Foodie-Mom: Roving Menus
How the food truck saved me from doing dishesuser rating
When I was little, the closest I ever came to a “gourmet food truck” was a dirty-water hot dog or a lukewarm pretzel with mustard that was peddled from a three-wheeled cart.
Don’t get me wrong, these all-American “delicacies” have a well-earned place in New York City sidewalk cart history. This city alone is home to 5,100 street-food cart vendors, according to The Department of Health, who regulates the industry. But these days, even though they still exist along with other street carts—like the bagel-and-coffee guy or the warm-chestnut and candied-almond guy that warms my heart this time of year—competition has arrived en masse in the form of more exotic, more mobile, more epicurean (dare I say more desirable) and more adventurous food trucks.
According to the New York City Food Truck Association (NYCFTA), an association of small businesses that own and operate premium food trucks in NYC, these particular vendors are focused not only on high-quality food but also innovation in hospitality and community development. The goal of NYCFTA is to reinvent food-truck vending in a way that benefits the city and its denizens as well as the culinary entrepreneurs themselves.
Stimulating culinary innovation and adding a vibe of energy, these gourmet trucks are taking cities across the U.S. by storm, hawking everything from frozen treats and cupcakes to international and comfort food fare.
Believe me, I am not saddened by this. Neither is my palate—nor Gianna’s for that matter.
With dinner often being a dilemma, I was grateful to see a food truck parked in my neighborhood recently. But I was slightly disappointed to see it served grilled cheese, something I surely could make myself. With hopes that Gianna would not spot the vibrant yellow truck parked right outside the playground (who am I kidding: it was as obvious as an elephant in a room and had a picture of giant gorilla on the side), I staged a diversion by breaking into a game of freeze tag in the other direction, hoping it would catch on like a kiddie flash mob. But the truck’s energetic music and the smells of melted, somewhat greasy, oniony goodness permeating our way stopped everyone in their tracks. I knew at that point I had no chance. Gorilla Cheese won, and ultimately, was I glad.
Now, I know I make a pretty good grilled cheese, but Gianna never finishes one. Maybe it was the allure of the truck, the smells, the music, the vivid art, the nice parchment paper in which the sandwich was wrapped so carefully or the friendly server peeping through the window taking our order. Whatever it was, Gianna ate that grilled cheese in its entirety. The cereal bar, Smart Puffs and grapes she’d had as an appetizer did not even deter her. Thinking about my own dinner, and listening to my rumbling stomach, I decided I’d give Mr. Gorilla Cheese a try. Come on, its bread and cheese melted in a little butter. I went for the No. 7 (fresh mozzarella with smoked turkey and tomato on whole-grain bread) and added caramelized onions. If I was going to pay close to 14 bucks for two grilled cheeses, I was going to make it worth it.
After the first couple of bites, I was in grilled-cheese heaven. I can’t remember the last time I had a grilled cheese sandwich myself, and knew I’d be having it again soon. Gianna said to me, proudly, “Mom, isn’t it good?! I ate my whole thing!”
It sure was, I thought, and I know my mama never made me a grilled cheese like that.
So thank you, Gorilla Cheese, for saving me from doing the dishes that night.