Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beans & Cornbread in Southfield

After spending much of the year on the road in northern Michigan writing a canoe/kayak guide, it's a relief to get away from my diet of cheese burgers and beer at Up North taverns. Over the last several years, I've gotten to know more about the U.P. than my own home town -- Detroit. But that's changing, as I start work on a travel guide to the city.
Got a chance to eat at Beans & Cornbread in Southfield, an upscale soul food restaurant. They're going to get into the guide. The food was great and the service excellent. We went on a Tuesday night, so it wasn't too crowded. I had the pork chops in red eye gravy, and my wife, the fried chicken. I tried a bit of both, and while the chicken wasn't as good as the "hens" my Arkansas grandmother "fried up," as she called it, it was better than anything I've tasted in years.
The dinner was traditionally southern, with three sides. I had greens, black eyed peas and corn. Northern white people usually consider boiled green beans as the only vegetable fit to put on the table. In the south, you get more variety.
While at the bar, I had an interesting discussion with an African-American woman about southern fried chicken, and she struck a chord with me. I told her the chicken was just about as good as my southern grandmother's and she told me that there was probably an African-American woman behind that recipe. Her comment brought back a misty memory of something my father told me about such a black woman who worked for his parents. I wonder if she was the source. My father's dead, and I'll never know. Such are the mysteries of the south.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A fresh look at Detroit

On a recent evening, I checked out the Wayne State campus, and was happy to see students walking around, lights on in buildings, and Old Main, a building I took classes in 40 years ago, looking good. For me, it was a way to shift gears and get in tune with my old hometown. I spent the past year writing a canoe/kayak guide to Michigan, and spent much of my time in backwoods towns.
I'm now at work on a guidebook to Detroit, which will give me a chance to take a good look at my old haunts and see how things have changes, some for the better. There's a lot of great stuff to say about Detroit, especially lately. I was a bit amazed to see The New York Times do a story on Slows Barbecue in Detroit. Too often the national media shows up, takes a couple of pictures of the abandoned Michigan Central Depot and old auto plants, as a way to show the city's decline.
I've got a great opportunity to tell Detroit's story, and I'm going to take advantage of it. But I'm going to be honest. I was near Wayne State to have dinner at the venerable Mario's restaurant. The service is still top notch, but lobster night drew my wife and I there for dinner. We got there about 7 p.m. and they were out of it. It was a bit off putting. If you're going to advertise something, you've got to step up to the plate and do it. I'll go back, but I won't suck for lobster night again.