Monday, October 8, 2012

Food truck obsession: it all started with the Ice Cream Man

The original food truck. 
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
I am a little obsessed with food trucks these days. 

For me, it all started 30-something years ago with the original version: the ice cream truck. The first time I experienced the ice cream truck was the summer before second grade, after my family moved from Canada to the United States. One hot, humid afternoon, a truck came ambling down our street. Music blared - I think it was "Turkey in the Straw". My buddy Audrey grabbed my arm. "It's the ice cream man! Come on, let's go!" She saw the confused look on my face and directed me on what to do: go home, collect all the loose change in the house, beg parents for money if needed and then rush back to the tree lawn to wait for the truck to come by.

I did as instructed and met Audrey on the street curb. When the truck stopped in front of us, I was overwhelmed. Photos of various frozen treats plastered the entire side of the truck. It took all summer for me to sample the various options and determine my favorites: the orange sherbet Push Up, the Strawberry Shortcake bar, the Fudgsicle, the orange Creamsicle and the peanut-crusted Drumstick. (OK, I guess that isn't much of a short list.)

Anyhow, my cheap Asian immigrant parents were not fans of the Ice Cream Truck and tried to dissuade me from developing this new American summer addiction. They bought cheap tubs of Neapolitan ice cream (Three flavors for the price of one! On sale!) from the supermarket and hoped that would cure me. What they didn't understand was that it was the whole Ice Cream Truck Experience that was appealing, not the ice cream itself. The variety. The immediacy. My addiction got worse. Bolting up every time I heard the truck music, I had become one of Pavlov's dogs. My mom refused to give me any money to support my habit. Audrey and I started setting up lemonade stands. We sold greeting cards. We sold pens. We sold our toys. 

Once, on a family trip to Taiwan, I heard a truck blaring music from loudspeakers. "ICE CREAM!" I squealed and leapt toward the door of my grandparents' house. My parents shook their heads. "It's the garbage man," my dad said.

Flash forward. Two years ago, my fabulous foodie friend Gina P. told me about a food truck making a stop near our workplace in Cleveland: Dim and Den Sum. She invited me to meet her there for lunch. Dim sum + food truck + lunch with a friend = no brainer. The Asian fusion selections were yummy and I went back to work happy. 

Then last year, we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, home to a thriving Food Truck movement. At my son's elementary school back-to-school picnic, I was surprised and thrilled to see several food trucks parked on the school grounds. Options included Indian dosa, Chinese rice bowls, Mexican burritos and Kara's Cupcakes. A food truck frenzy! Heaven.

This past weekend, I organized an International Fair event at my sons' school and went with the food truck model. Researching and contacting food trucks in the area, I gained considerable knowledge of area food trucks. For the past six weeks leading up to the event, I often had dreams of them. In one dream, I opened up a Taiwanese food truck called BoPoMoFo (a phonetic Chinese pronunciation alphabet) that offered Taiwanese street food (specializing in bubble teas and steamed sticky rice in banana leaves).

Now I'm obsessed with food trucks more than ever.


HapaMama said...

I am crying from laughing so hard and had to read segments of this to my kids. But it loses the touch when you have to explain who is Pavlov what did he do to his dogs. The ice cream truck never comes to our street, but I hear ya on The Ice Cream Truck Experience. My kid suffers from The Jamba Juice Experience and The Candy Store Experience. Sure, I could make smoothies at home and buy bags of gummi bears at CVS... but nothing beats the empowerment of having a wad of cash and bellying up to that counter, does it?

Baby Lisa said...

Did you know a real ice cream man and his truck live on my street? I'm not kidding, he's parked on the driveway. Save up your money and you can get yourself some next time you visit! :-)

Lisa Chiu said...

Grace and Lisa, thanks for your comments! I am still drawn to the ice cream truck whenever I hear the music! Also, Lisa, is this another part of your ploy to get us to move to your neighborhood? (It might work on me, but not Vic!)