Eating locally also lowers the risk of food safety (remember the recent E. coli scares?), encourages biodiversity, and tastes delicious. "Food is the rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure," writes Kingsolver. "Why resist that?"
Why indeed? Such glorious writing gives Animal, Vegetable, Miracle the edge over Plenty. So do the recipes. Compare Kingsolver's asparagus and morel bread pudding to Smith and MacKinnon's foraged fare of poor man's capers (pickled nasturtium seed pods).
Happily, since beginning Plenty, the authors have grown more in tune with the earth. They've learned to shop and cook smarter, discovering local and seasonal delights like fresh walnuts. They've learned to make eating locally more practical and pleasurable. A few nonlocal basics are back in their pantry, including "lemons, and rice, and beer," but two years later they're still on their 100-mile diet. "We just like the new way better." It's downright inspirational.
Will eating locally save the world? I wish it would. At the very least, reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Plenty has me hitting the farmers' market more often and saying no to long-distance produce. Thanks to these books I'm more of a local girl.
Ellen Kanner also contributes to Pages, The Miami Herald, and food magazines, including Bon Appétit and Vegetarian Times. She lives in Miami.