Reality TV Meets the Hundred Mile Diet


When James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith first wrote about the 100 Mile Diet in the Tyee in 2005 it was like a bomb going off. Their personal story became a meme, and a big part of the local food movement. It was a personal challenge by two young urbanites who really didn't know what they were doing (including starting at the worst time of the year) and a wonderful story. It became a best-selling book and and now, a reality TV show on Food TV.

But as a philosophy, it is seriously flawed; people have been trading salt and spices for thousands of years, coffee and cocoa for hundreds, because they just make things taste better and make life more pleasant. Even Susanna Moodie had her tea when she was roughing it in the bush. So the idea of forcing their personal journey on to participants in a reality show caused me some trepidation.


I had also never seen a reality show, and did not know what to make of these people, the way everyone talked to the camera, the unreality of this reality. Here were six families in Mission, British Columbia, agreeing to go 100 days eating a 100 mile diet. That didn't seem too hard to me in such a lush, temperate environment so close to the ocean, but when you take coffee and salt away from people, things change.


I watched the first episode and I didn't like it. I didn't like the people, the concept, the idea that this was "reality" and just didn't get it. But most of all, when I saw Jocelyn McIntosh feeding herself a slab of steak while the kid is crying and her husband is at work scarfing down pizza, I thought that she doesn't need a 100 mile diet, she needs a dietitian and a marriage counsellor. I didn't review it.


But it grew on me. You get to know the families, and you get to see that they are actually going through a transformation, a change in the way they eat and the way they look at food. One family that thought Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese was exotic home cooking when this started are now making sophisticated meals from scratch. They are learning where food comes from, the hard way- growing it, catching it, chasing it across farms.


It is all a bit heavy on the meat and eggs, involves a lot of driving about the 100 miles to find food, and it is boiling seawater to make salt is a big waste of fossil fuels. But I began to see that there is even a point in being doctrinaire and rigid about the hundred miles, for you learn the value of what you are missing, but more importantly, what you have.

All but the last episode (it airs this Sunday) are available in Canada online here; ignore the message that says "the selected item is not currently available" and wait ten seconds, it should run. It is worth watching; I hope that an American network picks it up so that you can all see it.

More at Food TV's The Hundred Mile Challenge

More on the Hundred Mile Diet:
Book Review: Plenty, or The Hundred Mile Diet
100-Mile Diet for College Students
The 100 Mile Café: More for the Locavore
Two Years Ago in TreeHugger: The Hundred Mile Diet Discovered

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