Sunday, November 3, 2013

Technical difficulties...

I am aware that there are some glitches in the post formats when they are viewed on mobile phones, or even on a PC rather than on a Mac...this is really annoying to me, and I will try to figure out if it's my fault or Blogger's fault. Please excuse anything odd you see, as far as spacing errors, gaps between photos, etc. 

Thanks for reading! 


"Coney Islands are a unique type of Greek American restaurant. Two of the most well-known Coney Island restaurants are the Lafayette Coney Island and the American Coney Island, which are located adjacent to one another on Lafayette St. in downtown Detroit. They have a common root, with the original restaurant having been established by Greek immigrant brothers Bill and Gus Keros in 1914. The brothers got into business dispute soon thereafter, and in 1917 split their restaurant into the two establishments that exist today."

-Wikipedia, of course. 

Two Sundays ago, I was in Michigan for my Uncle Al's wedding. I ate a Coney dog for lunch in downtown Detroit, and for dinner in the suburbs, Aunt Julie's Pulled Pork. 

A Coney Island is a hot dog with chili and onions. This one is from Lafayette Coney. 

Recipe for a Coney 

Boil a natural casing hot dog.
Open a can of chili and heat it up. 
Chop some onions. 
No ketchup, unless you are weak like me.  
Get a generic hot dog bun and assemble as shown above...

JUST KIDDING, why would you try to make a Coney at home? It would lose it's diner  allure and taste like nothing more than a common Chili dog. 

This week's recipe: Aunt Julie's Pulled Pork. In Mid-October, we held on to the last flavors of summer. 
Both my parents grew up in Detroit, and my mom has an extended network of Chisholm family all around the area. Being reunited with so many Chisholm's was restorative, with the festive clatter and cacophony of grandparents, aunts and my eleven cousins filtering through kitchens and dining rooms.  I couldn't believe I had forgotten that cozy and rambunctious feeling of togetherness in sheer numbers. My tidy, McElroy nuclear family of four has always known quiet Sunday evenings in far flung Seattle, outposted a thousand miles from the nearest relatives. 

The suburbs (townships, rather): one must get out of the car and into the forest. 

Two of my countless, beautiful cousins. 
Every day in the Michigan suburbs was an October dream of spotless blue skies and bright, piercing sunlight. There were still crickets chirping in the hot fields and bushes - perhaps no frost had yet arrived to silence them. Everyone admitted that the weather was unusually nice for mid October. The roadside produce stands were still spilling with tomatoes. The colors orange and yellow were just half tinging the limitless swaths of trees, stretching out beyond every highway vista. The blues, greens and reds in early fall sun were jewel toned and sparkling. 

If I wasn't seeing green - I was noticing red, white and blue everywhere. 

The Cider Mill - where to get your apples, cider and doughnuts, and corn maze. 

The transition from summer tomatoes to autumn apples. 

These boxes were everywhere: I took one home as a souvenir. 
As we drove between Shelby and Washington townships for pre-wedding errands and cider mill stops, crackled looking corn fields blurred though the passenger windows. The surroundings seemed like an expression of an idyllic harvest time; not any cold decay of autumn, but the bounty and bright landscape still left from summer. I now regret that we didn't venture into the thick of the orchard to pick any bushels of apples ourselves (there were just so many already nicely bagged for sale). I'm consoled by this: 

"May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft." 

-Robert Frost

The morning of the wedding, my mom brought crates of tomatoes to the kitchen of Piccirilli's Ristorante, where Uncle Al held his reception. I picked basil from the back garden and Linda sliced up ten platters of Caprese salad for the reception dinner. That night, in the glowing white and purple festoons of the brick banquet room, everything tasted like midwestern Italian (except for the Vietnamese summer rolls and lotus root salad from Hoa, Allan's beautiful bride).

Allan and Hoa in traditional Vietnamese dress - I see red, white and blue. 

The wedding was gorgeous -  a total success. The next day, a field trip to downtown Detroit was in order. I lobbied fairly enthusiastically to see some of the "forgotten" city. My personal curiosity centers around the unfathomable notion of Detroit's general abandonment. It's hard for me to imagine how the Chisholm's feel, hardly recognizing the place where they grew up, every window in their old neighborhood broken or barred.  (Although, I was happy to learn that my energetic and intrepid cousin, Alexandra, really likes going out in the city - to bars and restaurants and the weekend farmers market.)  

In the 1970's, my parents made a westward migration to San Francisco. As there are no such new American frontiers left today, no such exotic and golden new destinations or uncharted territories, it occurs to me that in order to make a bold migration myself, Detroit would be an ironic yet logical answer. (That is, if the next big things are the comebacks of those old places waiting for renewal.) I trust that good things are growing in the city of Detroit. Just the day before our field trip, Alexandra and her co-workers spent hours planting trees on one bare city street.  

The Coney Islands on Lafayette St. and the Tigers have always been resilient. 

My aunt Sue remembers how things looked 40 years ago. 

The Heidelberg Project: abandoned houses became the city's block long art installation.

Cousins, on the steps of the newest Heidelberg art house project. 
Hot dogs, onions, and mustard: The kitchen of Lafayette Coney. 

As we drove home from our colorful day in Detroit, I was satisfied having seen so much life, color and positivity. While dozing in the car, though, I realized how briefly I had toured this troubled city. Nearing closer to the peaceful, familiar suburbs, I reflected on the inevitable dark and deserted parts of life. I allowed myself a certain amount of rumination over places neglected fairly or unfairly: forgotten, fled from, or lapsed into decay and oblivion...but I jolted awake from my half sleep, and -    

fortunately, the joyous refrains of the reunited Chisholms ( and McElroy's) awaited me that Sunday evening.  For our final meal, Aunt Julie made her slow cooker pulled pork, accompanied by the last of the season's tomatoes and corn. 

Aunt Julie's Pulled Pork (From 

  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)
"Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.

Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.

If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed."