Don't Try This At Home. On Second Thought, Go Ahead!

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.

Post a comment

You may only comment on the blog if you are signed in. Sign In

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!