I work a lot for others during the week, much of it for little or no compensation, and in return I ask for only one thing: Saturday. Saturday is mine, for Eastern Market visits and maybe a little urban exploration (in the bland, non-lawbreaking sense), and that’s how I ended up at the Rust Belt Market last weekend, in search of pie. This guy’s pies, specifically. But it would be silly to just pop in and out for pie, so I took a stroll through the market, which is kind of an offline Etsy — vintage clothes, handmade this, hipster that. Very Detroit-as-new-Brooklyn. Not quite the epicenter, but there is no epicenter. Still, a good place to put your cultural feelers out and get a sense of the millennial/late-X generation in their salad-days prime. What are you into, young folks? What moves you?
Just this: Food and bikes.
I’m not a fan of the writer Caitlin Flanagan, but she made an observation a while back that’s stuck with me. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but indulge me: Imagine two young women — a housewife of the ’50s and her closest equivalent today. Quiz both on their attitudes about food and sex. You’ll find the ’50s housewife has many opinions about how you should live your sex life, but honestly doesn’t care what you eat — that’s your business. Whereas a 21st century woman is likely to be precisely the opposite. Are those eggs organic? Is your beef grass-fed? Those tomatoes — locally grown? But who you sleep with, and what you do in your bedroom? Who cares?
The good news about the foodie revolution is, the world is a much tastier place. You can get a better meal, or make yourself one, today than you could a generation ago, and certainly more so than in the ’50s. For all the concerns about pesticides and hormones and feedlots and the like, the fact remains that a stroll through even an unhip, pedestrian suburban grocery chain is a revelation of food unknown to even 25-year-old me, and I like to think I got in on this stuff early. My mother-in-law thought mangoes were green peppers. Today: Actual mangoes. A good thing.
The bad news is that it can get awfully tiresome, and I think we’ve gone down this road here before. When Anthony Bourdain says Alice Waters has a touch of the Khmer Rouge about her, it’s funny because it’s true. She’s the one who suggested $4-per-pound organic grapes should not be considered out of reach in any nation where poor people buy $100 sneakers, after all.
But getting back to the good news, it’s also given rise to a generation of young foodie entrepreneurs, many flying below the radar of the health inspectors, in food trucks and market stalls, trying to change the world with empanadas or bagels or whatever. The pie guy I visited was very much of this tradition, with his artistic tattoos — a chef’s knife on his forearm, among many — and his unexpected flavor combinations. Oh, and his T-shirt: “Fuck cupcakes. Eat pie.” I bought three slices at $2.50 per — salted caramel apple, peach mango (hold the green peppers) and blueberry lemon. Elsewhere in this market you could buy artisanal coffee and other snacky things; at the Eastern Market you could buy everything, including a nosh from my favorite new stop, the People’s Pierogi Collective (their slogan includes the word “revolutionary,” but I can’t remember it now).
Elsewhere in the market, I looked through a booth that sold make-your-own necklace systems, with various charms and suchlike. It seemed half the charms had bicycle themes — chains and chainrings, spokes, wheels. I see bike-themed tattoos everywhere, too, “fixie forever” on a muscular calf, or “fuck cars,” one word to a leg, something for motorists to see as you flash past them on your fixie. Bike culture is strong in Detroit, a flat city with many miles of eye-popping sights. But it’s crazy strong among younger people, who commute on sticker-covered, beat-looking-but-fast-moving bikes and lock them to any old thing with chains heavy enough to swing at crackheads, should the need arise.
Meanwhile, there is $70,000 in county parks money lying on the table in my community, waiting for the cities to pick it up and use it to buy mainly paint and signs to designate bike routes (not paths, mind you, just routes) through the five Pointes. I predict it will sit there until it grows mold and expires, because the police chiefs are fretting about the need for a traffic study first, and why can’t we all just ride on sidewalks, anyway? The suburbs always move behind the city. Although I hear everybody enjoys pie.
So, not much bloggage today, but may I say one thing? I’m extremely uncomfortable about much of the commentary I’m hearing about whether She-Who did or did not bang a University of Michigan basketball player when she was young and single and the calendar read 1987. I’m getting the strong feeling this Joe McGinniss book is a steaming pile of crap, and I don’t care how respectable he is. If the big talker you come up with is that she slept with a black guy when she was 23, you are only Kitty Kelley with a better publicist. The discussion I heard yesterday bugged me on several levels, including but not limited to noting it happened “just nine months before her marriage to Todd,” misuse of the word “fetish” and whoa, MANDINGO!!!!!
I’m disappointed in Garry Trudeau for making this a week’s worth of “Doonesbury” and I really, really resent the way it makes me feel like defending her. That said, some of the comments on this thread are sort of funny.
The first serious review of the book I’ve seen. Doesn’t sound like a must-read.
After 10, gotta go. Happy Thursday, all. The weekend is drawing nigh.