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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 10:57 GMT
Living on the Fife Diet
Should food come in one of these?

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

Food miles have become a burning issue in the climate debate as campaigners call for people to eat more local food. What happened when a family tried to survive on food only from Fife?

Whether it's avocados from Peru, green beans from Kenya or lamb from New Zealand, people are constantly being told that their dietary choices have an impact on carbon emissions.

In the US, the term "locavore" has been applied to people that eat locally-sourced food.

And in response to this, green activists in Canada conceived the "100-mile diet", with volunteers trying only to eat food from within a hundred-mile radius of their home.

But another group of volunteers in Fife have adopted and adapted the idea. They've created the Fife Diet and are trying to live on a diet of food that is largely from within the area, shunning air-freight goods.

Local alternatives to air-freighted vegetables are plentiful

Writer Mike Small is co-ordinator of the volunteers and he and his wife Karen and children Sorley and Alex have now been on the diet for two months.

"Its incredible we've come to the situation where people find it inconceivable to eat food from near where you live," Small argues.

"Our food system is failing us all and is unsustainable. In a few years local will be as mainstream as organic and it will be thought ridiculous to purchase air-freighted goods that you could get from Scotland or your own region."

Here is a week in the life of the Fife Diet, as well as the likely menu for Christmas lunch.



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"Minestrone del Leven" [Leven is on the Fife coast] with curly kale, parsley, carrots, onions, and chilli

"All our vegetables come from an organic farm in north Fife," says Small.

Homemade rolls and bacon (from Auchtertool, west Fife)

"Our flour is from a mill in Kirkcaldy and we make our own bread.

"We probably eat less meat than before and little or no 'snacks' or processed food like biscuits, and we're definitely getting our five portions of fruit and veg."


Homemade bread toast with Fife butter and raspberry jam (from a firm in Newburgh)

Leek and potato soup

"As a family of four we'd previously have shopped at, say, Lidl and Sainsbury's. We haven't been to a supermarket in a month and have cut our costs by a few pounds per week. It's a myth that eating locally needs to be expensive."

Stuffed cabbage and pork chops (again from Auchtertool)


Scrambled eggs and toast (with eggs from Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife)

Potatoes are winter fare

Parsnip soup

"The most difficult thing has been preparation time when cooking from raw ingredients. The most rewarding has been meeting people, and discovering what's available from your region."

Omelette and chips


Toast and bacon

Carrot soup

Venison stew (from Auchtermuchty)

"We used to eat more of a Mediterranean diet. We ate lots of pasta and aubergine and salad. People now are used to opening up a packet of salad. We as a family have moved away from that," says Small.

"Now we often eat stews and casseroles, something that feels appropriate as its bloody freezing up here. Yesterday it was minus five. Would you want to be eating a salad?"



Stovies (Scottish potato-based cooked-up leftovers dish) with baby swede, onions, yellow carrots and Fife butter, all from Bellfield near Newburgh

Colcannon - consisting of mash potato, kale, butter, and a little pepper and salt - and sausages from Auchtermuchty

Salt and pepper are examples of things that are difficult to source in Fife.

"It is not possible to entirely self-sufficient, it is not even desirable. We are not advocating complete self-sufficiency or independence, that would never be a true state of affairs. People have always traded," says Small.


Scrambled eggs on toast

Shepherds Pie

Organic Beef Stew (from a farm in Abernethy)

Bramble Crumble

"Although fresh fruit is limited in this season, you can still get pears and apples which store well, and frozen summer fruits: raspberries, strawberries and brambles are available," says Small.


Borscht - Beetroot soup with a circle of yoghurt, served with Aberdour oatcakes

Map of Fife
The bird:
Roast Bronze organic turkeys (from Falkland, near Cupar) with roasted seasonal vegetables - parsnip, potatoes, carrots

The pudding: White chocolate ripple ice cream with Fife raspberries (from Dairsie)

Bouvrage (Alloa, Clackmannanshire) raspberry drink made from Fife raspberries and Christmas ale from Fife

Of course, the range of alcoholic drinks would be limited if the Fife Diet was taken to extremes.

"As far as wine goes, we get fruit wines from Perthshire, some of them aren't that good and some of them are OK. But there is Cameron Brig single-grain whisky distilled in Fife."

It's fine to have the odd bit of chocolate or wine or spice from outside Fife. Those on the diet are not extremists but are experimenting for the future, Small says.

"Some people are shocked by this experiment but it's nothing special."

Here is a selection of your comments.

I'm a Fifer now living in India. I'm very impressed with the Fife diet. It's a marvellous step in the right direction towards responsible citizens taking action to reduce carbon emissions. It is no doubt a lot more work than the convenience of supermarket shopping. Perhaps supermarket chains should be persuaded of the benefits to all of a locavore diet. Great job!
Liz Lewis, New Delhi, India

I think their diet sounds DELICIOUS! Can I come for Christmas lunch please? That way I might get a white Christmas too!
Rebecca, London

Laudable, but maybe a little misguided. If this became a worldwide phenomenon, then what would happen to the economy of Scotland? No exports of Whisky or seafood would rather dampen people's enthusiasm I suspect! I think it's about being sensible. Sure, shun air-freighted fresh foods, but remember that trade helps give people in developing and developed countries a better life.
Richard Luscombe, Bath

Xmas lunch without decent champagne and wine?
Ash, Tunbridge Wells

I commend these people for what they're doing. It sounds like a commendable New Year's Resolution to me! Of course, if everyone were to do this, it may not mean a loss of jobs at the larger factories but certainly a redistribution of labour. This in turn may lead to less efficient production techniques being used. However, I do agree with the people in the article that this is most definitely the way forward.
Benjamin West, Whitehaven, UK

Sounds marvellous! Simple, hearty and healthy fare; both for the consumers and the planet. I shall be trying a more diluted version of my own in the new year. Thanks for inspiring me.
Anne-Marie, Dorchester, Dorset

It's silly. Britain has not been self-sufficient in food for years. Not even during WWII. With the additional population now, it is hard to see this as a serious idea. What is more important is that food is produced efficiently. This is just like windmill power -- which only looks sensible when the power is bought at subsidised prices.
Simon, Brighton

Food miles are trendy but largely irrelevant. The energy required to make fertilisers often makes locally produced food far less climate-friendly than food shipped from places where they use less fertiliser. Organic is the way forward.
John, Lancaster

Didn't we read just a few months ago that most of the energy consumed in boiling potatoes was in the boiling not the transportation. Looking at the Fife diet, it looks like a lot of boiling to me - swede and kale etc. While I applaud the effort we should keep our eye on what the real goal here is and not end up using more energy when we think we are saving it.
Alexa, Boston USA

As expat Fifers,my wife and I make the effort to adhere to the 100 mile radius diet and but as much local produce as possible. I tis much easier in southern Ontario with awider variety available year round. My only real deviation is single malt, from the auld country and we do eat salad and minus five would be toasty. Try here in Jan/Feb when it gets to minus 40.
A Hutton, Markham Ontario, Canada

No mention of where their chili came from in their soup! I think it's an interesting idea, and in more outlying areas it's probably a smart idea. But there are unfortunately some places where all we'd eat would be dandelions. At least I have the factory where they make Cadburys Creme Eggs nearby...
Jennifer, Chicago, ex-UK

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