With cheap, chic fare, like arugula pizza, squash empanadas and fish tacos, the country's 15,000-plus food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and many small towns across the United States.
The burning question: Is it safe to grab a bite to eat from a truck that cooks for hundreds in a space that's a fraction of the size of your kitchen?
For the most part, yes.
My jaw hit the pavement the first time I saw the truck. Outside Atlanta's CNN Center was parked a FedEx-sized delivery automobile, painted with the colors of the Mexican flag and the portrait of an African-American man wearing a sombrero right smack in the middle. It bore a tagline, “The Blaxican Mexican Soul Food.”
I knew I had to find this Blaxican.
Before he was known as The Blaxican, William Turner was a Boston, Massachusetts-raised father of two who came to Atlanta in 1992 and today, like many Americans, found himself unemployed. Turner was laid off from his job as the marketing director for a non-profit religious organization a year ago.
So with that background, where did the food come in?
When tragic crime struck two neighboring Atlanta businesses last week, leaving a shop owner dead and a community in shock, residents turned to food to raise spirits and help survivors.
The result was a crowd-sourced bake sale to benefit one of the affected businesses, Sugar Coated Radical, a self-described "libertine confection shop" that has earned national press for creating "honest" chocolate from organic, fairly traded and locally sourced raw materials.
The event, also known as a "cash mob," drew hundreds of well-wishers on Sunday who bought baked goods to help the business recoup money lost in a robbery. Other small businesses donated coffee for sale and a food truck from which to sell the surplus of baked goods prepared by Sugar Coated Radical. Volunteers staffed the cash register.
Imagine, if you will, Paula Deen with a couple of tattoos.
Now, imagine her behind the wheel of a semi, hauling 100,000 pounds down a two-lane back road as a vegetable stand pops up in the distance.
Just like Paula Deen would, Camille Pask gets on the brakes and whoas it down. It’s more than curiosity or a chance to break the boredom of the long rolls over the road; it’s a time to pick up something awesome for lunch.
Pask is a rare woman in many respects. She drives more than 100,000 miles a year as a long haul trucker, but she’s also a trained gourmet chef. The worlds intersect in the back of the cab of her rig, which she co-owns with her new beau, Chris Woolf.