In 2005, Jane and Michael Stern
published Roadfood, an adoring and adorable guide to dives and
obscure eateries across America. I loved the Sterns' vision
of a life lived driving from one delicious thing to the next
(although as they revealed in their memoir, it's not as easy as it
looks). They are no longer together, but I'll always have a
soft spot for the Sterns and their grand idea.
In the years since, something's changed. Instead of
getting on the road to try foods you can't get somewhere else, the
food itself has gotten on a truck and driven to us. Suddenly,
the Sterns' spirit of adventure, their movable feast, has gotten
loaded onto 4 wheels and gone mobile.
As if it weren't enough that the
feast has come to us (or a nearby city block), the last few years
have seen an uptick in books that eliminate the middleman
altogether--road food cookbooks, food truck cookbooks, street food
cookbooks. It's the final step in the domestication of what
was once a frontier.
It's not a sad moment, really. There's a reason this food
is popular--it sells itself through sheer deliciousness, it's
global in scope, and like any specialty it has that air of
obsessive devotion to the craft. Those who popularize the
food of the street know what they're doing.
But it remains to be seen
whether that experience can really be duplicated at home.
Books that collect recipes from a variety of sources are apt
to be uneven, and no home cook can rock a porchetta the way the guy
on the truck who's made it his calling for twenty years can--wasn't
that the point? The ingredients might be a little tough to
source. The techniques might take a while to master. As
Susan Feniger says in her own enticing new street food book, "Yes,
you will be pushed to expand."
But personally, I'm looking forward to the ride.