You can take the boy out of the Berkeley protests, but apparently you can’t take the protests out of the Berkeley boy.
Not that I was much of a protester back in my Berzerkely daze (yes, I know how I spelled that).
By the time I transferred to Cal, most of the fight had been taken out of Viet Nam, thus most of the fight had been taken out of the street and campus protests. But, maybe having been born in Berkeley, or just being down in the Bay Area during those tumultuous times, was enough to instill a little defiance in my DNA.
Or it could have been all the years of listening to KSAN, which was one of the original underground FM radio stations that hosted Travus T. Hipp doing the news, with what might be considered the Twitter-like truth telling of the day that you would not hear from the corporate networks.
Maybe my unsolicited, boring personal history might explain my visceral reaction to a news story in our local paper yesterday with the headline,
“Woodland’s food trucks may have to keep moving.”
The topic of this story was, in fact, something that brings an immediate reaction to a major body organ of mine.
No, not THAT one; at my age, I am talking about my stomach.
The article by Geoff Johnson, in the Daily Democrat, introduced proposed city regulations that would affect the fate of the so-called taco trucks that are scattered about town, offering inexpensive, authentic Mexican cuisine.
It was not that long ago that I posted about the pending fate of mobile food trucks in nearby Sacramento, where new city regulations would require these purveyors of multi-ethnic culinary creations to move locations every thirty minutes.
As a professed lover of street food, even Anthony Bourdain commented on this issue when he was here last year.
The local story touched on potential restrictions as to where the vans could park—not on dirt lots, not near driveways, not near schools—and other limits, such as not allowing tables or chairs, among other new regulations. The article also mentioned a public meeting that was to be held last evening around dinnertime (more on that later).
Whatever you call these vehicles, many communities embrace and celebrate their existence. Portland, Oregon, with a reported number of almost 600, would have to be near the top of the list.
Food Carts Portland is a great website to check out the scene.
“[They] help create a vibrant downtown and central city by bringing what planning geeks call a ‘social fabric on the street’ which is great in cultural terms, but in economic terms also attracts other spenders, retail outlets, and restaurants and cafes.
Food carts also often illustrate the delicious benefits to a growing ethnically diverse community, as many immigrants own and operate them and make and serve some pretty tasty ethnic specialties.”
Nationwide, these mobile kitchens have gone way past just offering one-dollar tacos, with all manner of offerings, including high-end organic meals, gourmet desserts, and foods from all over the planet.
Social media even plays a role in this trend, such as to track the real-time location of the popular Korean barbeque as it moves around Los Angeles. Just check out KogiBBQ on your Twitter feed.
All this is not to say these food trucks are without controversy or even outright prohibition. One small community in Washington (less than 3,000 residents) has recently banned them from their city. And even Portland is not without concerns over various issues.
Similar to the furniture issue with Woodland’s proposed rule, Portland is discussing awning and decks.
But generally, the issues deal with common themes of health (yes, nobody wants to die from a one-dollar taco), taxes (yes, they certainly need to be permitted and taxed appropriately), aesthetics (which is a legitimate concern, but is also somewhat subjective), and competition (some argue they steal customers from the brick & mortar businesses, some say they attract more customers, and some say they are not even the same customers).
On the health issue, if you read the comments posted on many of the sites I link to, beyond the xenophobic, illiterate and racist comments, you will often hear that many people—me included—have eaten at these taco trucks for years without ill effects.
As Anthony Bourdain said when I was with him in Utah, you have more chance of getting sick at some chain hotel’s buffet than at a street vendor’s cart where people—many of whom are regular customers—are lined up waiting for their food.
Or you could grab something at Taco Bell, which has been in the news lately with claims that the beef they use is,
“two-thirds binders, extenders, preservatives, additives and other agents.”
Wow. That sure sounds appetizing!
But, there is lots of positive press on the mobile food vendors. New York even has an annual awards program to celebrate the best ones.
“Called ‘the Oscars of food for the real New York’ by Chef Mario Batali, the Vendy Awards are New York City’s annual competition for the title of Best Street Food Vendor.”
And, closer to home, thanks to CakeGrrl, I just read where—despite Sacramento’s clampdown on these food trucks—there is an upcoming mobile food festival. I suspect that at least one of the food critics from the Sacramento Bee will be there, standing in line to sample the multicultural culinary cuisine. It should be one great “MoFo.” Even the mayor, Kevin Johnson is said to be a supporter.
Don’t want to wait that long? Well, this Saturday Sacramento’s first gourmet food truck will roll into town. You can track the mini burger truck on either Twitter or Facebook, or go to their website. This place has Guy Fieri’s fingerprints all over the food.
Back to our local news story, I did attend the meeting last night. Apparently, this was the first public meeting and meant to introduce the pending regulations, particularly to the proprietors of the food trucks. The next meeting will be held on February 15th, which I also plan to attend.
If they insist on having the next meeting around my dinnertime again, hopefully there will be a taco truck nearby so I can grab a quick bite before the meeting. And with a positive outcome, it won’t be the last time I am able to do so.