Detroit’s Eastern Market. I love and admire you.

My love affair with Michigan is no big secret. I’ve been professing my admiration and affection the last couple of years like Mr. Darcy finally proposing to Elizabeth: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Truth be told, since I’ve been back in Michigan after a long time away, I keep discovering how little I’ve really seen of our great state. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Drummond Island when I went for the first time last year, and with the deep dive I did in Traverse City cherries this past summer. There’s so much Pure Michigan to love, and so little time.

Last week when I walked past Casper’s house on Main Street, Jim Jr. was sitting on the porch and started talking about the Eastern Market in Detroit, where he goes very early on Saturday mornings to get the best produce and meats around.

It’s true that when Jimmy Casper talks, you can’t help but get excited about whatever it is, from the mushrooms he just sautéed with his eggs to his CrossFit program to how much his son, Jim the third, is just like him. No wonder my brother spent the better part of his childhood with Jim, roaming the lesser traveled environs wherever the families were, Up North or down state, in search of fun (BB guns in tow).

In that moment last week, I knew I had to get to Detroit as soon as possible. The Eastern Market looms large as the great Midwestern mecca of all fruit and vegetables—and for me, the great unknown. It never crossed my mind, ever in all the years I grew up and lived in Michigan, to actually go there. That’s because the market is in Detroit, real Detroit and not Somerset Mall or Birmingham. But now that I’m back in these parts, the city doesn’t concern me like it must have long ago. Eastern Market has been on my ever-growing hit list of Michigan must-see, must-do ever since I came back two years ago.

Mom, Peg and I headed over last Saturday, early. Along the way, Mom reminisced about going to the market with my dad, right down to the bushels of Beefsteak tomatoes they brought back with them some 40 years ago. Detroit is where my parents went to school, where they met and fell in love. So the city’s demise has been a particular sadness for Mom.

What we found there, though, was less about the burn out and more about a thriving heartbeat in a struggling city. There were the endless corridors of produce, of course, but also artisanal makers, a strong local and Made-in-Michigan theme, and the music and rapping and buzz of a place that is alive in every way.

Fewer and fewer cars dotted the highway the closer we got to Detroit, but once off that and on the city streets surrounding the market, the Motor City made good on its name. What a pleasure it was to fight for parking spots.

Perhaps it’s all of the years of city-living in Chicago that makes Detroit feel more like an old friend to me now than an unknown lost soul. But I think it’s even more personal than that. What might have been, the glory that could have and should have been Detroit proper, looms large in my mind there. It’s a familiar sense, one I work hard to keep at bay about myself too. What in my life could have been, should have been. But is not.

The Eastern Market gave me many things, not the least of which was an unbelievable apricot hand pie and a Detroit Coney Island lunch. And not the least of which was a message of resilience, keep-at-it, and let the coulda-woulda-shoulda that exists in every life be not a drag, not a downer, but a catalyst to keep driving us forward.

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12 Responses to Detroit’s Eastern Market. I love and admire you.

  1. Tootsie says:

    I went there almost every Sat of my growing up years.
    Great pictures

  2. Tootsie says:

    I went there almost every Sat of my growing up years

  3. Elizabeth B Sullivan says:

    This post is so timely! The AANM is just about to launch a walking tour of Eastern Market called “Yalla, Eat!” The first one is next week: http://www.arabamericanmuseum.org/YallaEat

  4. Alice Calsada says:

    Thank you for reminding me of some of my best Saterday morning memories spent with family and friends
    at Eastern Market.

  5. Bill B. says:

    Cleveland had one similar to this;The West Side Market. Absolutely my favorite thing in Cleveland.

  6. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abood (Jamileh) from Ammun Leb. says:

    Maureen, so very beautiful and evocative for me even tho I grew up in the flat, gritty industrial plain of southeast LA County–always love your stories and your pictures thru the prism of your loving, grateful heart.
    And, true to my roots, is that a meticulously restored 1966 Dodge Charger? A bonus no matter at a farmer’s market, or, on an urban SoCal street.

  7. Brian says:

    Eastern Market is a true gem. We make the trip several times during the year and I am always blown away by the variety and beauty of the products. Next time you go let’s meet there for lunch :-)

    Thanks for posting!!

  8. Jim Albert says:

    I always tell people that after the post industrial debacle completes itself in Michigan, the state will show it’s true colors and once again rise for it’s inherent beauty and resources. I’ve also lived away from there since college; I know this is true b/c I know what the alternatives are–i’ve lived the alternatives since 1993. Obviously there is beauty in other places too, but Michigan surely hold it’s own and certainly has a uniqueness all it’s own.

  9. nancy says:

    thank you for bringing living detroit to all of us. i grew up in chicago, never visited detroit, knew people who lived there. that all seems centuries ago, you remind us not to give up.

  10. Edra says:

    Wow, Maureen! This post was loaded with great information and wonderful family stories. Not being from here, but where your Charlie Cousin lives, I have little information about the midwest. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading this kind of thing you’ve written. I have a new item to add to my must do list before heading back west some day. My parents and all my family are gone now and my friends are now the only family I have left, except my husband. Your sharing of family events, even long ago, makes me recall things I’d long forgotten about my own family. This was great, Thank You, M!!!!!

  11. Dianna Harrington says:

    So happy to see your photos of a truly remarkable shopping experience. I was happy to visit this past June after a 10 year absence, (moved to Naples, FL) and was SO happy to see a new energized movement within the market. So many young faces, different food vendors, entertainment and loads of environmentally concerned vendors, it made my visit complete. Especially finding bulk Zatar in Rocky’s, something not found here! You’re roasted chick peas with Zatar is a hit everytime prepared, thank you again for the photos!

 

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