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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.
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.
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