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Home is where the hearty food is Add to ...

It took a recipe of Olympian proportions to feed the spectators who had come out to see the torch relay pass through 100 Mile House.

Thirty-five kilograms of lean ground beef, five kilos of rice, 25 kilos of potatoes, 50 bunches of celery, 500 carrots, 10 kilos of cubed turnips and 20 cabbages went into two soups, served out of compost-able bowls to upwards of 1,500 people yesterday.

Hearty flavour aside, the 100 Mile Harvest and 100 Mile Hamburger soups were remarkable by virtue of their locally sourced ingredients: With the exception of the canned tomatoes, stock, spices and olive oil, everything could be traced to nearby farms.

"It's really important to stay local and shop locally," says Janet Brown who, along with Pam Parma and Evelyn Coghill, was responsible for the celebration's standout snack.

It may only be a coincidence that 100 Mile House shares its name with The 100-Mile Diet, the popular book from 2007 by Vancouverites J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith. But in this sparsely populated part of British Columbia, where fast-food drive-thrus and big-box supermarkets intrude on the landscape with their neon-signed ubiquity, 100 Mile House is home to a small community of locally minded food providers and enthusiasts.

"There's a neat history of that here," says Heidi Read, owner of the town's health-food store, Higher Ground Natural Foods.

Ms. Read is also the chair of 100 Mile House's torch relay celebration committee.

100 Mile House dates back to the 1930s when William Martin Alleyne Cecil, British aristocrat turned Canadian pioneer, arrived in the Cariboo region of British Columbia to settle the land. The town's name refers to its distance from Lillooet and the start of the Cariboo gold-rush trail.

For many decades, 100 Mile House was the Canadian headquarters for Emissaries of Divine Light, a spiritual organization to which Mr. Cecil belonged. "They very much believed in feeding the body whole foods and they grew all their own food," Ms. Read explains.

Although the Emissaries' presence waned considerably after Mr. Cecil's death in 1988, a group of farmers from Williams Lake has helped preserve the back-to-the-land spirit. The Community Enhancement and Economic Development Society grows cattle, sheep and market vegetables 25 km outside of 100 Mile House. In conjunction with the Land Conservancy, members own shares in a co-op that has allowed them to buy land that they have rented for more than 20 years. Currently, they have sold 50 shares at $500 each.

"The purpose is to preserve it for agricultural land and habitat only," says member and farm manager Rod Hennecker.

Currently, the society is wintering beef and providing kale and Cariboo potatoes, the notorious pink-eyed variety that was decertified by the government because its long vines tend to get caught in farm equipment.

One shareholder is Trisha Chung, who runs the Community Kitchen, a cooking program every Wednesday at the Lodge, the gathering space formerly owned by the Emissaries that features a restaurant-sized kitchen. Townspeople can learn how to can and pickle vegetables and cook for their families. "There's a lot of activity happening these days," she says.

Eating locally in the winter has its challenges. "I think the issue in 100 Mile House is the same almost anywhere in Canada," says Mr. MacKinnon from Vancouver. "If you decided mid-winter you wanted to eat locally, then you'd be struggling a bit."

He points out, however, that local fish and seafood are at their best in the winter - the oil content is particularly high - and the root crops are in abundance. People passionate about sauerkraut and pickles would be happy as clams. "It's not all the suffering that people imagine," Mr. MacKinnon says.

Mr. Hennecker and his fellow society members will be holding tomorrow a local version of the Poverty Olympics, a provincewide alternative event that sheds light on homelessness in the community. "We're a small town [so]opinions on the Olympics are a bit split," he says. "Some think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread and others don't."

Back at the Lodge, volunteers Courtney Pattison and Darryl Recollet are hauling five-gallon drums of 100 Mile Soup to the town's arena to feed the thousands attending the relay.

Ms. Brown and the other two cooks show no signs of exhaustion, even after three days of prep. Ms. Brown says they could have benefited from more help slicing and dicing but not when it came to making the soup.

"As they say, too many cooks spoil the broth."



DAYS 91, 92 & 93


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