Tuesday, May 9, 2023
My percentage of food blogs is about to increase but I can’t help it. We stalked the Flour & Forge pizza truck and learned they’d be in town tonight. This is the truck that shows up to the festivals, where we had the last amazing slice a few weeks ago.
Time between leaving the house to drive the three miles into town and return home with a Velvet Revolver for me and a Meat Supreme for Ralph: 75 minutes.
Every one of them worth the deliciousness.
Which got me thinking, why is food off a truck so delicious?
And why is food from a truck even a thing?
This is where large chunks of my day go, because I get caught up in looking this stuff up, and one thing you learn is cooler than the next, and before you know it you want to start a cross country trip merely so you can try the food trucks.
To be fair, I haven’t had many encounters with mobile food until we moved here. If you don’t count hot dogs off New York City street vendors, my love affair with food trucks started with… well, a hot dog.
I’ll tell you this much: not all hot dogs are created equal. The ones from the Smokey Dawgg truck are fat, juicy, real meat, none of that filler junk, and piled with anything you could want. Relish, cheese, chili, onions.
The unfortunate thing about that truck is that they don’t like to be in a convenient location for me. They park themselves six miles away… which is twice as far as the pizza truck so do the math. I’d need half a day.
There is a Greek food truck in a semi-permanent location in Nashville that is the best Greek food I’ve ever eaten. It’s located near the theater where we occasionally see plays and other performances, so we usually hit it up afterwards. They are smart, and stay open until some ridiculous hour like 4AM on the weekends.
The last time we saw a show, we ordered giant gyro platters and sat on the tailgate of our car like a bunch of teenagers, scarfing down hummus and lamb like we had never seen a plate of food before.
Then there’s the empanada truck… they really don’t like to be in a convenient location for me, which is a great thing because the last time they were, I ordered a hundred dollars worth of empanadas and plantains that lasted us for an entire week.
And I wonder why I need to spend an hour a day on the Peloton.
According to the internet’s history of food trucks, the first mobile food station was a “chuck wagon” dating back to 1866. It was basically a wagon full of shelves and storage attached to an army wagon, that folded out so you could cook on it.
It was used to feed the wagon trains that migrated west.
If you want to go really far back, food pushcarts were around since the 1600s. You couldn’t cook on them, but they sold clams and oysters, fruit and ethnic foods.
In the 1800s you had hot dog vendors at Coney Island.
In the 1920s, the Good Humor truck started selling ice cream on a stick out of refrigerated trucks with those classic bells that trigger everyone’s Pavlovian response.
Three words: Chocolate. Éclair. Bar.
Also, did you know they have solar powered freezers on the streets of New York? I didn’t.
If you count ice cream as food (and who doesn’t?) then I guess it’s fair to say my love affair with food trucks started with Good Humor, followed by Mister Softee.
Back in the day when you used to “go out and play” because you didn’t have things like computers to sit in front of and TV only had 13 channels, most of which were snow, the best days were the ones when the ice cream truck came rolling down the street.
You would hear those bells from blocks away and go screeching into the house to beg money from your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles or anyone who had a pocket, and jump up and down nervously as they took their sweet time coughing it up while you were terrified that the truck would roll by before you made it back out to the street. If that happened, you’d have to chase it down the block waving your dollar in the air and hope the guy caught your eye in the mirror so you could run up and say CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIR BAR PLEASE.
Some people ate the strawberry ones. I never understood those people.
In the 1930s, we graduated culturally to the Wienermobile, that bastion of marketing genius. I don’t recall ever seeing one but I find it interesting that hot dogs keep popping up on the list.
Did you know that you can stay in a Wienermobile AirBnB near Chicago? Things you really have to try once.
Interestingly, hot dogs don’t make it onto anyone’s most popular list that I could find… except one… sort of. The Food Network has a list of America’s 26 most popular food trucks and there is one in, of all places, Anchorage. And they make their hot dogs from reindeer, alligator, rattlesnake, elk and yak. Except they call them sausages.
Hot dogs may not be a sandwich but in the quest for cool food trucks, I’ll allow a bit of conflation with sausages.
Also, there is a cannoli truck in New Jersey. How did I never know this?
Most popular food truck food? Barbecue.
Honestly, I don’t get that one. This is probably sacrilegious but I don’t find barbecue all that interesting in general. I like it, and good barbecue is good. But there are so many more interesting things to eat and you can get good barbecue in a lot of places, so you don’t really need a truck for it.
I think part of the charm of food trucks is also the thing that makes them most vexatious. You necessarily have to eat while standing in the middle of the street, without a place to put your napkin even though your chili cheese hot dog is dripping down your chin. Somehow, balancing a plate and a can of soda while attempting to weild a fork and shovel something generally huge and sloppy into your face is considered a good thing.
I’m not saying there aren’t excellent sit-down restaurants, but if a couple of people on a truck can make such deliciousness, how is it that entire restaurants get it so wrong?
All of this to say that I ate my pizza tonight with great relish. And even have enough left over for tomorrow.
In case you’re wondering, I am well aware that “food truck” is two words, but it is a singular source of deliciousness so today it gets the honor. Take the space out if you have to and practice your inner New Yorker. It goes well with pizza.
Photo: the pizza truck today in a moment of lull between the hoards of people who were lining up to grab a pie.