Food Trucks, Now Not Just For Food Anymore

David Trammel's picture

I ran across a new blog today called "GranolaShotgun". The blogger Johnny is an amateur architecture buff and writes about how we use the land and occupy our towns. Among his post I came across this one.

I love the term he uses, the "precariat".

"The precariat is a term coined to describe the segment of the population that lives without security or predictability. These days it often refers to the former American middle class that’s currently experiencing reduced circumstances. There’s always been a precariat, but it usually includes a minor subset of the population that no one really likes or cares about. Indentured Irish servants, black slaves, Jewish and Italian sweatshop workers, Mexican field hands, Puerto Rican cleaning ladies… It’s a long list. People are up in arms now because the “wrong people” have fallen in to the precariat that didn’t used to “belong” there. There’s been a sudden realization that sometimes the structure of the economy itself institutionalizes their personal decline. Shocking! I’m not a political animal so I’ll leave those discussions to others to hash out. Instead, I’m interested in how people adapt to the circumstances they find themselves in."

The article goes on to discuss, with tons of photos the way people have adapted the "food" truck into other types of roaving businesses. Besides the wood worker's tools, the second hand clothing and even a mobile video game station, I could see alot more smaller businesses which could be adapted to being run out of a truck like this.

We've discussed here before about how a green wizard might come up with a hobby or craft that would provide money outside of the current employment situation. This could be one such way.

Everything old is new again! Aside from the mother and daughter selling soda on the street corner, I wouldn't consider most of these as "precariat" businesses. I think we are breaking away from the franchise business and recovering our entrepreneurial aspirations. Fifty years ago when I was just starting grade school, one of our teachers had a cotton candy machine and spent his summer traveling from fair grounds to community festivals making cotton candy. The last week of class he'd bring his machine to school and sell cotton candy at lunch and after class. It was big event for us! And think of all the ways you could spend money on food and souvenirs at the fair! I expect the fair circuit was a summer gig for most of the vendors.

The company that prints my t-shirts does have a brick and mortar shop, but they have been traveling the SF cons for DECADES. We were comparing our t-shirt stashes on FB just last week. One loyal customer brought one of his fave t-shirts to a con, and the business owner posted a picture of it on their FB page. 1998! I also have that t-shirt and two more from that decade (including my Archon 23 shirt).

I think fairs are kind of an endangered species right now, but food carts and "pop-up" vendors have been a staple of big cities since the beginning of time--and yes, many of those belong to the "precariats" but I expect a fair number of them were supplied by local truck farmers and artisans. In the rural areas we have the "swap meets." And these might have been side gigs for a lot of vendors, but I think they are serious business for the dedicated pickers.

We have a growing number of food trucks in Peoria--brick-and-mortar restaurants have resisted them mightily and tried to restrict them but the trucks offer an alternative to fast-food joints. One of the most popular ones is Nacho Mama's Grilled Cheese. I can't afford them, but they offer gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I understand there's a double decker bus in Bloomington-Normal that sells burgers. And one that serves gourmet waffles.

When I was at the AARp Liveable forum last week they commented on the increase in entrepreneurial businesses started by people over age 45--and most of them 55-64 years old--and folks 18-29.I wish I could read my notes! I've have to go to AARP and find more details.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I have been reading his blog for quite awhile and very much enjoy it. The man is a fine writer and his photography is nice too. He offers a perspective into issues that I am fortunately currently far removed from.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Every few months, I catch up on his blog. I appreciate his knoweledge and points of view, and especially the way he builds ordinary community. "Precariat" is a fine term. I understood immediately. It needs to enter our vocabulary. I think in one of his blog entries he mentioned being a reader of John Michael Greer.

The trucks businesses remind me of old neighborhood sales carts -- people powered, horse, goat, donkey, even dog-powered-- specializing in essential goods and services.

Have you read about his water storage tanks and how he was pretty much forced to get rid of them in favor of aesthetics?

David Trammel's picture

Sounds like some of the silliness that City governments inflict on their residents.

It was some of the other members of the condo his small apartment building is organized into who forced him to stop making practical use of a part of the common areas. He moved his water and food storage racks to a nearby friend's place... thus ensuring that he has close ties in another place, and making his troublesome neighbors less connected to the survival resources.