I’m the last person to complete the 50km diet, and for good reason. I was by far the most reluctant member of the team to do it. My colleagues have been asking me to give it a go since mid-summer and I’ve only just gotten around to it now.
Maybe I should be ashamed to admit that, but looking at it from my perspective as a consumer I hope there’s a lesson: time.
We live in a fast-paced world where time is of the essence. Food, and I suppose I should speak for myself only, is something that can end up being fitted in around everything else.
To give some context, all my meals are home-cooked, bar eating out on average once a week. My diet is relatively nutritious (I think).
Full disclosure though, I do eat chocolate every day of my life. Being a creature of habit I eat the same food more or less every week, Monday to Friday. Variety comes in on the weekends.
My shop takes no more than 10 minutes, 15 max including checking out, on a Sunday evening. It’s easy when you’re buying the same things week-on-week.
In truth, I was putting off dedicating hours and hours to planning and preparing for this. For me, that’s one of the main takeaways from this: food in my life has become a somewhat functional, tick the box exercise and maybe I should make more time for procuring it. My other main lesson, well, you’ll have to wait until the end for that.
So, here’s where things get a little interesting. I live in Kildare, but I’m from Limerick. I used my home in west Limerick as my base location for this. As fond as I am of the Lilywhites, I’m a long-standing Limerick Abúer and this was always going to go the west way.
Making sure that food producers in Limerick and the surrounding areas were included in this challenge was actually the main (only!) reason I agreed to it in the first place.
Rules, they say, are meant to broken. In this case I just bent them slightly. My actual 50km would include all of Limerick, most of Clare, north Cork, north Kerry and a toucheen of Tipp. I decided even before I started to do Limerick and its surrounding counties in their entirety. The majority of what I ate in the end though was grown or produced within my actual 50km, or thereabouts.
The challenge was supposed to be for a week, mine was done over a long weekend while I was at home. I did consider trekking a load of food back up to Kildare, but decided it was impractical. Convenient, I know.
In general the vast majority of food I buy is Irish, I am conscious of it. I’d want to be says you, and I working for the Irish Farmers Journal! Pasta and rice are my outliers, they’re staple carbs for dinner when cooking for myself.
In the beginning I was at a bit of a loss as to where to start with this. Initially, I could only think of one existing product I use that fit the bill (even my expanded bill), Ardfert Milk from Co Kerry.
They’ve been selling it in the local SuperValu for a few years now. It comes in a 1l glass bottle, it’s non-homogenised and I love it. As much as I do support the Irish dairy sector, I wasn’t sure a liquid diet would suffice.
In step Ma and Da, who probably deserve any and all credit for this attempt at a 50km diet. They pointed out that actually, a lot of the food eaten at home is local.
There’s a market every Friday in the square in Askeaton where we live.
They buy their fruit, veg and spuds there from the Gallagher’s in Ballysteen, the other half of our parish.
This made me feel much better about my prospects. In spite of my ‘exotic’ weekday dinners, I am firmly of meat, spuds and two veg stock. Along with said spuds and two veg, we had fish from the fish man, who also comes to the square, one night for dinner.
The next night we replaced the fish with the Butcher’s Daughter sausages from Cashel, Co Tipperary. I got into these in the summer and actually interviewed Una O’Dwyer, who makes them, a few months back.
For breakfast I had to change things up. I normally eat a bowl of porridge every morning and couldn’t get oats within my counties (as far as I know). I had Guiry’s eggs from Knockaderry, Co Limerick, with Clonakilty Rashers.
For lunch I’d normally have an omelette. With eggs on the go for breakfast already, I had a sandwich made with Kearney’s soda bread from Ballyhahill, again only back the road.
On the chocolate front, I didn’t go without. I got Hazel Mountain Chocolate from Co Clare.
Coffee – and I’ve been a big fan of this with a while – was from the Roast House in Tralee, Co Kerry. Tea (Barry’s FYI) is classed as a religion in my book and no challenge will interfere with that!
To call a spade a spade, there were a few bits in there that were outside of the brief. Gravy and white sauce are two that come to mind.
Overall, I think was a worthwhile exercise. It’s more than fair to say I overcomplicated this to begin with. There are a heap of food producers hyperlocal to where I live that we regularly eat at home already.
This leads me to question are we not giving consumers enough credit for what they do already with regard to eating locally? Has an air of difficulty around eating locally been created through messaging for the average consumer like myself?
Maybe it’s just me, but in my head eating locally was something others did. People who are proper foodies and buy food in shops I don’t frequent. When really it’s not.
To end, I will say if I had gone to the Milk Market in Limerick I would have had a plethora of choice. However, I didn’t get around to it. Again, it comes back to my initial point on time.
In a nutshell, eat food grown or produced within 50km of where you live. There may or may not be a few more stipulations, but I took slight liberties.