Eating Local in West Michigan

Eating Local in West Michigan
Photo courtesy of Steph Harding Photo

I visited Grand Rapids for exactly one day before deciding to move from upstate New York to West Michigan. When I relocated two months later, I had exactly four familiar faces with me: my boyfriend, my uncle, my cousin, and my cat. On our first Saturday in Grand Rapids, my boyfriend and I visited the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market and, while munching on baked goods and getting our toes run over by strollers, we purchased a couple dozen seedlings. After a long weekend of pruning and digging, we had planted ourselves a nice vegetable garden. It was my first sense of home and familiarity – I recognized the small tomato plants and felt at home crushing the tiny mint leaves in my fingers and inhaling my favorite fragrance.

Photo courtesy of Steph Harding Photo

That summer, our garden grew and flourished, and so did our circle of friends and acquaintances. As my pole beans crept up the twine, my devotion to our new home grew as well. Food that is rooted in our yard, in our county, in our abandoned lots woven between neighborhoods, has a sense of comfort that sustains me. As I plotted my move in the spring of 2011, I had also planned to create a small business. A smattering of ideas eventually pooled to become The Silver Spork Gourmet Food Truck – a restaurant on wheels serving farm-to-table cuisine throughout West Michigan. People constantly ask me why I started a food truck: I don’t have an exact response, but it stems from the same place inside of me where I found motivation to plant a big garden on my first free day in Michigan.

I find purpose in eating locally and knowing where my food comes from. I walk through Gordon Food Service and cringe at the boxes of processed product that passes as food and finds its way to restaurant menus and home kitchens. Conversely, I stroll through the farmers market and feel clarity and peace, smiling at my farmer friends, and coming up with menu ideas. I love to smell peaches, fill my basket with eggs and greens, chat with my neighbors strolling the aisle, and absorb the inspiration of a community engaged with their food source – a community that I’ve become a part of in the past year and a half, mostly through cooking, smiling, and sending good, local food out of my truck window.

Photo courtesy of Steph Harding Photo

My places of comfort and joy are the garden and the kitchen, and the path between the two. Luckily for me, I have a fledgling career serving farm-to-truck food. In my forthcoming musings for The Awesome Mitten, I look forward to sharing my perspective on eating locally in West Michigan. My motivation doesn’t come from a desire to be “on trend”, “green”, or “hip“, but rather my passion originates from a place of necessity: to have  a sense of place and well being, we must connect with what we put in our bodies. In other words (Virginia Woolf’s to be exact), “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” We are dining well in Grand Rapids, and I look forward to telling you all about it over the coming  months.

Molly Clauhs – Contributing Writer

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I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and lived there for 30 years before making my home in Vancouver, BC in 1998. I narrowly escaped careers as an engineer and an accountant and ended up following my interest in computers into the IT industry, where I have worked as an administrator, consultant and analyst for almost 20 years.
  • Lisa

    Love the Silver Spork! i had an amazing Quinoa salad you created when you parked outside of the Van Andel Institute this past spring! Thanks for sharing your lovely concoctions with us, Molly! (on a side note, i do love Gordon’s provolone cheese :) :)

  • Becky

    We enjoyed an excellent meal at the “Pirate, Prophet, Preacher” event last month. Thank you for being such an intentional, passionate part of Grand Rapids’ food scene.

  • Rebecca

    Very exciting to read about your local eating adventures in West Michigan! It has definitely been wonderful to see this niche grow and flourish in Grand Rapids over the last several years.

  • Char

    As one who has helped cook and serve meals from the Silver Spork, I can say with pride that the food is always fresh, delicious, creative, nutritious and worthy of a picture. While the recipes used on the truck are excellent, the local farm ingredients make all the difference in how fantastic the dishes turn out.