Food Truck Evolution - theHumm June 2020
Food Truck Evolution - theHumm June 2020
By Sebastian Weetabix
Months ago Weetabix asked his loyal readers “what starts with ‘F’ and ends with ‘uck’?”, and the correct answer had no apparent connection to the spread of a virus or a fundamental change in the circumstances and practices of our dining habits. Yes — the food truck is back in the limelight — and we are beginning a journey through the renewal of the very idea of restaurants in a time of social distancing. Some of you will, I am sure, think Weetabix overstates things when he says that cultural changes initiated in response to the pandemic will be long-lasting, but there are many reasons to expect that will be the case.
Begin with the origin of restaurants and even the term itself. The desire for prepared food and a place to consume it arose from urbanization, specialization of labour and travel. Gradually shops and stands that offered nourishment (restaurer is the French verb “to restore”) evolved to include seating so that patrons could relax and consume the offered fare on the premises. Speciation into niches of an ecosystem is a consequence of evolutionary processes. It is generally not a reversible process. Over the last few centuries our society developed numerous niches which in turn supported many variants on the basic theme of preparing and serving food to clients whose desires ranged from basic sustenance to the over-refined. Len Deighton (author, gourmet and food writer) once said “A wine snob can make the Japanese Tea Ceremony look like beer from a can.”
Weetabix attempts to match his comments to the value proposition of the establishment and is aware of some of the difficulties of the business in its different forms. That, dear reader, is why we expect that the whole industry will undergo substantial changes. Evolutionary processes are driven by reproductive success; business evolution is driven by economic success. And the requirements of social distancing have changed the economics of seating and serving areas, our work spaces and our travel habits. Take-out or take-away has moved to the mainstream, and changes needed to succeed in this part of the ecosystem are profound and pervasive. As with many changes, the pathway will be neither smooth nor consistent as to its short-term direction — there will be rebound and forced changes in traditional practice — some successful and some not. In the grand scheme of things, food is a central element of our social behaviours and there are fundamental forces that drive us to share food and its consumption in social settings. Weetabix believes that restaurants, chefs and food itself are entering a period of forced evolution that will produce a range of new and successful forms and practices. Some, like the peacock’s tail, are impossible to predict. Others, like the food truck, are here already!
Looking at the food truck as an organism, it appears to be already well adapted to the requirements of social distancing — no indoor seating being the first and most obvious point. No seating also means no serving staff to circulate, and most food trucks are configured for single-use cutlery and one-way containers. Properly set up, airflow can protect both the staff and customers, and since there is a lot of heat in the kitchen there is an inducement to have airflow in any case. Small staff in close quarters makes vigilance important to and for the proprietors, but self-preservation is motivating, and the scale of these establishments makes it relatively easy to pause operations if necessary. Where available, outdoor seating can be compatible with social distancing, but Weetabix advises caution in any case.
There are two other features of food trucks that may contribute to their adaptability: one is that they are relatively mobile and thus have some flexibility in location, and the other is that they are (at least compared to more traditional eat-in establishments) less capital-intensive — a feature somewhat offset by their lower production capacity per person-hour and higher consumable costs. Finally, elegance and diversity of presentation take a back seat to ease and speed of assembly. Look for creative solutions in this area as the genre evolves. The subspecies of food truck known and loved as the “chip wagon” is, in evolutionary terms, stable. It is specialized to its niche and unlikely to respond with significant phenotypic changes. Nor are its clients, and while this is not a bad thing, Weetabix has done one “tour des frites” already and has but one stomach to give for his art.
An interesting thing about food trucks is that their evolutionary origin was not a response to the present situation. Many of them are the vehicles for entrepreneurial drive of their proprietors, but some are the result of capital constraints and the ambition for culinary self-expression. Weetabix predicts the rise of the “gourmet food truck”, the “ethnic food truck” and, of course, more BBQ. All of these can already be found in some locations, and given the motivated talent and demand for quality and variety, there should be a proliferation of new establishments to take up already established demand.
People like to eat out — sometimes a euphemism for not having to prepare their own food, but often a reflection of the available diversity and quality of available offering. Chefs like to prepare and serve food. These are fundamental motivators that will continue to support restaurants even as they are forced to change their physical form. In previous articles, Weetabix has written about establishments like The Greene Mill facebook.com/thegreenemill , Cheeky Chippy facebook.com/cheekychippyft , The Jolly Hog facebook.com/thejollyhog and The Grub Hub facebook.com/TheGrubHub613 , but there are others and there will be more. Interesting and creative solutions to packaging and presentation are in the works and there are rumours that some operations are considering how to cope with the challenges of four-season operations. Meanwhile, it is summer, and we should enjoy the opportunities presented by food trucks and their operators. Eat safely and eat well!
Where to Find the June Humm - theHumm June 2020
We’re heading out to deliver the June issue of theHumm! Because things have changed a wee bit since the last time we did our distribution, here’s a list of the places we will be trying to deliver to. Hours and more information can be found at the links. Happy Humm hunting!
Dandelion Foods dandelionfoods.ca
Don’s Meat Market donsmeatmarke......
By Sally Hansen
Art… and Soul
A new artist is blossoming in our midst. Rising to the COVID-19 challenge, Burnstown artist and businessman Jeff Wallace is discarding his anonymity and charging into the fray, determined to make a positive contribution. But first, introducing:
Jeff Wallace — Artist
Wallace has only recently arrived in a place in his life where his first love, art, is able to play a bigger role. As Forrest Gump’s mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You......
COVID, Kids, & All the Feelings - theHumm June 2020
By Nicki Gallo
There’s this exercise that I like do when I work with kids. It helps us to explore how our feelings are something that we experience in our bodies as well as our minds. First, I give the child a piece of paper with the outline of a person. I ask them to colour the location on the body where they feel certain emotions and match it with a colour. For example, they may feel red/anger in their hands: “I’m so mad I could punch someone!” Or feel yellow/nervousness in their bellies: “I have b......
By Miss Cellaneous
The good news for area art lovers is that many local galleries have been able to re-open — most with reduced hours and all with extra safety precautions in place. We highly recommend a visit to Almonte’s General Fine Craft generalfinecraft.com and Sivarulrasa Gallery sivarulrasa.com , Riverguild Fine Crafts in Perth ...more
Michael Rikley-Lancaster is the Curator of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum and a member of the group that was planning to launch the first-ever Mississippi Mills PRIDE Week this June. We contacted him to find out how both the Museum and MM Pride are faring.
theHumm: Since becoming Curator, you (with the assistance of your staff, board and numerous volunteers) have made many improvements to the Museum and have hosted incredible exhibitions by artists from......
Noé Charron is a 22-year-old non-binary trans woman (who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns) who started her transition while growing up in Almonte and working at Baker Bob’s. We contacted her to find out how her transitioning was perceived and received by the community, and what advice she has for people who want to try and foster a more welcoming and compassionate atmosphere.
theHumm: As an employee at Baker Bob’s, you were one of my only examples of someone who......
Embers of Hope Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos - theHumm June 2020
By Kris Riendeau
Bonita Ford is a co-founder of Permaculture Eastern Ontario and author of the new book Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos. We contacted her to find out how this book came to be, and how she hopes it can help us all to “nurture the small forces that may radically transform our world”.
theHumm: You had me from the title, because hope seems to be one of the most precious “commodities” — albeit one that isn’t for sale ......
By Sarah Kerr
Hello again friends! I hope you and your littles are ready for a 3-month summer “vacation”. But one from the ’50s without camps, daycares or programmed sports… and for many, juggling working from home. Sounds idyllic, right? Okay, this doesn’t exactly sound like vacation, but if there’s any advice that I can offer it’s that the summer of quarantine begins now!
Yes, you may be wondering if I’m the minister of education to declare something like that, and to be clear… no I am not. But as the d......
John McQuarrie is a photographer and publisher of the recently released book Almonte, Spirit of Place. We contacted him to find out how his most recent book came to be, and how the current lockdown is affecting its reception in the community.
theHumm: Your photos are stunning — can you tell us a bit about your training and background?
John McQuarrie: Like many working photographers, I simply consumed print and online tutorials along with each advance in imaging......
KITCHEN at Sivarulrasa Gallery An Exhibition in Partnership with the Carleton Place & Beckwith Heritage Museum - theHumm June 2020
Until July 10, Almonte’s Sivarulrasa Gallery is pleased to partner with the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum to present KITCHEN, an exhibition that elegantly combines wo......
Just as we were going to print, stories about the death of George Floyd started hitting the news and social media. theHumm doesn’t report on breaking news, but we thought this information about a......
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Following a national trend, business at local bike shops is booming.
“A hundred percent, absolutely,” says Pete Wood, owner of Heritage Bikes in Perth. “A lot of people are finding that......
By John Pigeau
In the midst of this dreadful pandemic, people are having to cope with all manner of new challenges. We’re a resilient bunch though, and so far many of us have improvised rather well. Meeting up ......
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