Shelf Life: Rachael Mason
During the week I tried to eat only locally grown and produced foods for a story the paper's lifestyle staff was working on, I didn't do a lot of reading. Instead, I spent a lot of my leisure time shopping for food and preparing my meals. At times, I was even using all four burners of my stovetop at once, which doesn't happen too often.
When I took a break from all those pots and pans, I did find a few minutes to read "Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally" by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (Harmony Books, $24.95). The authors created the "100-Mile Diet" and their book documents their efforts to eat foods that come from within a 100-mile-radius of their home in Vancouver, Canada.
"Plenty" opens with a description of a delicious - and local - meal that inspired the authors to began their eating experiment. But as they discover, eating local can be quite challenging. They end up dedicating a significant amount of time to finding food and preparing and preserving it.
In the book, which is divided into chapters depicting the months of the year, each author was responsible for every other chapter. Their voices are dramatically different. MacKinnon is more reserved and more likely to include detailed scientific or historic background in his chapters. Smith takes a lighter approach and her stories are often more intimate. I liked the dual techniques, but would have preferred a more consistent point of view and presentation.
Sometimes, it seemed like the two authors had written two separate books that just ended up being mashed together as one after they were done. The constant change in perspective kept me from becoming fully immersed in "Plenty."
Though the book is a memoir, the story didn't include quite as many personal details as I had expected. The authors live together, but don't mention much about their relationship in this book, except to say they ended up having some problems near the end of their year. But the two never say exactly what the troubles were or how they resolved them.
What they do focus on is food, which is fascinating. During my own week-long 100-Mile Diet, I often had to put the book down, because I couldn't handle reading about the variety of provisions the couple had been enjoying.
If, like me, you're interested in learning more about eating local, "Plenty" is definitely worth reading. Just be sure to have something to eat before you pick up the book.
If you'd like to recommend a book or writer, e-mail Rachael Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.