Tyler Manley, Mobile Market director for the Massachusetts Avenue Project, deals with customers who hail from places far and wide when he makes his rounds on the West Side. Many of them are refugees who are helping breathe new vibrancy into the several city neighborhoods.
The language can be a challenge, but it’s usually manageable, Manley told me for an “In the field” story in Saturday’s WNY Refresh.
“I’m always so surprised at how much you can get through with hand motions, pointing, counting the currency,” he said.
Though he did have trouble with “pumpkins.”
After he started last year, “the African woman would come to my stand and we had a lot of squash, and they’d come and say, ‘Pumpkin? Pumpkin?’ And I’d say, ‘No, not pumpkin, spaghetti squash,’ and they’d look at me like blech, yuck, and they’d walk away,” he said.
“So I brought one of our students with me who is an African girl, and I was helping someone else and barely listening and the woman said, ‘Pumpkins? Pumpkins? And she said, ‘Yes, yes,’ and the woman bought it. And the girl, her name is Kuwu, I said, ‘Actually, those aren’t pumpkins. And she said, ‘In Africa, all squash are referred to as pumpkins. That’s the word for squash.’
"I would have never known."
So Manley has been selling a lot more “pumpkins” this growing season.
“And tomatoes,” he said. “People here have told me they don’t like tomatoes, but they’ve never had a tomato before. Going to Subway, or even Wegmans in January, they aren’t tomatoes. In January, once a tomato has been put in a refrigerator, it’s not even a tomato anymore. It’s just a flavorless oooh, ick. When you pick a homegrown tomato off of a vine and eat it, that’s real tomato flavor, but so many people don’t even experience that anymore.