We's in California

Sunday, April 23, 2006

See the vegetable man, in the vegetable van.

There's a line from the new Beck album "See the vegetable man in the vegetable van with the horn that's honking like a mariachi band.". Today it hit me that since Beck is from LA, I'm pretty sure this is about the type of vans that drive around in our very own neighborhood in Van Nuys. It really is pretty much a vegetable a vegetable van. These vans slowely cruise around the city with, you guessed it, vegetables among other types of groceries. The van in our neighborhood signifies its arrival on our street with a fairly loud yet tasteful and dignified rendition of "La Cucuracha" from a grey loudspeaker mounted on the roof. Usually it repeats the tune twice and then people emerge from their homes to make their purchases. I haven't tried to buy anything from said van, because I have feeling I'll get laughed at because I don't speak Spanish.

California really does have it good when it comes to food.
One of our favorite things has been the sense of regionality of the food here. The following is a list of major grocery chains and their Manitoban equivilants:

a) Ralphs - This is pretty much Safeway. Kind of expensive, and everywhere. Somehow we ended up with a Ralph's Club Membership Card. This club, like the Safeway Club, is pretty exclusive and only those with a telephone number can tap into the amazing savings to be had. We try not to go, but they are open 24 hours a day. The people behind the meat and cheese counter are always Armenian, it doesn't matter what part of the city you're in. I don't get it, but man those Armenians can shave a block of cheese so thin it looks like Saran-Wrap.

b) Whole Foods - Smaller stores and quite expensive. Sort of like a chain of Vics on Pembina. Here you can find a great selection of
sugar-free vegan organic free-range baby seals. Ok, most of the food is organic which is pretty awesome but it's still not really accessible to the majority of the population because of the price. The parking lot is usually filled with BMW's and the isles with desperate housewives. We would go here but it's too expensive. Does that mean we're cheap? Am I stereotyping people who value healthy food and are willing to pay a fair price for it? Is that how you spell "isles"? These questions I cannot answer.

c) Trader Joe's - One of the two places we go. Sort of a slightly cheaper version of Whole Foods. Don't even think about buying the vegetables, read point D for the reason. Trader Joe's has lots of locally sourced foods and the stores themselves are pretty small but have an amazing selection and the quality of the food really high. There is a subtle safari theme which makes buying cookies and a bag of beer nuts on a Sunday afternoon quite an exhilarating experience. They use paper bags and have Cliff Bars. They also have quality wines from Napa Valley.

d) Jons - This place is like Price Choppers on seniors discount Tuesday, but all week and for everyone. Really really good and where we buy our veggies. Not to be confused with the upscale grocery chain "Vons", which must be Jons older, whiter, richer, brother. Jons is the most frequented grocery store in Van Nuys. The price of their fruit doesn't really make sense sometimes: once we bought good oranges at the price of 7 pounds for a dollar. Think about that. Mangos are regularly 3 for a dollar, same with avocados. Jons are the people who use way to many grocery bags, but we clean our
conscience once a week buy going to Trader Joe's.

So that's how food works in California. Last week I heard the average home price in LA county reached 506,000 USD. I think that's fair. This milestone has inspired me to show everyone some "I can't believe THAT costs a million dollars" pictures I've got so watch for those. These places make the houses on Wellington Crecent look like a steal. We really do like the comments so keep them coming. (As long as they're not..confrontational.) On behalf of me and Jer's two-handed +3 damage broad sword, thank's for reading.


  • 1) At Jons, EVERYBODY that works there is Armenian, not just at the deli counter. (At least at the ones in East Hollywood and North Hollywood, maybe the one in Van Nuys is different.) Definitely the place for low-priced produce goodness. Try their deli, though. They have unusal Armenian salamis and sausages, weird beers from Russia and other countries, odd liqueurs, and huge boxes of Armenian chocolates.
    2) Think of Trader Joe's as a convenience store, but on steroids, with gourmet, low-priced and organic foods. But their strong suit is definiately pre-made, pre-packaged foods, frozen foods and unusal snacks and candies. 80% of their products are in-house brands. They're most known for their $2 bottles of Charles Shaw wine. Just Google "Two Buck Chuck" and you'll see.
    3) The vegetable van is hit-or-miss. It's really made for low-income mothers that can't leave the house.

    By Blogger Scott, at April 24, 2006  

  • At the Jons here in Van Nuys there is a mix of Russian, Armenian and Mexican employees. We don't intend on trying the weird meats but have purchased some Boris Yeltsin yodka. I have recieved some Armenian chocolate from some patients at work and I do not recommend. Love the 2$ wine at Trader Joes though.

    By Anonymous dayna, at April 24, 2006  

  • Bad news. Since you left town the average home price in Winnipeg has swelled to $506,000 Canadian Funds. Taking into account the exchange rate, PST and GST that's $506,000 American Funds, or close to it. Even if I'm pushing the truth a little, the market is skyrocketing, so it's a good thing you're not looking for real estate in the west end.

    Armenian chocolate. Tell me you didn't bite into it.

    Have fun chugging Fat Bastard beer with Neal this weekend.

    By Anonymous w in w, at April 24, 2006  

  • Hey Gareth, "isle" is like a waterway and "aisle" is what is way too narrow, and often has broken jars of tomato sauce in them from people with poor buggy-driving skills at the local Superstore. I hate how they just put boxes of goods on the shelves and just cut the fronts and tops off of them... the cardboard is what gets caught by the carts when trying to maneuver down the ailse.

    By Anonymous Jeremy, at April 24, 2006  

  • Do I understand correctly? A grocery van drives through the streets playing a song titled "The Cockroach" and people come out to buy vegetables? I am so disgusted I've decided to go back to the British Aisles or at the very least to some country where they can spell the word "crescent."

    By Anonymous simoncowell, at April 24, 2006  

  • A firm grasp on English AND Spanish. No wonder you're on TV.

    By Anonymous Paula Abdul, at April 25, 2006  

  • what about the piggily wiggily? aren't they all the rage down in usa? "hey paw, goin down to the piggily wiggily to pick up some grits"

    By Anonymous clitke, at April 26, 2006  

  • I think I heard the Fresh Prince mention the Piggily Wiggily to Uncle Phil once, but I could be wrong.

    By Anonymous chris, at April 26, 2006  

  • Aisle, it was aisle.

    Also I love spelling cheque with the que as well, people have never seen that. It confuses them, all I know is...Cheque mate.

    By Blogger Gareth, at April 26, 2006  

  • The missionaries returned at the start of May speaking in hushed tones of the Paintball Wizard. And so dissipated the thin pacifist veneer. Relegate the compost worms to the trash, chew on some raw red meat. Release the inner self. C'mon, you can do it.

    By Anonymous w in w, at May 02, 2006  

  • Explain.

    By Anonymous chris, at May 03, 2006  

  • Chris I went paintballing this with a guy who knows alot about custom industrial fans and another guy with him who owns his own paintball gun and is supposed to know alot about custom industrial fans. It was pretty sweet. We had coupons.

    By Blogger Gareth, at May 03, 2006  

  • The Jons in Valley Glen (the one on Victory) closed because they were fighting for parking with the stupid ghetto Bally Total Fitness next door. Vallarta is moving in there though.

    You should check out Vallarta (the big one on Vineland between Sherman Way and Vanowen, right by Burbank Airport)... you want to know from cheap produce, this is the place.

    The "La Cucaracha" truck (for as such it is known to all and sundry, at least all and English-speaking sundry) stops at the corner of Vanowen, at the top of my road, every day. I've never bought anything, even though I speak Spanish, but I should.

    Then yesterday... oh, here, just read this instead:

    By Anonymous Dave the Ubergeek, at May 05, 2006  

  • There's a Vallarta on Victory a few streets West of Sepulveda. Never been there, but then again Dayna and I are the type of people that would spend 5 bucks on gas to save 2 on produce. We'll check it out anyway. Thanks!

    (It's amazing how when you type something it could be taken sarcastically. Intonation is everything. In this case I am not being sarcastic, but when I read it again it could come off as such. Even THAT sounded sarcastic. Dammit!)

    By Blogger Gareth, at May 10, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home