesterol? But where do the butter ingredients come from?
I keep the seeds from a pumpkin and set them out to dry (I think the pumpkin seeds I buy are imported) but they look like big tough inedible pellets. How does one get the little seed out of each tough coat? I will make my own bread; I’ve found a recipe that includes pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I have given up muesli as I believe the grains and dried fruit are all imported. I eat very little sugar and will buy local honey for the two teaspoons in my bread mixture.
In the supermarket I read more labels than I ever have before but they seem vague. Like milk that says ‘Fonterra brands, Takanini Auckland’ but doesn’t mention where the cows grazed; or a chicken marked ‘marketed by Pams products Mt Roskill Auckland’ but I wonder where the chicken resided. And on the chicken bag ‘Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients’ – maybe they’re talking about the plastic bag? This is getting complicated. I ask the supermarket meat counter assistant. He looks at me as if I’m speaking Swahili.
Driving to Northland I pass a crude roadside sign saying ‘Home Butcher’. I visualise gruesome entrails hanging in a garage and motor on. In the supermarket packaged meat says nothing about the birthright of the meat. A food co-op that interests me says ‘pretty much all our dry goods etc. are from far away’... I may lose weight...
Watch this space !