A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe sent to me by my sister Kaija who lives in Detroit. I was pleasantly surprised a few days ago when I noticed in my inbox that she had sent me a story, recipe and photos to share. As I mentioned before Detroit is trying to reimagine and recreate itself. Her story from our childhood and our game of business community brought back many fond memories. We would often play it for a few days after we had set up our “businesses”. Instead of retelling her story, here it is in her own words.
“Detroit is in a re-defining moment. There is long history here of innovation, design, industry, success, failure, and unrest. All of these things are a part of the narrative. When I first moved here, I was fascinated. And I didn’t really know why- but, after being here for several years, one of the things that I have come to appreciate- is that here, I can take all of the things that make me who I am and actually do something with it- in my professional aspirations.
Growing up in a large family, you learn to do things together, and with everyone’s perspectives- magic can happen. When we were kids, we played a game called ‘Business community”. That’s the name that the older siblings came up with. It is simply a game where everyone has their own product or service, and each child brings something different to the ‘market’ of exchange. We would spend a few days making the currency by hand, cutting up paper and writing the dollar amount on each bill. We would distribute the money evenly among all of the kids, so everyone has a fair start. My oldest brother, the artist/mathematician of the family, and always the banker, would make checks that you could customize with designs. He would have a hand drawn sample of several themes to chose from. Because of the time it would take to draw on each check- they were expensive and you always saved them for a special purchase to use them. The youngest, maybe 3 or 4 years old, was always the mail person, and the child who runs the ‘snack shop’ often had the most children. They would often make the most in profit as well selling cherrios, juice an raffle tickets.
One of the fascinating things about this game, and spending endless hours preparing and playing- is that this was cultivating the approach to business and community in the adult world for us all individually. We had to work together, preparing for the game, and we also would work on the parts of preparing that we each enjoyed, whether is was drawing, designing or making- and we would each have a ‘business’ that we cared about. Someone would usually have a toy shop or store where lego buildings and cars could be purchased, or an art gallery or clothing store. We did not focus on the money that we would make, rather on the passions that we had. This approach is something that Detroit has allowed me to do. I have been fortunate to work on a number of different projects, many of which blur the line of architect/designer, allowing me to also use other passions in my daily work. Ponyride, a business incubator/accelerator space, is a project that I have been working on with a Detroit restauranteur, Phillip Cooley for the past two years. We wanted to be playful, and not too serious- everyone’s childhood dream was a ‘ponyride’ and the name reflects a place that people can come and discover their ponyride. Not only have I been able to design, build and imagine a new use for an old warehouse factory space, I have also been able to be a part of making a sustainable model for urban development in a city that is full of opportunity but also has a history that plays a heavy role in the culture of the city. We have 20+ businesses producing in the building today, with a long waiting list ready to fill up the spaces as we finish renovating. We have built this community have participated in our weekly volunteer nights, where we demo, salvage materials, build, paint and clean. The organic process of programming the space was frustrating at first- an architect normally goes through an entire design process with final construction drawings before anyone picks up a hammer. This project has been much different- much like our childhood game of ‘business community,’ we have been building out spaces for our tenants as they come to the space. At Ponyride today, we have textile production, woodworking, metal smithing, fencing/dance/yoga studio, coffee roasting, film production, letterpress studio and many more creative businesses. We have grown organically, and programmed, designed and built the spaces untraditionally, but created an interesting collaborative and inspiring place to work. We also have a subsidized rent, approximately 25 cents per square foot, to allow tenants to focus on their passion and business rather focusing on how to pay rent. They also required to offer free classes sharing their passions with Detroit youth or community groups, to add a educational component to the building.
This is just one of the many creative and inspiring stories happening in Detroit today. It is one of several projects that I have been fortunate to be a part of, that has grown out of entrepreneurial spirit, cultivated at young age, combined with the opportunity and needs of a city of Detroit, creating something unique and interesting. It is simply about passion and energy, combined with lots of hard work. Although I have busy days, I love the joy of good food. This kale salad is simple, quick and delightful. It also has a bit of nordic influence with the lingonberry sweetness, combined with Detroit grown kale.”
Thank you Kaija for sharing your story!
Kaija’s Winter Salad with Kale
2 bunches of raw curly kale
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of one lemon and additional lemon for garnish
2 ripe avocado
sprinkle of sea salt flakes
This salad stays fresh for a few days in the refrigerator.
Roughly chop kale and place in a bowl. Pour oil and squeeze one lemon toss until evenly coated.
Peel and chop the avocados and toss into salad. Alternatively the avocado can be massaged into the salad. This softens the texture of the kale a bit. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.
Garnish with additional lemon and lingonberry preserves.
Kale is a superfood and has an abundance of the following nutrients: Vitamin K, A, Calcium, fiber, Manganese and Potassium.
Here is a link to Kaija’s Carrot Cake