Food on Wheels – Food to Go! by Charlotte Canelli

Read Charlotte Canelli’s column in the February 22, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

This fall we discovered a great little bakery on the southern Massachusetts coast where the Acushnet River flows into Buzzard’s Bay. The town of Fairhaven shares a harbor with what was once the most-famous whaling-era seaport, New Bedford. The south coast is a hidden gem of Massachusetts that our family is learning more and more about all the time.

The Flour Girls Baking Company just opened shop in Fairhaven, having moved from a start-up in-home bakery in another local town. The website for the bakery and café admits that the Flour Girls (with an s) is a misnomer. The bakery is really only managed by ‘one girl’, Jill Houck, who hails from Vermont. Ms. Houck took up baking for profit, having learned her skills from her parents who loved to bake themselves. One of the delightful things about the Flour Girl’s business is that Houck also owns a The Flour Girls Baking Company sweet truck that travels on demand throughout eastern Massachusetts.

If you haven’t heard, the recent phenomenon of food trucks is sweeping the state of Massachusetts (particularly in Boston) and the entire country from coast to coasts. From early morning through evening residents and visitors of big cities across the country see these mobile kitchens, or food trucks, parked along busy streets, in intersections or parking lots.

You might argue that ice cream trucks and catering trucks are not a new thing! No, they are decidedly not. However, the specialized mobile kitchens of the past often sold frozen treats or warmed over pre-made meals and packaged breakfasts and lunches.

Frozen and pre-made wasn’t always so, of course. Original food trucks were possibly the chuck wagons that followed settlers who were headed west in the mid-19th century. Food trucks catering to night-shift workers showed up in the last decade of the 1880s in New York. They became standard around the country’s cities in the 1950s when they fed hungry factory and office workers around the clock.
Today it is roving gourmet food trucks that cater to finicky palates and specialty food tastes that have become big business. You might not even see them in the same place twice in one week – but their followers can spot them on Twitter or Facebook or hail them along busy street corners and by smart phone.

Entrepreneurial spirits are answering the call of the American public and their appetites. In addition, owners and admirers of this food truck industry are writing books about this unique new commerce.

“Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchen on Wheels” (2011) was written by journalist Heather Shouse as she traveled the country looking for some of the best street food. Included in her definition of street food is both truck food and that which is served up by push-carts owned by chefs in every nook and cranny in America. Shouse includes 45 recipes from a range of demographics and cultures.

John T. Edge traveled from Portland, Oregon through Austen, Texas and New York to write “The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America’s Best Restaurants on Wheels” (2012). The book includes tips and techniques for making all flavors of trendy street food-type dishes. Like Shouse’s book, Edge concludes that much of street-food is inspired by immigrant cultures from Mexico, Korea and Viet Nam.

Many instructional handbooks are being published for those who might want to take their recipes on the road. “The Food Truck Handbook: Start, Grow, and Succeed in the Mobile Food Business” by David Weber (2012) is one of them. Weber includes descriptions of what the business is really like on the street and profiles the owner chefts who have done it well. His book, like others of the handbooks, contains budget and business plans, both as necessary as a food repertoire itself. (Weber is a veteran of the industry and is Founder and President of the NYC Food Truck Association.)

“Running a Food Truck for Dummies” by Richard Myrick (2012) and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Food Truck Business” by Alan Philips (2012) offer plenty of critical information for anyone starting into the food truck business. You’ll find tips on discovering a niche so that an owner finds quick success. Also included are tools for all the social media strategies necessary for a thriving operation in this era of instantaneous communication.

Foodie Jennifer Lewis has written several books about entrepreneurial start-ups in the food business. She has an MBA in addition to both a culinary degree and her love of food. In 2011 she wrote “Starting a Part-time Food Business: Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Love for Food into a Successful Business Without Necessarily Quitting Your Day Job”. She followed it with “Handmade: How Eight Everyday People Became Artisan Food Entrepreneurs and Their Recipes for Success” by Jennifer Lewis (2012). From Pig of the Month barbecue in Dayton, Ohio to Mother Peach Caramels in Portland, Oregon, Lewis includes a background of each of the eight food entrepreneurs who found success. More importantly, Lewis includes those “recipes for success” in each chapter.

Perhaps the owner of the Flour Girls Baking Company in Fairhaven consulted these or other books while she was making plans for her recent venture in Fairhaven, MA. If you’ve had a desire to turn your love of food into a successful adventure, be sure to check one of the books I mentioned out of the library. Visit the library’s website and the link to the Minuteman Library Network to place one of these books on hold. You may also call 781-769-0200 and speak to a librarian who will place the request for you.

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