Authors of ‘Plenty’ visiting Edwards Thursday
Edwards CO, Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado ” As an avid cook, I unabashedly spend the several weeks before Thanksgiving, the holiday at which I unleash a year’s worth of gluttony, poring over recipes. While I rarely pause to think where the foodstuffs for the feast come from prior to arriving on my plate, J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, the authors of “Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet,” spent a year without this luxury of ignorance. Instead, the couple undertook the task of eating exclusively what was grown in a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment.
Chosen by the Eagle Valley Library District as the discussion book for this fall’s Valley Reads program, “Plenty” begins with an idealized meal and the staggering fact that on average, food eaten by North Americans travels roughly 1,500 miles from the farm to our grocery stores. What follows are MacKinnon and Smith’s tribulations as they adjust and settle into a year without salt, mangoes, beer and beans, among many other items that are staples of the globalized North American diet.
At first, MacKinnon and Smith seem to be surprising candidates for this project; neither of them grew up in families with a background in farming. Quite the opposite, both are writers by profession; MacKinnon is the author of the award-winning “Dead Man in Paradise” and Smith is a freelance journalist. Instead, they became interested in eating locally purely by chance. While at their summer cabin in Doreen, a town primarily reachable by freight train and without a grocery store, the couple had to figure out how to feed unexpected guests from their near-empty larder. Instead of despairing their lack of Kraft Easy Mac, MacKinnon and Smith looked to their surroundings to plan a menu and were surprised ” and seduced ” by the plethora of options available right outside their doorstep.
Their feast of trout, foraged mushrooms, dandelion leaves, apples, sour cherries and rosehips left such a mark that they returned home to their urban oasis determined to incorporate the concept of eating locally into their daily lives. Their journey began on the first day of spring, Smith saying because “it was symbolic ” the beginning of the growing season and all that. But we hadn’t really thought through the logistics.”
Although their quest to eat locally began as “a private experience,” they cataloged their trials in a blog for The Tyee, a Canadian publication. As a result of their blog, MacKinnon and Smith found themselves at the center of attention of the international local food scene. From there, it was not long before publishers were interested and “Plenty” was in the works.
The memoir is a collaborative effort, its chapters alternating between MacKinnon and Smith’s narrative voices and broken up with simple recipes for aspiring locavores.
Yet the book is not 200 pages of the couple rhapsodizing over each meal, but rather, a look at how eating locally impacts how they interact both with each other and their environment. At times, it is amusing, like after the couple secures much-sought-after wheat, just to discover rodents had gotten into the supply and that wheat grains were not the sole pellet-like objects in the bag. In other chapters, the narrative is quietly tumultuous as MacKinnon and Smith seem on the verge of a break-up. Despite these tangents, the overarching message of their experience is clear: “the diet itself was a really deeply satisfying process in the end … We were profoundly transformed by this experience.”
The idea of eating locally is certainly not a new one, and has been detailed in a variety of other works in the “foodie-lit” genre, such as Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” a novel that follows the author and her family as they move from Tucson, Ariz. to Appalachia and learn how to farm. However, “Plenty” differs in that it shows how even those living where concrete is more plentiful than farmland can reconnect with a food system, MacKinnon concluding: “We really felt immersed in a sense of place in Vancouver that we never had before.” In addition, although the authors took the practice of eating locally to an extreme, both are quick to point out that it can be carried out in a spectrum of ways, even “as simple as switching from a glass of Florida orange juice to [local] apple juice.”
While the book may not persuade one to forgo starfruit and sushi entirely, it asks readers to take steps towards being aware of how the way in which we fuel our bodies is responsible for changing the landscape in which we live.
E-mail comments are questions about this story to email@example.com.
Who: J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, authors of “Plenty”
What: The authors will discuss their book, which was chosen as the Valley Read selection
When: Thursday, 6 p.m.
Where: Vail Christian High School, Edwards
Cost: $10, $5 for students; available at The Bookworm of Edwards and the libraries in Vail, Avon and Eagle
More information: Call 970-926-READ or visit any of the ticket locations
– What grows here? Beets, kale, chard, collards, spinach, squash, pumpkins, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, dill, parsley, eggplant, pears, apples, endive, broccoli, beans, shallots, peaches, fennel
– Where to buy local?
Use Colorado Proud to locate local producers. Better for you. Better for Colorado. Look for the Colorado Proud logo at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, garden centers and restaurants. By buying locally grown, raised and processed food and agricultural products, you are receiving high quality fresh products and helping Colorado’s economy, local farmers, ranchers, greenhouses, manufacturers and processors in your area.
– Farms in the area
” Big B’s Fabulous Juices (Hotchkiss, CO)
” First Fruits Organic Farms, Inc. (Paonia, CO)
” Fresh and Wyld, (Paonia, CO)
” Grant Family Farms (Wellington, CO)
” Orchard Valley Farms (Paonia, CO)
” Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch (Longmont, CO)
” Small Potatoes Organic Farm (Paonia, CO)
– Food delivery services
– Door to Door Organics delivers organic fruits and vegetables to all of Colorado. Prices range from $22 to $55 per box. Visit. http://colorado.doortodoororganics.com.
Want to Read More?
– “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver
– “In Defense of Food,” “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “The Botany of Desire: a Plant’s-Eye View of the World,” all by Michael Pollan
– “Slow Food Nation,” by Carlos Petrini