Culinary Sounds of Detroit

Rebecca Kleinberger, MIT Media Lab

I am writing this post from Boston while finishing a bar of of Martha’s Original fudge graciously offered by the American House residents. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to travel to Detroit for the first time along with Tod Machover, Bryn Bliska and Charles Holbrow for the Symphony in D project.  Our first stop out of the airport was the Detroit Historical Museum where we met with the residents and staff of American House.

Besides sharing amazing sounds collected from the sonic history of Detroit (you can read more about that from Bryn in her recent blog post), the residents also gave us two fabulous baskets full of traditional Detroit and Michigan delicacies: Faygo bottles, Cherry Republic milk chocolate covered cherries, Velvet peanut butter, Sanders milk chocolate hot fudge, Better Made old fashion licorice, and many other goodies. Once arriving at the hotel, we realized, “unfortunately,” that we would not be allowed to bring all of these delicacies back to Boston to share with our colleagues and friends at the MIT Media Lab, so we immediately started devouring the two giant baskets. This was my first contact with Detroit’s food, and throughout the rest of my visit I had the opportunity to discover even more about the city’s culinary traditions….

That afternoon, we went to visit Belle Isle and met the manager of the island who gave us a special tour of the aquarium, rowing club, and marine museum. Before departing, she handed us more “sonic material from the Motor City” — a giant bag of Better Made Original potato chips and incredible chocolate covered caramel popcorns made in Detroit. That night was full of delicious crunching sounds!

For breakfast the following day, Bryn (who has already been to Detroit many times for Symphony in D) brought us to the remarkable Rose’s Fine Food. Not only was the place warm and welcoming, with customers and servers on a first-name basis, but the food also was delectable. As a French native, it was the first time in the four 4 years since leaving France that I asked simply for bread and butter for breakfast and was not disappointed!

After living in multiple countries and among people from very different cultures, I have become quite sensitive to how food is consumed in different communities.  Having the opportunity to experience how food is both shared and appreciated in Detroit allowed me to understand the city on a deeper level and made for a very memorable first trip in the D.

Rebecca Kleinberger is a PhD student and Research Assistant in the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab. She is delighted to be discovering the city of Detroit and helping to shape Symphony in D.


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