Is it possible to abide by ‘100-mile diet’?

Kathryn Rem

Andra and David Grable give more than lip service to the notion of eating locally. They recently went on the “100-mile diet,” an eating challenge that limits food and drinks to those grown and produced within 100 miles of their Springfield home.

“It was an adjustment,” said Andra, 30, a massage therapist and mother of an almost-2-year-old son, Montgomery. “We were craving apples in June, so we went online and found out they don’t come in until the end of August. We were anticipating them every day until we got them.”

The idea sprung from the books “The 100-Mile Diet” and “Plenty” by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. Several years ago, the Canadian authors spent a year eating locally, both to improve their health and that of the planet.

They found North Americans eat foods that travel an average of 1,500 miles from field to plate (a way of eating they call the “SUV diet”). And they realized the processed food they were eating was full of additives, and the transportation of it produced greenhouse gases and smog.

The two books have sparked a growing trend — fueled by blogs, Web sites (see www.100milediet.org) and Slow Food groups like the one in Springfield — to eat locally. The Grables stuck to the eating plan for three months this summer, and have since changed their way of eating to incorporate more regional and organic products into their diets.

Before they started the challenge, Andra and David, 37, a computer technician for Memorial Medical Center, went online — including www.illinoisfarmdirect.org and www.localharvest.org — to find area producers.

Most important to them was locating a source for goat cheese, since young Montgomery has a dairy intolerance. They found it at James Family Farm in Sherman, which they visited every week to pick up milk and cheese.

Triple S Farm in Stewardson became their primary meat supplier, and The Berry Patch in Buffalo Hart is where they picked raspberries, blackberries and pumpkins.

The Grables made a special trip to an apple orchard near Arthur on the first day of apple season and bought a bushel of Jonathans. The fruit tasted so good, said Andra, the family has since “tasted every kind of apple there is.”

But their primary source of food during the summer was the Old Capitol Farmers Market, which they visited twice a week.

“We bought whatever was in season — peppers, squashes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic,” Andra said.

To avoid unwanted additives, they started making their own foods, including spaghetti sauce, applesauce, apple butter and baby food. The couple bought canning supplies and taught themselves to can food from information they got off the Internet. They canned at night after their son went to bed.

Andra said her palate became more sensitive during the experiment.

“You can tell the difference between good-quality food and food that is overly processed. Look at a package of spaghetti sauce. There’s so much sugar in it. You don’t need it.”

Eating locally doesn’t have to cost more. The Grables simply took their weekly food budget and spent it differently.

They did make some exceptions during the three-month challenge. They didn’t expect their family or friends to eat locally, so when they dined at the homes of others, they ate what was served.

Now that the Illinois growing season is winding down, the couple still buys whatever crops are available at the farmers market. They supplement their diet with organic foods from County Market.

Andra said she feels better when eating a lot of fresh, local foods. Another benefit is the cooking compliments she receives.

“All our friends loved the spaghetti sauce. We made our own bread. We made our own pickles. We made so much of our own stuff. Everyone really enjoyed what we made. They appreciated the fact that it was homemade.”

The Grables are going to plant a big vegetable garden in their back yard next year, and step up their canning a notch.

“This year was fun,” Andra said, “but we’re really looking forward to next summer.”

Roast Chicken With Apples, Turnips and Garlic

From “Apple Cookbook” by Olwen Woodier (Storey Communications, 2001)

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (3-pound) chicken

3 medium apples, cored, peeled (if desired) and cut into eighths (see note)

3 small white turnips, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, peeled

Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the paprika, pepper and salt and rub the chicken inside and out with the mixture.

Lightly oil or spray a roasting pan, add the chicken, breast side up, and arrange the apples, turnips and garlic around sides. Trickle the lemon juice over the apples and turnips.

Roast the chicken until it is golden brown all over, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Baste with pan juices 2 or 3 times during the roasting.

When chicken is done, remove it to a serving platter and spoon the apples, turnips and garlic into a food processor. Skim the fat from the pan and pour the remaining juice over the vegetables. Process to a puree consistency and serve separately with the chicken.

Note: Jonathan, Jonagold, Braeburn or another crunchy apple is recommended.

Makes 6 servings.

State Journal-Register

Kathryn Rem can be reached at kathryn.rem@sj-r.com.