Lessons From a 'Local Food' Scam Artist
Working summers at an authentically quaint roadside produce stand, a teenage salesperson is schooled in the not-so-subtle art of how to con a foodie from the big city.
I met my first New York foodie over twenty years ago, when I was seventeen, hawking “local bananas” at a roadside produce stand in rural New Jersey. It was my first job, and I worked all day on my own. Arriving early in the morning at the little wooden hut, ten miles from the nearest town, I stocked the displays from the refrigerated trailer behind the stand, building tomato and peach pyramids, lugging out watermelons one by one, and wrestling sixty-pound burlap corn sacks. Customers began arriving before I’d opened the shutters; I weighed, bagged and rang up purchases on an old cash register.
My instructions were to claim that all the produce was local, although nothing was or could be local: It was early June in northwestern New Jersey’s Kittatinny Mountains, and the produce had been shipped from warmer parts of the world to the distributor who'd sold it to my boss. But “local” was the magic word hand-painted on our signs; it was what made our customers, m…