2006_12_food_essex.JPGThe New York Times takes a close look at the Essex Street Market, a Lower East Side institution that's been doing business since 1940. Although the market was only 60 percent full five years ago, its low rent and the steadily increasing income stream of many in the neighborhood have led to a rejuvenation. But not everyone who walks in the door is a LES trust fund hipster with extra cash to spare. Saxelby Cheesemongers is one of several merchants who advertises their acceptance of E.B.T. cards -- the electronic replacement for food stamps. The market is a shopping mecca for all in the community, and has not become unwelcome to those who have been shopping there for decades just to cater to the influx of wealthier residents:

While the market has welcomed purveyors like Ms. Saxelby, it has not given itself over entirely to epicurean gentrification. The indoor stalls are a good place to encounter yautia, a root vegetable that looks like the love child of a soup can and a coconut. One morning last week Maria Maldonado was buying some to make spicy fried cakes. The 40 pounds of banana leaves in her cart would wrap pasteles, a sort of Puerto Rican tamale filled with pork shoulder and olives and popular at Christmastime.

A quick calculation determined that this was Ms. Maldonado’s 2,900th visit to the market, give or take a dozen. She has been going there once a week every year since she arrived in New York from Puerto Rico in 1950.

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