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Newly-released book by local author highlights Grand Rapids food justice issues

Newly-released Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution by Lisa Rose Starner covers much more than foodie interests.
The author, Lisa Rose Starner, in her home with just a few of her books on food and plants in the background

The author, Lisa Rose Starner, in her home with just a few of her books on food and plants in the background /Jonathan Timothy Stoner

Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution

By Lisa Rose Starner. American Palate, $19.99 (108 p) ISBN 978-1-60949-731-6. Available in local bookstoresAmazon and from The History Press.

When I received a copy of Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution by Lisa Rose Starner (American Palate, 2013), I wasn’t sure what to expect. The topic of food in West Michigan is near and dear to my heart.

Would it go beyond the obvious success stories of Founders and Trillium Haven? Would it be of interest to the community outside of the foodie elite? Would it address the justice issues with which we struggle in our community, or would it be just an expanded culinary tourism brochure? Would its flavor be that of the warm, human interest-focused (now defunct) Food for Thought or more like the hipster-inspired Flavor 616?

The answer came as soon as the prologue, which featured a vignette of Treehouse Community Garden in Baxter neighborhood. Historical, cultural and social themes were woven throughout the chapters that followed, which covered topics such as planning for diversity, farm to table, future food artisans, liquid culture, markets, ensuring good food for all and sowing hope for a future.

All the usual suspects were included, as well as some new (to me) faces. Part of the joy was reading about people who were familiar to me, so I’m not sure that someone reading it without knowledge of some of the players would find it quite as interesting as I did. I devoured the 108 page book in just one night. Plenty of photographs are scattered throughout the book, including 16 pages of color photos. There is a lot of content packed into those 108 pages, which is refreshing as many books these days are light on content and big on formatting and repetition. I would have loved to have seen more in-depth profiles of some of the people featured, but that would have added significantly to its length. So the reader must be content with getting just a taste of fascinating people and organizations, to be explored more fully at a later date.

Overall, Grand Rapids Food is an excellent overview of how far our city has come in embracing local food, as well as acknowledging how far we have to go. The $19.99 price point may seem a little steep, but as with real food, you get what you pay for. And it’s definitely worth it.

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Thanks Wendy for writing this review! I got the book at the signing last night and now I know what to expect. Looking forward to delving into the book!