How Fargo got its own marshmallow

Fargo now has its own marshmallow. Thanks to Chief Marshmallow Agent Nathan Clark, co-founder of the marshmallow-making company Wondermade and upcoming TEDxFargo speaker, the Fargo Buzz marshmallow is now being crafted – using real North Dakota honey.

“Something people generally don’t know about North Dakota is how significant its contribution is to the honey industry, and how Dakota bees get shipped around and help pollinate food everywhere,” Clark said. “We thought the Fargo Buzz Marshmallow was fitting because of what Fargo contributes: honey, and there’s this really great buzz around the city.”

wondermade_honey_marshmallows

The marshmallows are made with local honey that you’d find at the grocery store, Clark said. He means it. In order to get that honey to the Orlando, Florida-based company, our intern Liv Stromme was sent on one of her most bizarre missions yet: buy 300 ounces of local honey and ship it to Florida.

“I walked out of Hornbacher’s with four bags filled with honey. I bought every bottle on the shelf,” Stromme said. “The cashier was like, ‘Think you got enough?’. When I walked in to the post office I just put the bags on the counter and they said, ‘Ok, we can work with this.’”

Miraculously, all that honey was bubble-wrapped and shipped overnight to Wondermade, where Clark, his co-founder and wife Jenn, and the rest of the marshmallow-making team got to work to create the Fargo Buzz marshmallow.

“I decided to be monogamous to my red pants.”

The marshmallows, and Clark himself, are arriving in Fargo tomorrow. Clark is taking on the city starting Wednesday morning; he’s speaking at an E-Commerce Breakfast, followed by presenting the Wondermade story at 1 Million Cups, and then giving a talk on Thursday, July 23, at TEDxFargo.

That’s three different ways to catch this dude, and you won’t want to miss out. After all, it’s not often one comes across a guy like Nathan Clark; a pastor, a programmer, a marshmallow mastermind, a father of five.

Nathan Clark

A man who’s been wearing red pants consecutively for three years.

“I’m a guy who loves favorites,” he explained, when asked about the red pants deal.

“When I have a favorite song, I listen to it over and over. I found my favorite person, and I married her. And when I bought a pair of red pants, I realized that they were my favorite pants. That day of the week was my favorite day. And then I bought two, so I could have two favorite days. Then I realized If I could have two favorite days, everyday could be a favorite. I decided to be monogamous to my red pants.”

Clark and his red pants collection have been together for 3 years now, and things are going very well, he said.

“Still, when I look at other pants, I’m like ‘Aah I don’t know, they’re not red,’” he said. “It’s a great liberation, I don’t have to think about what I’m wearing. And I think they look pretty good. At this point if they don’t, don’t tell me.”

Clark celebrating 1000 days of red pants.

Clark celebrating 1000 days of red pants.

Clark didn’t start off as a red-pants-wearing marshmallow-maker. Far from it, actually. He originally studied computer programming at James Madison University, then began doing branding and graphic design. He got involved in number of startups, product and service based, and launched a couple apps, he said.

In 2004, he became the pastor and Director of Digital Innovations for Northland Church, one of the leading churches in the tech industry, Clark said.

“I do weddings, funerals, counseling,” Clark said. “We’ve hosted visitors from all over the world, and help deploy streaming video solutions.”

The rebirth of the marshmallow

Things didn’t get too fluffy until later, when he was in search of the perfect Christmas gift for his wife Jenn. An interview on NPR about how to make candy inspired him to look into the recipe for marshmallows, and he realized it wouldn’t be hard to make some. He and his wife created the first batch together, and were blown away by the result.

“The first marshmallow we’d ever eaten was the best we’d ever had,” Clark said.

guinness

Wondermade’s Guinness-flavored marshmallow

Why, they wondered, is this so different from store-bought marshmallows?

A little research revealed that in the past, marshmallows were high quality. They had, as Wondermade’s marshmallows now have, a shelf life of 6-14 weeks. They were made with real ingredients, like cane sugar and gelatin. But then, in the 50’s, something struck. Something called consumer America.

“Somebody figured out how to make cheaper, junkier marshmallows with indefinite shelf life, indeterminate ingredients and taste,” Clark said. “America was in this place where everybody loved generic last-forever products. Now, if you go in your grocery store and buy one, it’s the worst marshmallow you’ll experience.”

The quality marshmallow was lost. Until now. When Clark and his wife tried that first handmade mixture of whipped up sugar and gelatin, they were hooked.

“It was this awakening, this call to action,” Clark said. “Not for millions of dollars, but this opportunity to unveil to others what a marshmallow is supposed to be.”

clarks

They kept making more. Friends kept asking for more. They wanted shipments. After a year of perfecting recipes, design, and packaging, Wondermade was born with one mission: to make great marshmallows available once again.

wm“All we did was start doing the things that people used to do, that for generations people forgot existed,” Clark said. “You can invent something new, you can go to the moon, but sometimes you can just look a round and realize there once was a better way.”

Bourbon, beer & blackberry: The flavors of Wondermade

Wondermade now ships gourmet marshmallows in a variety of flavors all over the country.

Their best-seller is a bourbon marshmallow soaked in Maker’s Mark; other favorites include a beer flavored marshmallow rolled in crushed pretzels, a champagne flavor flaked with 24-karat edible gold, or a lavender flavor that, paired with dark chocolate, “makes the best s’mores you can imagine,” Clark said.

gold

Clark’s personal favorite, he said, is “whichever one I’m eating right at that moment.”

Now, the North Dakota honey-made Fargo Buzz marshmallow joins the ranks. We can’t wait to try it.

Come see Nathan speak in Fargo!:

E-Commerce Breakfast

1 Million Cups

TEDxFargo

Photos courtesy of Nathan Clark & Wondermade.

Marisa Jackels