Food Trucks: Spreading Culture Through Food
To me, food is the most basic unit of language. Like language, food is an inherent part of the human experience. In verbal language, we combine various sounds, words, and sentence structures that are unique to our respective languages in order to express ourselves. With food, we blend different flavors, ingredients, and techniques in our food that reflect our personalities and experiences.
The recent food truck craze in America has made this ability to bring people together through food even easier, and has indirectly spread cultural awareness with food as the medium. Allow me to explain:
Let’s say a young man is walking down the street trying to find somewhere to buy a dessert, and the first option that crosses his path is a food truck, which happens to serve Albanian food. This young man has never even heard of Albania and has no idea what the menu even means, so he tells the vendor he would like any kind of dessert, leaving the selection up to the vendor.
The vendor then hands him some Baklava (popular Albanian New Year's dessert—similar to Greek Baklava but made with sugar syrup instead of honey), and the young man takes a bite and immediately falls in love. This will probably cause him to ask the vendor what that fantastic piece of dessert is. When the vendor tells him it is a popular Albanian dessert called Baklav, the young man will then gain an appreciation for this country that not only he is now aware exists, but is the creator of that delicious dessert.
With good food comes a good reputation, and there’s a good chance that the respect this young man now feels towards Albanian dessert will translate into respect for other aspects of Albanian culture. He may not go out and research the history of Albania, but he will definitely appreciate it for producing that memorable dessert. And when someone mentions Albania, he will certainly have a small piece of knowledge to share and something positive to say.
While food trucks introduce people to many new and different cultures through the food itself, the mobility factor of these trucks is a major key to their success in spreading this culinary cultural awareness. Because food trucks are constantly moving to multiple locations, they can reach a large number of people who are all different from one another.
Additionally, food trucks are beginning to combine a wide range of ethnic cuisines, such as the Latin-Asian fusion menu of Southern Californian food truck Dos Chinos--featuring items such as coconut curry with sour cream and sriracha-tapatio-tamarindo cheesecake.
As strange as it sounds, food truly holds the power of communication. Food can tell a story about a person or bridge the gap between cultures when words fail to do so. Sometimes food does a better job of solving problems than words do. I can personally attest to this, after witnessing multiple accounts of bickering miraculously ceasing once dinner was on the table. Think about that the next time you sit down to eat, and see if culture resonates through your meal.
Side note: if you've never tried Baklava, put it on your list of things to do. You will thank me.
Send your food questions/suggestions (recipe ideas, restaurant recommendations, food questions, cooking tips, anything food related) to Veronica.