November 28, 2012 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Drunk history: Detroit’s Delectable Past with Bill Loomis, Thurs. 11/29
‘Tis the season for cheer, tinsel, decorating your house, family, gifts, slacking off at work, mittens, craft projects, waiting for snow while fretting about global climate change. But most of all, ’tis the season for cooking, baking, eating, and drinking. This Thursday, Nov. 29, the Detroit Drunken Historical Society is thrilled to welcome Bill Loomis to St. Cece’s. We’ll talk about Detroit’s history through food and drink, from grand hotel dining rooms of the Gilded Age to home remedies for ague to forgotten delicacies like frogs, mutton, and muskrat. Also, taverns. So many taverns.
Bill just wrote Detroit’s Delectable Past. This book is so much fun. I recommend it for any bon vivant in your life, as well as anyone you know (maybe a novelist?) who is looking for vibrant, tactile detail about what kitchens looked like in pioneer homes, how to make turtle soup, milk peddler wars, methods for keeping rats out of restaurant kitchens, and the people who used to hang out at Eastern Market in the old days. An excerpt:
One man in particular stood out: Francis Benson, the Central Market Terror. Benson — or, as he was called by the papers, “Lord Benson” — was a stall owner who sold vegetables at the market starting in the 1860s with his fiancee and, unfortunately, later his wife. He was immediately considered a troublemaker and, as reported in the Detroit newspapers, was arrested over twenty-five times over the next twenty years, including a charge of manslaughter in the death of his wife, for which he was acquitted. … He was arrested for every conceivable offense at the market, including assault, abusive language, disturbing the peace, punching a market clerk, false weights on blueberries, drunkenness, obnoxious behavior, indecent exposure, shooting his pistol into a crowd and “acting insane.” (He probably didn’t know it was a crime.)