What do C’est Cheese from Cincinnati, Grillenium Falcon from Fayetville and Wienerbago from Adelaide have in common? Well, my intrepid and tasty reader, they are just three food trucks plucked from Mobile Cuisine’s recent poll on the world’s “punniest” food truck. When a local food truck gets international attention for its name’s pun potential, it’s probably safe to say that the phenomenon’s grown into something bigger than a mere underground trend.
Cities in the US like Los Angeles and San Francisco have embraced the nexus between food and wheels for decades, and the ubiquity of food trucks is just part of the scenery in movies and TV shows set in those parts. Their story began with the chuckwagons in the 19th century, used to transport basic foodstuffs like coffee, cornmeal and preserved meats to cattlemen operating in areas without rail access. Decades later in New York, the idea turned into a cheap business opportunity and a way to keep the working class fed without having to enter saloons. Then came the horse-drawn waffle carts, the sports fan’s corndog stand, and now, of course, all sorts of food on wheels.
Jam donuts, footy pies and kebabs: A local evolution
Here in Australia, the history is a little less clear. In fact, up until recently, street food culture had by and large been absent in the way Aussies ate. It all pretty much started with the sweet stand at your local show. Agricultural shows were intended to ‘bring a little taste of the country to the city’, and along with the Ferris wheel, weird chook breeds and cake competitions came the food stalls required to sustain children of yore between rides. Back then, people rarely ate out and would have brought packed lunches, making sugary ice-blocks and saccharine fairy floss stalls the objects of unrivalled affection. While these early carnie-style stalls have little in common with the burger vans of today, they heralded the beginnings of outdoor, movable food in the imaginations of Aussies.
The other nucleus for outdoor food culture in Australia was a pie at the footy. Unlike a truck where customers approach the vehicle to order, pies were (and still occasionally are) bought from gangly 14-year-old kids who earned their pocket money by screaming “PIES, CHIPS, SAUSAGE ROLLS” on repeat until someone felt sorry for them and bought something.
But the most obvious pit stop for our local movable feast trend goes back to the marketplace. The ‘American Doughnuts’ stall at the Queen Victoria Markets on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne has been running since the 1950s. Even today, the queue for these deep fried jammy treats trail around the neighbouring market stalls. While not particularly special, the donuts are warm, generous and exactly what one wants after 45 minutes of rigorous haggling. This legendary truck has spawned plenty of competition over the years, including a recent Korean import: the curly potato truck. Raw potatoes carved into a spiral shape, stretched over a spike, deep fried and covered in hallucinogenically vivid yellow powder for flavour. These retail at $6. For a potato. Genius.
Read the full article on Junkee.
“Here in Australia, the history is a little less clear.”
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Article by Junkee's Bhakthi Puvanenthiran for Stoli Australia