By Rebecca Thiele | WMUK.org
Last week, the Kalamazoo food truck Organic Gypsy won first place in a national competition in Las Vegas. The Spudnation Throwdown challenged food truck cooks to make their best potato recipe for a five thousand dollar prize. Organic Gypsy’s healthy potato soup triumphed over the deep fried and bacon filled dishes of its competitors. To the Kalamazoo company, the victory for healthy eating is much sweeter than the prize money.
When I went to visit the Organic Gypsy’s catering business in Portage, owner Bridgett Blough and cook Kate Browning were preparing weekly dinners for customers. Blough says people who sign up for these meals never know what they’re getting that day – just that it’s local and the ingredients are in season.
“So they don’t know that they’re getting quinoa enchiladas. I know that, today,” says Blough.
“I mean it was like they got a spinach salad for a week for about six weeks. But I knew that when spinach was gone it was gone. And now we’re on to kale, so they’re going to get a kale salad probably once a week for six weeks and when kale’s gone it’s going to be whatever I can get from the next farmer.”
Blough used the potatoes from her dad’s farm for the Spudnation Throwdown competition. She made a Green Tahini Potato Soup mixing leeks, carrots, onions, garlic, and cabbage with a green tahini sauce. Tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made of ground sesame seeds.
“So I start with whole sesame seeds and grind them, and then essentially add Molter Family Orchard’s garlic, lemon juice, you know a little bit of salt, paprika, extra virgin olive oil and that’s about it. But to make it the green component, we use fresh herbs. We use parsley and cilantro,” she says.
Blough describes the dish as a creamy potato soup without dairy.
“I beat out, you know, bacon and chorizo and cheese sauce and macaroni and cheese to win – and i.e. all of those things. But it felt really inspiring. It was like a victory for the underdog – you know, the healthy food, the potato soup. It felt really…kind of victorious on another level. You know it wasn’t about the actual recipe, but more of a deeper meaning.”
Blough says helping people to get healthy has been her mission for a long time. But owning a food truck wasn’t part of that goal until just a few years ago. Blough currently teaches yoga downtown and also at Kalamazoo College. She says, back when she was a personal trainer, she felt like exercise alone wasn’t helping her clients.
“I don’t really know how much healthier – quote, unquote ‘healthier’ – they’re getting from working out. And I started…the more I talked to them about what they were doing the 23 hours that they weren’t with me, you know, it was like, ‘Well when are you going to bed?’ ‘Well, what are you eating? What are you eating?’ And it always kind of came back to, ‘What are you eating?’ And that’s when I really started to think that the role food has in health is much bigger than we think it is.”
Blough says eating pizza every once in a while is fine, but most of the time people should be making healthy choices – and that’s why she chooses to sell this kind of food.
She says she plans to put the prize money toward making an organic rootbeer for the truck or toward a trip – to get inspired by food from other cultures.