Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vegetable peeler man dies at 75

I know you were expecting an entry about my traditional Aztec wedding ceremony today, but I'm postponing it for two reasons: One, I didn't get the pics yet from Verana (who had a professional photographer there). And two, it has just come to my attention that the Vegetable Peeler Man has died, and this man was an institution people!

Legendary NYC Vegetable Peeler Salesman Joe Ades, 75

If you live in New York or have visited as a tourist, it's more than likely you've seen the compelling salesmanship of Joe Ades, vegetable-peeler extraordinaire. Mr. Ades died on Sunday. He was 75.

Mr. Ades' five-minute pitch was hypnotic, and whenever I saw him on a corner—in Midtown, at Union Square (he had various favorite locations)—I'd always stop to watch, even though I'd seen his spiel countless times and even though I had already bought a couple of his peelers. (They really do work well and, as he claimed, mine has never needed sharpening.)

With bins full of vegetables, Ades would demonstrate the utility of the stainless steel Swiss peeler that made him a wealthy man ("one for $5, two for $10, five for $20"). He'd deftly remove the eyes from potatoes and show how easy it was to julienne carrots or to slice them into stars ("you do that for the kids and they'll eat their veggies"). [A video of Mr. Ades in action appears after the jump.]

Always nattily dressed in a suit and tie, no matter the weather, Ades was the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper articles that recounted his almost Dickensian trajectory from Manchester, England, to the streets of New York City.


Mr. T and I like to go to Union Square on Saturday's to get fresh produce, potted plants and cider when it is in season. Each time we go, we stop and watch the Vegetable Peeler Man for a few minutes. No matter how many time we've heard his pitch, and it was always exactly the same. There was something about his british accent, his full suit, and the obvious joy he found in his work that made him hard to turn away from. I never bought a vegetable peeler. But I wish I had.

R.I.P. Mr. Vegetable Peeler Man.


  1. Oh NO! I saw him at Union Square just last month.

  2. another NY institution gone. It's so sad. Characters like him is what makes life so interesting. RIP is right.

  3. um, I have no idea who this is... but I wish he could have peeled my vegetables.

    wait, that sounded bad.

  4. So sad. I loved him. He seems to have had a wonderful life. Did you see him on the Sunday a.m. show? What a guy.

  5. Not the vegetable peeler guy! Noooooo!

  6. Believe it or not, but I've always been amazed by that man. He's the epitome of "NO THANKS. I DON'T NEED A HAND-OUT. I'VE GOT TWO HANDS' And although potato-peelers hate me, I've always wished I had one of HIS.