Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Truck Food Cookbook

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Truck Food Cookbook (Workman, 2012).

This is not a book that I would have wanted to read had anybody else written it. I really like John T. Edge's style a lot - his Southern Belly is absolutely essential reading for anybody in the southeast who shares our interest in travel and food - and envy his ability to go all around the nation meeting people and discovering new recipes. However, my favorite thing to do when reading books about restaurants, whether in buildings or on wheels, is to savor the possibilities of visiting them. And since food trucks are still blinking in the sunlight in Georgia, that's not so easy for us to do with our small travel budget.

The city of Atlanta cannot stand food trucks. It has spent years coming up with new regulations, bureaucracy, and red tape to prevent their emergence. Last year was the first time we were really able to enjoy them, when a gravel lot was opened up alongside I-75 at Howell Mill. So, over the course of last year, more than two dozen trucks started their engines, especially as some of the suburbs, like Smyrna and Alpharetta, invited owner/operators to come join them at set times on the calendar. There were at least two stupid and mammoth occasions when City Hall made attempts to stop these infernal hippies and beatniks from committing the crime of selling food and having fun, but you can start to hear the regulators grumbling that they done lost this fight. And after they'd had such success running all the hot dog carts outta town, too!

Meanwhile, of course, Portland, Los Angeles, Madison, New York, and other cities figured this out a decade or more back, and welcomed these entrepreneurs. The startup costs for a food truck are about 10% of the cost of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, so that encourages big dreamers without a lot of capital to get cooking and try their ideas out on the public. So this book is a celebration of food truck culture, full of stories and anecdotes and silliness and love. The bulk of it is a cookbook, with the stories appearing as sidebars throughout the pages.

It didn't take me long to shrug and accept that I wouldn't get the chance to visit many, or any, of these places, and just treated the book as a loving tribute to and a record of a growing and popular subculture. It was just huge fun to read, and it leaves me anticipating the spring, when we'll get to revisit some of our local favorites like Roux'd and the Blaxican and W.O.W. and the Mac and Cheese again. Mmmmm. Recommended.

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