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Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914.

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Polish bakery in Hamtramck.

Hamtramck flourished from 1910 to 1920 as thousands of European immigrants, particularly Poles, were attracted by the growing automobile industry. The city has grown increasingly ethnically diverse but still bears many reminders of its Polish ancestry in family names, street names and businesses.

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Eastern Market.
Each week thousands of people flock to Eastern Market for its Saturday Market to enjoy one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market and the adjacent district are rare finds in a global economy – a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling, and retailing food.

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Gratiot Central Market (GCM) was built in 1915 and its original use was for retail foods, primarily meat, as indicated by the three bull heads above the main doors.  Aside from meat, one could also purchase dairy products, eggs, relishes (pickles and such), as well as canned goods and ethnic foods at Gratiot Central Market – to complement the produce sold in the sheds.

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The building was originally two stories and also housed a saloon and billiards hall.  Two fires significantly altered the building – the first in 1967, resulted in the building being reconstructed as a one-story building.  After the fire in 1995, almost the entire building was rebuilt.  The only remaining part of the original building is the exterior terra cotta wall along Gratiot Avenue.

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All the market walls are filled with enchanting graffiti depicting the food on sale.

Detroit Meat Market_03Today, the merchants at Gratiot Central Market continue the tradition of selling every kind of meat imaginable – from Amish chicken to yellow-fin tuna.  

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Right in front of the Pittsburgh Public Library, in the Art Park.

Right in front of the Pittsburgh Public Library, in the Art Park.

Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.

Cuba, its politics and culture, is the current focus.

Cuba, its politics and culture, is the current focus.

The current Cuban version introduces our customers to the food, culture, and thoughts of people living in Cuba and those that have immigrated to the U.S. Developed in collaboration with members of the Cuban community, the food comes packaged in wrappers that include interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States on subjects ranging from culture to politics.  As is to be expected, the thoughts and opinions that come through the interviews and the programming are often contradictory and complicated by personal perspective and history. These natural contradictions reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with the customers.

Ropa Vieja. Tasty beef with cuban salad and, yes, rice and beans.

Ropa Vieja. Tasty shredded beef with cuban salad and, yes, rice and beans.

Operating seven days a week in the middle of the city, Conflict Kitchen uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines. In addition, the restaurant creates a constantly changing site for ethnic diversity in the post-industrial city of Pittsburgh, as it has presented the only Iranian, Afghan, and Venezuelan restaurants the city has ever seen. Upcoming iterations will focus on the U.S. involved border conflicts of North/South Korea and Palestine/Israel.