LJWorld.com weblogs Eco-challenge

Travel leads to vacation from 100-mile diet


I started out with such good intentions. This past weekend, I flew back home to a cousin's wedding in Pennsylvania. For some followers of the 100-mile diet, traveling can be a free pass to eating beyond the confines of food hunted and gathered within a two-hour drive. However, I wasn't going to let a little trip home stand in the way of this challenge. Approaching the four-day, mini-vacation, I didn't think eating locally was going to be all that difficult. My family comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners. My father raises beef cows, my uncle has pigs, our cousins down the road have a dairy farm, my mother tends to a garden and we are surrounded by Amish who grow bushels of cantaloupes and peaches. So, I boarded the plane Friday morning with one Tupperware container of kale that the night before was sauteed in onions and garlic. In another I had fried potatoes mixed with tomatoes so fresh the flavor exploded in your mouth.I was going to Pennsylvania prepared. The first hint that things might not go as smoothly as expected came on the drive home from the airport. My youngest sister had flown in as well. As we were nearing a country roadside store, she reverted to her inner child and started begging my mom to stop for ice cream."Remember, I won't be able to eat it," I protested from the back seat."It's not my fault you're on that diet," she retorted.Clearly, not everyone in my family was going to be supportive. Luckily, the store's ice cream came from a dairy that according to my mom's calculations, was well within a 100 miles. I reasoned it would only be half cheating. So, I indulged.Little did I know that the ice cream would turn out to be the gateway food to much greater straying.I arrived to a tin full of mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies, hoagies from the family's favorite pizza shop and a box of Hartley's Potato Chips. This was the trifecta of culinary homecoming delights. Foods that I only get to devour once or twice a year.Under the most lenient standards, these foods could be considered "local" (the chips were from a company 20 miles away, the pizza shop chain populated just Central Pennsylvania and mom's cookies technically were baked in the very spot that I would be eating them). However, under the strict guidelines I had been following for the past two weeks, these foods were as far away from local as I was from Kansas. I wish I could tell you that I took one look at the tin full of chocolate chip cookies whirled around and headed straight for the garden to pick my supper.On the contrary my willpower took a nose dive. I had all those forbidden foods and more. There were jellybeans, chips and salsa, wedding cake, coffee and stromboli.It turns out, the 100-mile diet is much easier to achieve when you live by yourself, isolated by the temptations of others and fortified by produce bought at the weekly farmers' market.When thrown into a pack of 11, on a tight timetable and at the mercy of others' grocery shopping (much of it done in big-box-buy-it-in-bulk stores), the idealism of the 100-mile diet slowly loses its charm. That being said, there were meals - a good many in fact - where the producers of much of the food were sitting at the table.We had sweet corn picked hours before from my uncle's fields, red-skinned potatoes dug up from my parents' garden, applesauce made from trees that stood for years in their yard and hamburgers from steers that had once grazed on grass 200 yards away.One morning, when I was undertaking efforts to redeem myself from the previous night's dalliances, I cooked three eggs that my dad scrounged up from our Amish neighbors. I threw in a tomato and pepper pulled from the garden.And, on my final night home - with an impromptu gathering of relatives that had us pulling up one chair after another to the kitchen table - we had homemade, hand-churned ice cream. It topped a cobbler made with peaches bought from an orchard not 10 miles away. These were how peaches are supposed to taste. No offense to the lovely species I've found in Oregon, Colorado and even Kansas. But, these were the peaches - melding together sweet and nutty into one juicy bite - of my childhood.So, I left Pennsylvania slightly defeated, but also wiser about the limitations a 100-mile diet poses in even the most rural of locales. When I arrived home Tuesday morning, I threw out my Starbucks cup of coffee, pulled out a loaf of locally made bread, sliced some Alma cheddar cheese and diced a tomato that was still good from last Thursday.No more cheating, I assured myself.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.