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March 8, 2010

Push cart peddlers

Filed under: American Food,vegetables — Mr. Henry @ 11:13 am

Push cart peddlers clog New York streets! Mayor LaGuardia up in arms!




In 1936 the mayor rose up in anger against immigrants clogging the streets hawking wares from push carts. Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore? Phooey. LaGuardia thought them positively unsanitary.




Today, in spite of all the specialty food online, push cart peddling has returned. With only an occasional foray to Citarella or Zabar’s, Leyla manages to shop principally from farmers markets. Wednesdays and Sundays are Union Square. Saturday is Columbus Avenue beside the Museum of Natural History. Shlepping milk 80 blocks takes a lot of time and trouble, but her table is set with the freshest, tastiest foods.


It’s all local – Ronnybrook Dairy milk and yogurt, artisanal sheep and goat cheeses, dark wintered-over greens, bosc pears, and apples of every description. Recently Mr. Henry has fallen in love with Quaker Hill Farm honey and eggs (goose eggs, no less).




When La Guardia insisted that push cart peddlers take up residence in covered market stalls, the grocery business began to consolidate into mom and pop stores run chiefly by Italians. These in turn consolidated into a few large chains. Then in the 1980’s came the Korean-owned fruit and vegetable markets featuring salad bars, the go-to solution for harried office workers.


Now Fresh Direct trucks clog city cross streets, hardly an improvement over the push cart of yore. The very best fruits, vegetables and dairy can be found once again on sidewalk peddler carts. Weathered panel trucks with New Jersey and Pennsylvania plates sidle up and disgorge large ice chests of the most remarkable goodies imaginable. Sic transit gloria mundi.


  1. I have to recommend “The Pushcart War” by Jean Merrill, a fictional history of the 1976 war between pushcart peddlers and truck drivers (the newer edition changes the year to 1986). I loved it as a kid, and it really holds up well.

    Comment by Lee — March 9, 2010 @ 8:37 am

  2. Not sure what the above means (it’s over each section)
    Anywho! Going Green in a big way! I love my Mr. Henry. Always great reading, just not enough of it. 😉

    Comment by Jennie — March 10, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

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