We attended a church in downtown Detroit—about 5 miles from our house. I used to ride my bike down Mack Avenue, then make a right onto Outer Drive until it butted against Chandler Park. The church was located on the corner.
A number of folks in the congregation spoke Swedish. The pastor, Constantine Trued, was married to a Swede, and their lovely daughters with flaxen hair were very much admired by prepubescent me.
At 6, I sang in the Santa Lucia festival. As I remember, I wore a Santa Claus (or elf?) suit, held a black broom, and sang something in Swedish, the meaning of which was unknown to me. But the pastor’s daughter, wearing white dress and a green advent wreath and live candles inches from her flaxen hair. Oh, God: Vive la différence!
On many Sundays, the older women in the church made coffee cakes flavored with cardamom. That was my first exposure to this excellent spice, a foundation of Indian curries and so important to Scandinavian baking. Cardamom brings sunlight to even the coldest heart.
We also had pancake suppers. These were with crepes, but not of the French variety. Swedish crepes are smaller, very numerous, and extremely eggy. They were filled with jam and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. I remember going back for seconds, even thirds.
Then there were the Indian missionaries who cooked my first Indian food. I suspect it was Chicken Biryani, that excellent spicy, colorful, and light dish that anyone could love. My first exposure to the wonderful spice aromas associated with Indian cuisine.
There was Mr. Larry. Unprepossessing in his lumpy blue suit with enormous pockets jammed with gum, he would stand in the Fellowship Hall and give out sticks of gum to kids. I had my share, but that experience turned me against gum for the rest of my life. I have not chewed a stick since then.
Boy Scouts met every Monday night in the Fellowship Hall. Once a year, we held a banquet. The scoutmaster, a true Michigander, loved pasties (short “a”, not long), an upper peninsula meat pie. He purchased them for every banquet. Freeform pies made of a large circle of dough wrapped around a potato-based stew containing carrots, rutabagas, a brown sauce, bits of stewed beef, and loads of black pepper. This was traditional Cornish fare. Michigan, especially the upper peninsula, is home to the descendants of the original Cornish miners who sought their fortunes at the bottom of Michigan’s countless copper mines.
Cornwall was initially home to Phoenicians who mined its coppery riches. Pasties were developed there—the perfect lunch for a miner on the go. Easily heated on the surface of a shovel and providing a full complement of nutrients to maintain eyesight and muscle tone. Upper Michigan was home to native copper and copper minerals, and the Cornish were drawn there as a needle is to a lodestone. One could claim that the pasty is actually Phoenician and therefore associated with the Middle East.