Friday, June 26, 2009

Food Foraging, the Picking is Easy

The salvage slave is famous for her yummy meals cobbled together with leftovers and what she can snag from the great outdoors. When funds are scarce you can still eat well, but you need to think creatively. Believe it or not there is free food to be had fresh and abundant if you just know where to look. I'm not talking about dumpsters and handouts or garden theft, I'm talking live food growing all around the city yours for the picking. Last week's heat in Detroit ripened all the mulberries growing on this commonly thought of "weed" tree and they are abundant. My son Wyatt and his pal Marlaina visited our friend Danielle who took us on a tour of mulberry and cherry picking in downtown Detroit! Look for the tell tale stains on the sidewalks and little dark or pale lilac raspberry-looking berries on this 10' and taller tree. I even have a tree that volunteered in the backyard at my shop. Sweet and plentiful, make some wine, toss it in a salad with kiwis, salad greens and citrus vinagrette or go all out like I did and whip up an elegant dessert. I made pavlova, an easy meringue cake layered with whipping cream and berries, it was a big hit with my dinner companions. Just the other morning I spotted numerous cherry trees bearing fruit on Woodward in Huntington Woods in front of the apartment buildings at Lincoln, almost over but still some ready to eat. Raspberries and blackberries should be on too, look for that thorny vine-like shrub at the tree line of city parks. On the savory side, there are onions and chives galore and mint. I picked some by the railroad tracks at 11mile and Washington here in Royal Oak. The grapevines have taken over the backyard at my shop, so when you want to make grape leaves just come on by and pick for free. When you have to spend money, hit the local farmer's markets sprouting everywhere. Other than Royal Oak and Eastern Market, try the one in Birmingham or Warren. There's even one Wednesday's on Wayne State Campus north of Warren on Cass. There are many others, has an online guide and you can head out with your reusable bag. Shop local, splurge on organic, see the movie Food Inc. As my friends at Avalon say "Eat Well, Do Good"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Run, walk, bike the Dequindre Cut is Open!

Dang what a sweet urban happening of healthiness we've now got in Detroit my friends and I am making it my personal mission to get everybody down to the Dequindre cut for a little excercise. What is the cut? Why it's a below grade mile expanse (so far, but dreams are to have it run into the suburbs) of old rail line that starts at Gratiot right by Eastern Market, and goes to the river. It just so happens to tie up with the very beautiful Riverwalk, which runs east onto Belle Isle and Hart Plaza running west. This new cut's got the funk going for it in this green reclamation thing. Cause this bike path (or the first completed mile anyhow) is a moving, changing art form with concrete embankments lining the path covered in the best graffiti. Last Friday morning at 9am people were out biking and walking or running. Spring is resplendent in native plants and the Detroit River sparkles at the base of the path. I made the trip down with the pool club (hard-core middle-aged broads I swim with at the YMCA) so we’re here for the work out. We made about a 10 mile ride out of this excursion so from the cut we hook up to the River Walk and head east to Belle Isle. Now in some places the river interrupts the path, so you gotta wind back to the old brick streets which I love with the ancient brick structures that were once home to a thriving music and club scene. In my mind’s eye I see them vibrant again with entertainment, dining, living, retail and art. We circle the perimeter of Belle Isle, riding through a meadow that would make you think you were in the country, and out to the lighthouse point and a spectacular view of the mouth of Lake St. Clair. Riding back, we cross the restored bridge and admire the beautiful view of the Downtown skyline, and the prominent homes of GM and the UAW. Something about their dire circumstances, the evidence all around us of the city we built to transport a nation, and with all that hanging in the balance here’s this sweet homegrown effort to bring beauty and health to a troubled city. Well it sure gives you pause. Shoot, it’s our very own version of the Seine River in Paris; lots of bright new benches and places to meditate along the river, people fishing, pavilions with tables and chairs even those stainless high-tech automated self-cleaning bathrooms that talk to you about how clean and cool they are. We ride back to our parked cars in the Eastern Market and the trucks are moving produce and meat in and out, RJ Hirt is bringing out their garden wares next to the gleaming newly refurbished sheds. And I think, hey it’s a living breathing thing this city, and we want to keep it healthy. See you there tomorrow. I'm riding with a new posse, hope we see you there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dyeing in Detroit

I know you think I'm going to talk about the automakers. Althought I'm all for salvaging them too, I'm talking about closet salvage i.e. reinvigorating your existing wardrobe with some super yummy dyes that are fun and easy to use. I go through this every spring when I pull out the summer wardrobe. I'm sick of everything, want to change the color of something or it's all faded and looks tired. I hate to shop and it certainly isn't in the budget to chuck it all and buy new, besides I can't bear to throw out some perfectly good clothes! It's become a bit of a family tradition, my mom use to teach art and has been dyeing stuff with kids since I was one. It's one of the things I love to do when I go home or when she comes here. Plus, it's more fun to do it with someone because there's a lot of waiting time while you're stirring and dyeing. Now I'm no expert, I stick with just the natural fabrics (cotton stuff, some linen and silk) but the folks at have products for everything and lots of information and tips. It's always experimental, you never know what you're going to get but I like the fact it's a little mottled because I think it gives it a more artsy sophistication. Dharma dyes are more expensive than the old RIT stuff, but lots more colors. You'll need salt and soda ash which I found at the local pool supply store and I used my sister's top loading washing machine. You can do it in a bucket but all that stirring is a bit much for as much stuff as I had to do. I should have photographed these items before I dyed them, but look how beautiful they look on the line! Total cost for one duvet cover, 2 shams, 2 skirts, table cloth, runner and top $20.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Sculpture Grows in Detroit

Here’s a clear case of beauty or art being in the eyes of the beholder. If my dad saw this “sculpture,” he’d shake his head and say “sista, now Blue Boy (by Gainsborough) that’s a work of art (and this belongs in the garbage).” Clearly, I didn’t get my taste (or lack there of) from him. This is the sort of thing our expert eyes are trained on in the motorcity. We see an at least 40-year-old tree stump that has grown through an old Montgomery Ward bike left amongst the burned out remains of a house and we say, “now that’s a work of art.” Mount it to a metal base, boom it’s sculpture and front and center in my booth at the Michigan Modernism show. Sure enough it’s a show stopper, and everyone wants to marvel and bring others around to see the miracle of the tree grown through the stump. (So much so that once it sold, I had to get it out because they weren’t looking at anything else.) Keen folk art dealers and long-time buyers of mine scoop it up for a very serious show in New York where discerning buyers await. Meanwhile, there’s a little fuss don’t you know cause that old wood sitting there all those years got a little punky and we had to make it solid-like. But it wasn’t til it got nice and warm some weeks later in my buddy bob’s van that the gestation of a gazillion bugs took place. All I could say was thank God it wasn’t in a fancy collector’s house. Confined in Bob’s van, all he had to do was scream, then get a bug bomb in the van and it’s good to go!. Once in New York, clearly it took on greater importance and it’s virtues enhanced. They were fighting over it I’ll have you know and who knows what private deal has again been made in the name of art. So go on dad, trash Detroit and it’s relics all you want, but they are paying some serious attention to our detritus in Gotham City!