Entries in Michigan (2)


Leave That Tomato Alone! 

I couldn't find a picture of the offending food, this one is from the Gallery of Regrettable Food website goodness it’s grape harvest, otherwise the shortening days and the end to tomato season would have me in a funk.  As I ponder the end, at least for this year, of those big, fat, multihued heirlooms I am reminded of a particular tomato travesty I witnessed during a recent trip to the Midwest.

It was at Zingerman’s, a deli  based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its locally sourced food, benevolent work environment and a management consulting business touted by the likes of the New York Times. Yep, that’s right. “Business Visioning” and CEO seminars from a deli.

When I was there,  both Zingermans and I were having an off day.  They were super busy, service wasn’t great and I made myself a little sick because I had to try their artisanal brewed root beer.  Delicious, I’m glad I tried it, but hardly a way to start a meal. 

 I can’t remember what I ate but I’ll never forget what I saw. Next to me was a couple sharing a beautiful heirloom tomato desecrated with a gloppy mess of cheddar cheese spread and I don’t know what all.  

Why would anyone do that to a tomato?

It may be (sigh) that Midwesterners demand this kind of food; a delicate leaf of basil and fresh mozzarella would just not taste….tasty enough.  Midwestern winemakers must heave a similar sigh when local tastes demand sugary wine, with no chance of the delicate play of acid and sweet that makes wine drinking so glass-swirlingly fun.  

I love my midwestern roots and there’s is nothing I’d rather eat than a plate of kielbasa and buttered noodles. Sometimes I think, hey maybe we should just stick to that and leave the heirloom tomatoes to the Californians.



Uncle Boom

My Uncle Boom died Wednesday.  He was the first person to make me put on my seat belt, the first person to serve me a martini. 

He was a Santa Claus of a man, no beard or suit, but lots of ho, ho, ho. When he laughed, his shoulders wouldUncle Boom with me with too much makeup, cousins Jane and Tom and my sister Mary bounce almost to his ears. That's how I'll remember him, laughing, tan, in a striped shirt and chinos, framed by the American flag stretched across the cottage at his beloved Crystal Lake. When he gave you a hug and said "Hi ya cuz!" you felt like he had been sitting there waiting all day just to see you. 

He was Midwestern to his core. Solid. Honest. Safe. Even his name is sturdy. Bob Beck. Beck. Brick. Rock. Beer. So different from the melodic Latin surnames in my adopted California. And so emblematic for the sturdy Germans of southern Ohio who are my ancestors. 

Like many who were part of his Greatest Generation, he served. Navy, Rotary, Scouts, School Board.  He'd say no big deal, that's what people do.  His insurance business was just another way he took care of people and tried to do the right thing. 

He was married to Aunt Ellen for sixty years. Married, in love with and crazy about the same woman for sixty years. Midwestern people seem to do that. In the 60s, when she started her long road to a PhD he organized the chores at home, back in the days before men were very good at that. 

I think the insurance business was the reason he was an evangelist for seat belts. The martinis? I'm not sure about the source for their inspiration. My first martini, the one he made for me, was on a camping trip when I was old enough to join the adults for cocktail hour. Hint: martinis taste best in the Michigan woods. 

I haven't been camping in years but I always wear my seat belt. And from now on all my martinis will include a silent, or not-so-silent toast to Uncle Boom.

Uncle Boom, this one's for you!