The World’s Best Food Trucks
Last week I wrote about restaurants, this week it’s food trucks. I must be hungry, unsurprising perhaps since I did spend the week prior on a juice fast. Nonetheless, since food is something we can all so easily relate to, it simply makes for a bounty of irresistible metaphorical uses. And thanks to the recent food truck revolution (especially here in Austin), what I’m about to say about human beings, using food trucks as a metaphor, will hopefully strike a quickly resonant chord.
Of course, not all food trucks are created equal. For the sake of this discussion, let’s singularly define food trucks as those most superior breed of roaming kitchens where talented, rogue chefs have foregone the costly overhead of anchored dwellings to better sling their scrumptious grub to the masses. It’s about the food, man. The food…
Why we love such food trucks isn’t particularly complicated. (My personal favorites are East Side King, above, and Gourdough’s, below.) First and foremost, the food is delicious. Not fancy-shmancy, just gooooooooood. It’s the kind of good that we appreciate all the more because of its rough edges and lack of superfluous frills, the kind of good we usually get to eat with our hands, get messy with, munch down unceremoniously right when we want to, without all the rigamarole that comes with visiting a sit-down restaurant.
Secondly, as customers, we get to be totally ourselves, wear whatever we want, keep it casual, laid back, chill. No fanfare, no use for etiquette or the reserved niceties of formal dining, no pretension. So, yes, while it’s about the food, it’s also about the raw, spectacularly unspectacular authenticity of the experience itself. Plus, whoever is hanging around the same food truck along with us, scarfing down similar morsels, joins us as part of a momentary collective because, after all, food is community. The whole thing is cuisine distilled down to its barest quintessence: flavor, community, authenticity. Now that’s a fine trio!
But honestly, the thought of being served food out of a truck doesn’t, at first glance at least, seem very appealing. For example, try this exercise: quickly think of a truck. What image do you see in your mind? Chances are, that image included things like big tires, mud flaps, lots of metal, exhaust pipes and possibly some measure of carbon monoxide soot marking its wear. It’s not exactly the type of vision that causes mouths to water. In fact, there’s very little about trucks that’s gastronomically appetizing. And yet, regarding certain trucks, we have learned to override our initial perceptions about trucks in general to make a few exceptions. Ah, this truck is different. It serves really delicious food, so it’s okay that it’s a truck.
Enter people, considering that, in fact, a lot of people we know in the world are exactly like food trucks. On the surface, they may not seem obviously appetizing. They don’t have Michelin stars, pristine decors, or rave reviews in Fodor’s. They have their own variety of busted headlights, torn leather interiors, defunct radios, dented fenders, miscellaneous dings, and filthy hubcaps. This is perfectly understandable, since most of the folks we know–including ourselves–have more than a few (thousand) miles on the odometer. As such, it wouldn’t make sense for us to expect these many miles not to reveal themselves. These are battle scars, the inevitable legacy of multiple, hard-earned years.
Just as a lot of people are like food trucks on their exterior (and I don’t just mean physical exterior, but in their outward expressions through speech and behaviors), they’re similar on their interior too. They have something to offer, something that’s infinitely more delectable than a cursory glance might suggest. You know how true this is of your closest friends and perhaps your partner, spouse, and favorite family members. You’ve tasted samples off their “secret menu” and now, when you see them, you don’t think “truck”, you think “food truck”. Well, at least sometimes.
Unfortunately, every once in a while, simply because we’re human, we forget. We forget to appreciate the food truck for being a food truck, forget to cherish the people we love for being exactly as they are. We may fault-find and lodge complaints, air grievances, voice our displeasures–none of which are particularly appropriate for the setting. The ambience isn’t romantic enough, the chandeliers aren’t polished, the linens on the tables aren’t pressed, there’s no maître d’. Um… huh?
There are plenty of fine dining establishments in the world, plenty of places (people) with elegant interior design, sophisticated customer service, and refined cuisine. If that’s your preference, then okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s important to understand that that’s not what food trucks offer and, as such, it’d be silly to hold food trucks to the same standards as five-star restaurants. It’s the same way with people. A lot of the people we love most are like food trucks, yet sometimes we find ourselves complaining that they’re not more like five-start restaurants. Doing so completely misses the boat.
So here’s my invitation for this week: remember that what you love most about certain people is that they’re like food trucks. You like them because you know that, despite the absence of caviar and foie gras on their menu, they offer something specifically delicious, something you value and appreciate profoundly. You see their inner beauty or inner gentleness or inner whatever and dig it, even amidst the surrounding imperfections. Understanding this, care less about complaining how such people aren’t and, instead, try just celebrating the many cool ways they are. Meanwhile, likewise remember that one of the things you adore most about such food-trucky people is that you get to be your truest self around them, without pomp and circumstance, just good ol’ fashioned realness.
It’s simple, yet nothing could be more extraordinary. Good flavor. Good community. Good no-holds-barred, let-your-hair-down, devil-may-care authenticity. It’s why we love food trucks and it’s exactly why we love certain people too. Now, if we could only start seeing everyone this way, then we’d really start making the most out of this great dining experience called life. And, with that said, I’m off to Gourdough’s for a Fat Elvis (or maybe I’ll just go kiss my wife instead).
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