Perhaps if my life had taken different turns, I might have become an urbanist. I definitely could imagine it, as I’ve spent my childhood in a city and have always loved the atmosphere of a large city. Everything does not need to be too polished as often the oldest of structures has a story to tell and it can be seen on their door frames and floor boards. Even the wall might be rough to the touch with many layers of wallpaper and paint as remodelers of various levels of skill have attempted to make a space their home. And there is something fascinating about the people in cities. Everyone with their own stories to tell just as the buildings do, all living in a relatively small area of land close together sharing life yet living individually. One thing that I noticed in Detroit was the urban gardens. It is an idea that actually originated in Detroit and has been brought to other cities around the globe.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying life in the middle of the fields where the wild spring and summer flowers bloom in an unorganized pattern each spring and summer, as a part of me has really come to enjoy the life in the countryside. But, I think I could really get used to stopping at Astro with its menu of interesting salads and sandwiches and coffee that has acquired a true art form.

astro coffee collage
Salad: quinoa, fennel, radicchio, chickpea, mint and almonds. Heavenly.

astro coffee

One day we ventured on foot for about six or seven hours. We explored Corktown as well as the downtown area. According to Wikipedia, the name Corktown is the oldest historic neighborhood in Detroit and the name evolved when Irish immigrants moved into the area. Most of them were from County Cork and thus the neighborhood was called Corktown. Right at the gateway of Corktown, coming from the downtown area is the Detroit Institue of Bagels. It was started by Ben who was baking bagels from home and needed a larger space for the business. My sister Kaija, has her own architectural design studio called Laavu and the Bagel Shop is one of the significant projects she has been involved in. What I really liked was that whenever possible old things had been salvaged from the buildings and put into new use. The lights hanging above the bagel mural had a previous life in a different building and have now found a new home here. I could imagine that if I lived in the neighborhood with my kids we might ocassionally stop in for bagels when a quick lunch is needed.

detroit institute of bagesbagel shop collagebagel muralvisiting the DIBThe little pocket park outside with the stools is for days when the sun is shining. The magnolia was not in bloom yet as the winter had been cold and spring had arrived a little late but I can imagine  what it would be like to sit in the park on one of the Beech seats.


After a day of walking and a ride on the monorail, Kaija made a salad that was similar in style to some of the things in Astro. And now I think I will be on the lookout for French lentils. They are the ones that keep their shape after being cooked, although you do need to be careful to not overcook. Most lentils that can be easily found here are better in soups and stews as they fall apart after being cooked. If I can’t find them from Säästä & Punnitse, I might just have to ask them to order some for me.

french lentil saladKaija’s Lentil salad

4.7 dl/2 cups French lentils
1 l/4 cups water
sea salt
1 small red onion, finely chopped
70 g/2.5 oz capers, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
large handfuls of fresh herbs roughly chopped, for example curly parsley
other options: cilantro, rosemary, dill (whatever is in season)
100 g/3.5 oz dates, roughly chopped

1/2 c white vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp. sea salt
2-4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander seed
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp black pepper

Served with arugula.

Cook the French lentils in lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer in a covered pot for about 12-15 minutes or until soft, but do not over cook. Rinse and set aside to cool. Finely chop red onion(add more onion depending on mood or taste), celery,capers, herbs and dates. Toss in a large mixing bowl. Add lentils when cooled.

Prepare dressing. Mix vinegar, olive oil, and seasoning according to taste. Kaija loves the combination of cumin and lentil, so she often adds more cumin and doubles the amount of crushed red pepper. It gives the salad a wonderful dimension.

This salad can be served with greens. Kaija prefers peppery arugula, but is could be served with sea salt massaged kale as well.
To use leftovers, mix about 2 cups of lentil salad with an egg and fry into small “pancakes”. Serve with roughly chopped tomatoes. Delicious.

herbs and grainsdining room

And so, even though the last post had many pictures of abandoned homes and buildings, so many more are occupied and full of innovation.

Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City


  1. Really enjoyed your urban view! I enjoy urban shops and cafes for a visit, but I always start to feel overwhelmed a few days into it. I think when I lived in cities, I could take it in smaller doses, heading home or to a favourite peaceful retreat so that it didn’t get to me. Really enjoyed this post, made me think and also showed me a side of Detroit I’m not likely to see.

    1. I suppose when you live in the city life is still mainly about work, school, family or a combination of the three and there is rarely time to take in the city with entirety but rather as you said, it is taken in in small bits and pieces. I too, have really learned to enjoy my own quiet time. Cities offer the opportunity to walk amongst the masses completely anonymously…which can be both a good and a bad thing.

  2. I love that photo of dried goods along the wall. what a beautiful house. we can buy French or puy lentils here- and now this style of Lentil is also being grown n Australia. Much better for salads. I do like the mushier ones for soups.

  3. Love that dining table set-up! And what a gorgeous salad! You make interesting points about city vs country living. I live on the edge of a large city now and find myself longing for the country… but in the meantime, I make the most of cafes, city parks and all that’s on offer within walking distance. Beautiful post- as always! xx

      1. You know what? I may just owe you a debt of gratitude soon for inspiring me in a whole new direction…
        Your sentence “unfortunately it is not possible to have it all…or not at the same time” got me thinking… I wondered, “Is it impossible to have both?”… well, maybe full-time it is. But then I thought of our neighbours in Stockholm, who live in the same apartment block as us but have a small country home where they spend every weekend and their summer holidays. And then I jumped online to search around. And now my husband is going to speak to the bank about our options. Long story short, we have been saving to by a house, but have been really torn about whether to have a “dream home” in the country, that will not be in a commutable distance to Stockholm (meaning we’d also need to be self-employed) or have an ok home, closer to the city. Or to just stay where we are for now (where we are perfectly happy and have a peaceful, lovely kind of urban lifestyle within easy access to everything). And now I am thinking there might be another possibility! Will check out your sister’s work! Thank you 🙂 xxxxx

  4. You’re so right. Though there is so much deterioration and neglect, there’s much being done to turn things around. Success won’t occur over night. It took years for the city to fall so far. But, change is coming and it is change for the good. Speaking of good, this lentil salad does sound wonderful and would make a fantastic lunch.

    1. Thank you John, the lentil salad was delicious. Was the Eastern Market thriving when you were a kid. We visited the neighborhood but did not make it to the actual market…had to save something for a future trip! 🙂

      1. Oh, yes! Grandpa and I went every Saturday during the warm months and about once a month in the cold ones. I don’t know how large it is now but, back in the day, it was said to be the largest market of its kind in the States. I’ve many warm memories of being there with Grandpa. 🙂

      2. Your memories sound delightful and according to my sister the market area is very active still today. She visits it regularly. I arrived Saturday afternoon and so we missed the Saturday market this time.

  5. Hello, my dear. I do believe that we are overdue for a trip to Detroit. You have helped us to see what we’re missing.

    Love, Grampa

    1. Hi Grampa, hope you have the chance to go. I’m sure Kaija would love to show you around. So many new developments in just a short time have occurred. I was really impressed with all of the projects. Love, Laila ❤

  6. Beautiful salad and just love all of the magical flavours in the salad dressing. Detroit is a sad place. I hope it can rebuild but it is going to take a lot of effort. Love the dining room set! Gorgeous!

  7. Love the pocket garden with the stools that can be stacked away. Such a lot of innovation and inspiration in your post and your sister’s website is great. I like lentils but often cheat by using canned lentils!

    1. I really like the pocket garden as well…and can only imagine how cozy it will be in a few years as the trees fill out and the flowers bloom. I’m sure Kaija will be pleased to hear that you enjoyed her website. 🙂

  8. It’s clear that your sister has as much taste and style as you do! What a lovely house. Had no idea there were areas like Corktown in Detroit, I can see why you could imagine yourself there. And I meant to say how cute Hugo was in your last post…

    1. Oh, thank you…you are so nice! Corktown begins about a five-ten minute walk from downtown Detroit, up Michigan Avenue. It’s very accessible and I’m sure you would enjoy it if you ever happen visit Detroit.

  9. I am really enjoying your posts on Detroit, it’s such a wonderful city, so full of history and it used to be such a thriving metropolis. Hoping that there is a major comeback for the Motor City! The photo’s are amazing.

  10. I’m loving this post! It’s beautiful… you have a wonderful eye for photography and in particular, the framing of your photos. The salads you consumed look beautiful, nourishing and delicious. Love the urban environment in Detroit, it’s really funky and somewhat reminds me of my own hometown here in Perth… not sure why. I think it’s the ‘flatness’ of it, the little pops of art here and there, the urban gardens and the juxtapositioning of the old and new. Wonderful post xx

  11. What a wonderful start to the revival of a town. I am in love with the bottles in the box on the wall and wooden floors are my dream. Maybe one day we will own a home with hardwood floors.
    Looking forward to your next instalment.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    1. I love old wooden floors as well…they bring so much character! 🙂 Old houses have a charm that new ones just don’t have, even though new houses do have their benefits!

  12. I’ve never been to Detroit and I have no idea what the city looks like except for what I’ve seen in media (not the most flattering impression). Happy to see that there are also many nice places (that bagel shop looks stunning):)

    1. Amongst the abandoned buildings were many thriving neighborhoods and gems. I ran out of time to visit all of the neat and unique places…next time! 🙂

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