Food trucks rule in my hometown

Food trucks rule in my hometown

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A rare modern Automat in New York. They're still quite popular in Japan. Photo by N. Ricardo.
A rare modern Automat in New York. They’re still quite popular in Japan. Photo by N. Ricardo.

I have become a convert to the food truck.

Always a sucker for a hot dog from a vendor on a hot summer day, I’ve long believed food trucks were the ideal way to get specialty products out to hungry workers, many of whom have less time than ever for lunch.

In Edmonton, the city nearest my home, food trucks rule the roost; you can get Cuban sandwiches, modern contemporary cuisine, rolled crepes, Thai noodles, East Indian food, green onion cakes and every type of french fry since the invention of deep frying. There is not much better on a lovely sunny day than splitting some time in a park or bench downtown , eating my sandwich, people watching and reading a  book.

Restaurants, of course, aren’t particularly fond of them. But truck aren’t liquor licensed, so trucks have that disadvantage. And food trucks don’t get nearly as much business at night. There’s not much profit in it until the bars close, and trucks with good chef/owners don’t work those hours. They need the lunch rush.

I always thought the food truck seemed conveniently delicious as a concept; my first recollection of one was in a Donald Duck cartoon strip in the early seventies (although it may have been penned in the Fifties). My awe over its speed and efficiency was only matched by the impersonal technology of the Fifties trend, the Automat, which was like a restaurant with a giant glass wall of vending machine hutches. You paid your money at the cash, picked a meal from one of the glass-doored slots, stuck it on a tray and moved along. Only, unlike a vending machine, there was a crew working in a kitchen behind the wall making it all fresh.

The Automat died out much more completely and has only just started to come back, in a form, as self-ordering at fast food restaurants. But what was once a new, strangely glamorous technology for serving the public that attracted the likes of Neil Simon and Irving Berlin to its ranks of admirers, the automated restaurant is now just a way to save a buck, with the personality of a cardboard burger box.

Ah well. They brought back the food truck and made it better than ever; perhaps the Automat of the past — with more than just fast food — is not far behind. Already a few have cropped up, like the one pictured above.

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