It began when I was 15. I was walking along the side of the road with a friend, when a truck came tumbling around the corner towards us. Instead of flinching, my friend raised one arm and casually pulled twice, on nothing, in the air. The truck honked twice at us before flying by and showering us in grey road dust. “What was that?” I asked. She shrugged. “It’s just how you get trucks to honk.” That was all it took. For the last 2 years of high school, every chance I got, I used that move to get trucks to honk as they zoomed past me. There was something about the sudden appearance of a truck on the horizon, its equally sudden disappearance to destinations unknown and its brief acknowledgment of me standing on the side, watching it go by. The whirlwind of grit and gravel left in each truck’s wake gave me a taste of the open road long before I’d ever heard of Kerouac. It never lost its thrill.
With as little warning as the first time, trucks re-entered my life this summer in collaboration with another great love, food. Within my first week at my awesome new job, Co-Quirkers introduced me to the famous Calexico cart in SoHo and even taught me how to pronounce it (like the beginning of California and the end of Mexico). West Coast friends celebrated when they learned I finally tasted a “proper” burrito with perfectly al dente’d rice and beans, flavorful pull-apart pork, guac, cream, and the genius finishing touch of pickled red onions! The next week, I ventured further afield to the Bistro Truck for a daily special of lamb and steak served atop a bed of fragrant rice. It was heaven. The meats each had their unique textures. The lamb was tender and fell apart immediately on my tongue. The steak resisted my first bite with its beefy sinews but soon gave in and released a hot, rich broth as I chewed. The flavors were savory but so aromatic that it hinted at sweetness. I inhaled through my mouth as I ate to try to understand where the boundary between taste and smell lay but could not pinpoint where one ended and the other began.
Lest I lose myself in savory reveries, no summer is complete without the sacred ice cream truck. While the Ben & Jerry’s Truck did not play music, they did bring boxes of free Cookie Dough and Peanut Brittle when they visited the Quirky office! And on a mellow evening, the Van Leeuwen truck provided the perfect accompaniment to an after-work stroll in the form of ginger ice cream in a crunchy sugar cone (which is the only way to eat a scoop of ice cream, cups and wafer cones be damned!). Although Wafels & Dinges has ice cream on their menu and has become a weekly Thursday night destination, I have yet to try it. So far, their BBQ Pulled Pork and Bacon & Syrup waffles keep luring me away from the sweet stuff. Eyes on the prize!
Last weekend, the second Food Truck mashup at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea gave me the chance to try a few trucks who don’t frequent my neck of the woods. It also gave a great excuse for an impromptu Random House reunion with the ladies! We may have all found new career paths to pursue, but sound the alarm for a gourmet sidewalk picnic and we’ll make it top priority, gosh darn it. We divided to conquer on lines for the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck, Go Burger, and The Krave. Unfortch, the grills were broken for The Krave so we didn’t get to try any Korean BBQ. Then again, the Kobe Hot Dog, BLT Burger, Cheeseburger and skinny fries from Go Burger and the Pork & Chive, Thai Basil & Chicken, and Vegetarian Edamame dumplings from Rickshaw managed to make a pretty impressive spread on our slice of sidewalk. And it made all the other people still waiting in line jealous. Which is really what it was all about! The upside of The Krave being down was that it left room for dessert. Kelvin Slush beckoned like a cool, frosty mirage so we waited to try their wares. Even though 2 of their 3 machines were broken, we got to sample their Tangy Citrus slushie with a variety of mix-ins (by sample, I mean that everybody else got a slushie, and I put my mouth on it without permission. Bad, Shirley, bad.) like basil, mint and white peach. Once again, I didn’t leave enough space for Big Gay Ice Cream, but I am determined to have a Salty Pimp before he closes for the season. Mark my words!
Anyhoodle, I have a whole list of trucks left to try and the summer is slipping away. Which makes me verrry tempted to get tix to the 2010 Vendy Awards!! More to come soon. I can’t seem to stop eating. Oops!