• 2017.04.28
  • Michigan Foods
The weather in Michigan is still unpredictable and around me a lot of people are sick with a cold due to the changes in temperature. Although we’ve had a taste of beautiful spring-like weather, Michigan’s cold days aren’t just over yet. But not all is bad; the cold climate in Michigan goes hand in hand with savory, hearty foods which I will introduce in this blogpost. Not only do these foods tie in with the weather, but they also tell a little bit of local history.

First is the coney island hot dog. Some people seem to think that it originated in New York because of the name, but it’s a Michigan original. A coney dog is a beef hotdog on a soft bun, topped with no beans chili sauce, yellow mustard and chopped onion. Although I’m really not a fan of hot dogs, the coney island hot dog is actually not bad at all!

The coney island hot dog originated in the early 1920’s and was a popular quick meal amongst the workers in the then still incredibly booming automotive business. Many sources say that it were mostly Greek immigrant who came to Detroit and found the hot dog stores a cheap business to start out in. Although the automotive business started to decline, the coney island shops survived and are still a common sight of the Detroit (and surrounding) area. So if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, you’ll have lots of chances to try one, which I surely recommend. They’re just a buck or two.

Second is the Michigan pasty. Although it’s more a local specialty from the upper peninsula (there is even an annual pasty festival in the city of Calumet!), there are a some shops here and there across the state where you can buy them. A pasty is a savory pastry traditionally stuffed with a mix of beef, potatoes and onions. It is said that Cornish miners who immigrated to the north of Michigan in the 1800’s, brought the pasty from England. It was a compact and convenient lunch for them to bring. If they wanted to heat it up, the minors would just put the pasty on their shovel over a candle! Although the recipe has changed somewhat over the years, similarly to what happened with the coney hot dog, the pasty survived the fall of the mining industry and is still a favorite local savory food to this day.


Last is the Detroit square pizza. This is absolutely one of the the best pizza’s I have ever tasted, and the best here in the area. The shape doesn’t add much to the taste you’d say, but the deep dish the pizza is baked in makes for a really crispy and flavorful bread. Of course pizza is originally an Italian food and it tastes quite different wherever you eat it (Pizza in Japan with mocchi and cheese? Just saying..), but this is a delicious spinoff. The square pizza was invented by a bar owner and his wife in the 1940’s and their legacy has been growing ever since.

Obviously the foods listed here are not high-end cuisine items, but rather things you’d eat on the go or when you are craving that hearty bite. However, they are not to be dismissed easily. Because America is a country of immigrants, it’s these foods that tell the stories of America’s people’s heritage and the role they played in different stages of development and growth. If you’re a foody, and I know most Japanese are, please try the different foods in the different area’s of the States and ask about its heritage. Chances are there is an interesting story.


  • Martha Hickey
  • JobTeacher, Illustrator

Martha was born and raised in Amsterdam but has lived in Japan for 2,5 years as part of her studies of Japanese language and culture. She is very interested in the connection between culture and communication between Dutch and Japanese people especially. Now relocated to live in Novi, Michigan, she intends to explore cultural differences amongst an even broader range.

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