A food truck as art in Triennale Design Museum, Milano

This and the next week I’ll take you on a trip that started long ago, had a short dip in the second half of the 20th century but goes forward in full speed into the future. And the analogy with trips, speed and roads is completely accurate here as this blog will talk about food trucks.

Before starting this series it is necessary to introduce three words and explain how I interpret them. I promise you these are the only ‘technical’ details I will talk about. The rest will deal with good food.

Food Trucks are vans or trailers that have all the facilities to prepare and sell food and/or drinks.  One of their important characteristics is that they are mobile and not fixed to one place. The products on sale at these trucks are usually called street foods: foods that are ready to eat or drink, prepared and or sold by hawkers, usually in public spaces. In the last 50 years the quality of this food regularly equals fast food, that is food processed and prepared at high speed, usually in a deep fryer, served in snack bars and restaurants as a fast lunch or dinner to eat directly or to take away.

Street foods are maybe one of the first signs of eating outside your house. Either from a necessity – because people didn’t have a kitchen – as for convenience. A quick read of this Wikipedia page shows that street food is a worldwide phenomenon. As the street foods for the poor from ancient China became a delicacy for the wealthy that they consumed ad home, so became the French fries from the Paris streets a best seller in American fast food restaurants.

Street food has almost always been sold from what we now call food trucks. However, don’t imagine that these have always been the well provided food trucks like we know now. It is better to think of the ones you know (from pictures) as normal in the Asian streets: very simple two-wheel carts with an oven or furnace that enables the vendor to prepare the food on the spot. To see a schematic drawing of a food stall check this drawing from the Palojono blog. Therefore the food sold on the streets is mostly simple, which off course doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty and good.

The real food trucks, as we know them now, where invented in the end of the 19th century, in the southern states of the USA. Because of the higher demands for meat, farmers moved into more deserted areas that lacked facilities to get good food. One of them was so clever to think of this up front and converted a former army truck into a mobile kitchen that was big enough to feed him and his men. More about this in the Culinary School blog.

With the turn of the century other necessities became apparent. People started to work in factories, further away from home, food habits changed and economic crises set the food-world upside down. Next week you read about this into more detail.