Pusher on Every Street Corner in LA

oranges in la la land
The plethora of farmers’ markets in southern California is one the things that makes living here in LA somewhat bearable. Otherwise, I would be miserable (but mildy amused) watching the eye candy barbie dolls, top heavy with silicone, jewels, and oversized sunglasses teetering around on spike heels nursing chihuahuas in their Balenciaga bags with an Evian bottle. I would need extreme anger management for my freeway traffic road rage at rush 24-7 (because it’s not just an hour) trying to understand why getting from one neighborhood, two-point-five miles from the next neighborhood takes no less than 40 minutes. I would be downright depressed thinking about the inflated housing market in which the amount of money that buys a ranch and about 50 heads of longhorns in Kansas can only afford…a ten-by-ten Public Storage warehouse space, in the ghetto. Did I mention the 405 traffic? *sigh* Thank God for the LA farmers’ markets, otherwise I’d be in therapy for years.

certainly not from a mango orchard in california

But there’s a funny phenomenon, if that’s the right word for it, that sort of ties together the idea of farmers’ markets and L.A. drive-time traffic (on the ones!). If you’re not from L.A., then you might wonder what that suspicious dark-skinned young man donning a straw hat, or sometimes its a Dodgers cap, is going to do with an entire bag of oranges on his shoulder from the center divider. Don’t worry. Angelenos know – it’s miniature, portable, one-man produce market, and if you wave your $10 bill from the window while waiting for the light to change, he’ll bring over a bag of lemons or oranges, box of mangoes, a flat of strawberries, and if you’re lucky, he might even have pineapples.

champagne mangoes
a little too alien for me at 8 am

From what I’ve seen, the produce is rarely, if ever, locally grown produce from nearby farms. Usually, the fruits are in commercially packed boxes or bags with stickers from Ecuador. Or Bolivia. Or somewhere else, but definitely not the U.S. I am quite certain there are no mango orchards in California. I am going to guess that these entrepreneurs have gone to the ports, picked up a box of mangoes for five bucks, and are selling them to me for ten. 100% markup. That’s quite a brilliant business model.

oranges from a street vendor
nothing wrong with pushing produce – it could be worse

On my morning commute, there are three of these little vendors, but their locations will have to remain a mystery, for I discovered that the legality of these enterprises is somewhat questionable. Recently, Señor Naranja (name has been changed to protect his identity, though I don’t think I ever got his name to begin with LOL!) was very nervous after I had slammed on the brakes, squealed out a u-turn, and pulled over to his corner, all in the matter of about 6 seconds. Rows of oranges, stacks of strawberry flats like lincoln logs, various boxes leaning against each other to create a lovely display stand for the pineapples lined up across their tops. I started snapping photos, and I had to assure him, amigo, no te preocupes. Es para on proyecto personal. He still looked worried, and probably wondered why, dressed in bizness cazh, I was on my knees in front of the mangoes at 8 am. I’m not sure for what reason these guys would not be legit, but even if they aren’t, at least they’re pushing produce, not something else. And I’d like to continue telling myself that my $10 is helping to support his family.

Now the question is, what am I supposed to do with an entire box of mangoes?!?! I’m allergic to them.

Mmmm. Mango-ritas. You know, ‘cuz tequila helps with the itching and all. ;)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BoLA August 10, 2005 at 8:29 am

I love it! I love how you stopped and used your Español skills to explain your personal project.

Mmm…Mangoes are so delicious! Sweet, moist, and succulent fruits, they are! Absolutely divine! Mango margaritas are probably one of my favorite drinks along with Lychee-tinis. Mmm…. mango salsa with fish is very yummy too! Can’t wait to read about your mango adventures! :)


2 Nicky August 10, 2005 at 9:14 am

Wonderfully written and to the point! Especially the barbie doll part ;)


3 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 11:29 am

Let’s not forget the flower boys as well! Especially around Mothers Day and most Sundays, a bouquet of long stemmed red roses for about the same $10 bill (Mothers Day it’s all out war of the roses!) as you crawl along Ventura, Century, or Sepulveda Boulevards. Ahh, LA, I remember it well. ;)


4 sarah August 10, 2005 at 3:53 pm

kn: well, the mango adventures will be interesting to say the least. the last time i used a mango, i broke out in hives, LOL!

nicky: oh, you wouldn’t believe some of the barbie dolls around here.! *chuckle*

i totally forgot about the flower guys! the thing is, sometimes they have the UGLIEST flowers wrapped in the UGLIEST cellophane plastic nasty printed stuff. HAHA!


5 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 7:23 pm

It’s probably not illegal to squat and sell, but they may be illegal aliens, which is why they may be skittish about authorities.


6 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 8:15 pm

I love your blog especially because of the way you write with flair and humor.

Having said that … is it really necessary to describe the ubiquitous young latino man selling fresh fruit as “that suspicious dark-skinned young man donning a straw hat”? Even though this is a fun food blog where we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously, this is 21st century Los Angeles that you are writing about and living within.

-Anon #1


7 sarah August 10, 2005 at 8:26 pm

anon #1! you are absolutely right. i guess it didn’t come across very well that for me, and probably everyone else who lives in LA, that they are not suspicious at all, but for those who are NOT from l.a., they might wonder. like my uncle visiting from korea, who even after i tell him that the produce vendors really are just selling produce, locks his doors when he exits the freeway. LOL!


8 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 8:32 pm

I agree with Anon#1.

You certainly like to stereotype, don’t you? Not every female in LA is a “barbie doll,” as you say. How do we know that you too aren’t one of those “top heavy with silicone, jewels, and oversized sunglasses teetering around on spike heels nursing chihuahuas in their Balenciaga bags with an Evian bottle.” Please.



9 sarah August 10, 2005 at 8:46 pm


i’m asian, and until i scrape together $5,000 for a visit to dr. 90210, there is no way i am top-heavy. i will admit to having some other “work” done, but that’s for me to know and everyone else to never find out ;)

and re: chihuahuas…well, the only way i’ll have a chihuahua is grilled and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

just kidding.

but really, i apologize if any of the writing comes across as offensive to you. not ever meant to be horribly mean.


10 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 9:45 pm

actually i was OK with the portrayal of the top heavy barbie dolls ;)

-Anon #1


11 Anonymous August 10, 2005 at 10:58 pm

You should take pictures and post that on your blog, too.


12 Anonymous August 21, 2006 at 1:22 am

They are not called “barbie dolls” they are called bimbos, and are definitely a sub population in LA and you notice them because they want to be noticed.

The best places to see the best is in expensive area. Once at an expensive and suddenly very trendy restaurant, our party was waiting for a table and we had to stand inside near the bar to wait. One couple seated a table near the bar (I figured him for a BH dentist) got upset because we were blocking their view of the bimbos at the bar.


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