says. ‘‘I started working here at 13, cleaning and sweeping. You start to learn little things, like using the slicing machine, and eventually you get to take care of the customers.’’ He has been taking care of the customers for 34 years and now part-owns the business. ‘‘I’m starting to see [my original customers’] grandchildren,’’ he says.
‘‘When I first came here it was run by a Polish momand pop, and was the only butcher shop that wasn’t kosher.’’
Across the road is another slice of history. The Moore Street Market, opened in 1941 after an edict from Depression-era mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that eyesore pushcart pedlars needed to get off the streets and move into more formal marketplaces, keeps East Williamsburg’s immigrant community supplied with the flavours of home. We stop for a Latin American sancocho pork and plaintain stew at Ramonita’s Restaurant towards the rear of the market, and a glass of morir sonando (a strangely delicious Latin American mix of orange juice and evaporated milk), as VandenBosch describes how this much-loved repository almost closed in 2008. It was earmarked for demolition, but the locals wouldn’t hear of it. After 25,000 signatures were gathered, there are now plans for expansion and improvement.
‘‘There’s a bakery moving in, a few more stalls and more diversity of cuisines, hopefully,’’ says VandenBosch. ‘‘The Chinese population is already growing.’’
If history is anything to go by, the introduction of Asian flavours will add yet another layer to a community already rich in cultural and culinary diversity. Urban Oyster-Turnstile Tours’ Immigrant Foodways Tour of East Williamsburg lasts between 2 and 21/ hours; $US42 ($41) a person, including bottle of water, recipe booklet, market guide and tastings. Private tours available. More: turnstiletours.com; urbanoyster.com.