(Ligaya Mishan’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/9; via Pam Green.)
It must be a Friday or a Saturday, from April to October, after 10 p.m. — the later the better — and still you may not find her, Maria Piedad Cano, the once and future Arepa Lady of Jackson Heights, Queens.
For more than two decades, she has parked her cart among the late-night roisterers of Roosevelt Avenue. Early in her career as a street vendor (previously, in Colombia, she was a lawyer and a judge), she was canonized in The New York Press by Jim Leff, who later helped found Chowhound. Now 70, she remains his seraphic archetype: a tiny, bright-eyed woman with a halo of reddish hair and the kind of smile typically achieved only after years of solitary meditation, making the quicksilver toss of a $4 corn cake on a griddle a gesture at once elegant and magnanimous.