Column: In defense of street food vendors

This year I started writing about caterers, with the hope that the haters could leave them alone as the economy deteriorates and more people join – because, you know, carne asada doesn’t should be a crime.

Sadly, my hopes did not come true.

More and more food vendors are springing up all over Southern California – yes, taco trucks, but there are also people selling Oaxacan tamales from roadside coolers. Fruit vendors hawk strawberries and mangoes from the back of their trucks along with cool, fresh aguas. Families open their homes and backyards to pop-up restaurants. Many of the umbrellas are rainbow-colored, now as much a part of the Southern California landscape as palm trees.

When high-class chefs do all these things, they will receive love from the press and praise from the fans.

When the Latino working class did it? They get code enforcement requests against them – and politicians are figuring out how to crack down on street food even further.

San Diego just enacted new regulations banning street vendors from selling in certain areas, following the lead of liberal Santa Monica. In my hometown of Anaheim, councilmember Jose Moreno — who has fought alone for years against corruption at City Hall and is president of the longtime civil rights group Los Amigos of Orange County — shocked the world. supporters when he asked city staff last week to review. further crackdown on street vendors, although Anaheim already has some of the strictest regulations in Orange County.

After mumbling about supporting micro-entrepreneurs it’s “a matter of philosophy and people’s need to make a living,” Moreno, a professor of Chicano and Latino studies at Cal State Long Beach, nevertheless said. know “when they started setting up restaurants… it was an insult to our small business people, the neighborhood, the community. “

Professionyou’re sounding like a Trumpster.

Let the caterers sell where they can. Get the government out of the way. Supporting people hustling for a living, this is much better than sending out stimulus checks that are completely unprofitable.

In that spirit, I recently met with California Council President Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), with whom I have remained in touch since he appeared on my 2019 podcast about the 25th Anniversary of the Project. Law 187.

We don’t really talk much about politics – our conversations are mostly about literature, but especially restaurants. The man knows his food. Every time we met, he insisted it was at a new restaurant. We have shared meals in Little Saigon, at my wife’s home in Santa Ana, and especially at various points throughout his southeastern Los Angeles County.

So when Rendon told me he was going to be at the OC to connect with Councilman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) during the Society’s summer break, I told him we should go to two locations in Anaheim. to illustrate food justice to me.

We first met at Tacos Los Cholos, a tented-roof taco restaurant where the line seemed to never end and the smell of burnt barbecue basically wafted along State College Avenue all the way to Angel Stadium. The lunch rush was about to begin when Rendon ordered tacos of chorizo, pork chops, and lightly melted panela cheese topped with a güerito chile. I went with adobada, the northern Mexican version of pastor al.

“My parents don’t have a lot of money, but they love to try other places,” he said as we waited for lunch. Family favorites include Tommy’s and a carnitas spot off Indiana Street near Highway 5 in East Los Angeles called Las Carnitas. But Rendon also enjoys the dining scene, a trait he got from his grandmother, who cooked at a retirement home for priests in Silver Lake.

“I read in a book that people would pay to see Napoleon eat at parties,” he said as we both mixed banh tet with spicy – ​​but not burnt – red and green salsas. “It just says so much about us.”

The speaker asked the assemblers when he was visiting their districts to choose a restaurant where they could both shop.

“It’s a reflection of the person, but also of the place,” Rendon said shortly before taking a bite of his taco carne asada. “That’s one way to find both.”

He suddenly stopped talking. “You can taste the smoke. The smell will go through your nose and out of your mouth. The tortillas are great – you can taste the corn. ”

Rendon continued to chew, then tried to continue his point but couldn’t. “Damn, this is really good. As comforting as a backyard barbecue.”

After preparing lunch, the two of us headed to Tocumbo Ice Cream, which makes the best Mexican-style ice cream and ice cream – think a lot of regional fruits like maracuya, mamey and even soursop – in Southern California. Every time I go to Anaheim to visit family, I try a new flavor – I think I’m 24 now. Jennifer Clausen-Quiroz and her brother Ricky Quiroz run the place. They also serve and thus know the faces of the street vendors.

I asked Rendon how the Society was trying to help street vendors amid the pandemic and the local cities at war with them. I mentioned Anaheim’s sad example of harassing street vendors and brought up how Tacos Los Cholos – so common that you often see city workers there wearing work uniforms and badges – graduated from their hustling roadside lives to now have two locations (sources say a third is in the works).

Rendon told me the state Legislature is trying to get Sacramento out of the way of food vendors. He outlined how Santa Monica Senator Ben Allen – a Democrat – was trying to pass a bill that would make it easier for cities to get around behind unlicensed street vendors, but the Assembly has been successfully adjusted.

Allen’s bill would now require the California Governor’s Office of Economic and Business Development to produce a report on the barriers street vendors face in obtaining permits and licenses.

Meanwhile, Sens. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and Maria Elena Durazo (D- Los Angeles) of the state drafted another bill that would relax the state’s retail food code so more people can prepare food from home. for sale.

“We’re kinder than a lot of cities,” Rendon said as we ordered ice cream — Mazapan for me, chongos zamoranos (a cinnamon-flavored curd) for him. “As Dems, we consider ourselves champions of the little guy, and [helping street vendors] is a perfect example to help. “

We stopped to enjoy our respective cones. Mazapan tastes like its eponymous candy, a powdered peanut confection that has Proustian power to me. Rendon smiled while finishing his. “This is really layered!” he say. “Subtlety.”

Conference speaker Anthony Rendon with ice cream

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon holds a cone of chongos zamorano (a type of curd) at Tocumbo Ice Cream in Anaheim

(Gustavo Arellano / Los Angeles Times)

Before we go, I ask Rendon to plug in a favorite restaurant in Sacramento and in his county, as well as a wild card.

“323 Tacos go north – get the asada and lengua,” he said. “Burrito House in Bell, for their chile Relleno burrito and handmade flour tortillas. And then there’s the Laotian BBQ spot in Stanton – in the diner out there…”

Kra-Z-Kai’s BBQ?

“Super! Spicy, fresh, incredible.”

Damn, Rendon knows the spots in Stanton? California’s democracy is safer than I imagined…and so are the street vendors there. Column: In defense of street food vendors

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