The Food Truck Fallacy (And Why We Love Them Anyway)

Where do you stand in the great food truck debate?

Are food trucks still a just-south of the radar thing (and thus, still hip)? Or are food trucks basic (because now there’s one for every form of foodstuff, from pierogis to popcorn)? Have they become less about the food and more about the politics (of parking zones, on-board cooking equipment, etc.)?

Depending on what city you’re in and, potentially, what block of the downtown area you work in, all of the above qualify as truths.

IMGP4928When I first started working full-time after college and was still commuting from the suburbs (packing my own unremarkable lunches), the idea that a rotating menu of food trucks would line up two blocks away from my office brought a form of excitement that could rarely be contained. I would follow the local mac n’ cheese truck on Twitter to see if it would ever come back to my neck of the city (after a number of heartbreaking missed connections.) I would scour the Internet to find out more about the elusive tamale “spaceship” on wheels that seemed to start steaming masa as early as 10 a.m.

Of course, the handful of times I was able to align my lunch break with a visit from some drool-worthy truck, the results were underwhelming.

Food trucks, like cork wedge sandals, $30 Anthropologie hair clips and Pantone-themed contact lens cases, are novel in concept. And also utterly impractical.

The cold, hard truth is that mac and cheese cannot stay hot or gooey in a 24’x26′ van.

Which is why most days, when a lunch outing is in order, the most strategic plan involves a no-wait Pret A Manger brie sandwich, a regrettable square patty from Wendy’s or even the strange comfort of a toasted Potbelly sando.

I will, however, give food trucks credit for their innovation. It is excruciatingly cool that food trucks can dole out little flash-fried mini donut holes rolled in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with Nutella and injected with raspberry preserves.

So why not skip the disappointment and find an easier way to recreate food truck fancies – without spending $15 on a lunch portion that only satiates half of your noontime appetite?

There will always be an audience for food on wheels (because if there’s an audience for Bulletproof/butter coffee and pork rinds, there’s an audience for anything.) But I’m more comfortable feeding off of their creativity instead.

Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes
Makes ~12 “cupcakes.” Adapted from I Wash..You Dry, inspired by The Meatloaf Bakery

For the mashed potatoes:
~.5 lb gold potatoes (more if you want extra mashers, which you will)
1/2 c buttermilk (see pro tip below if you don’t have this on hand…who does?)
Some butter, salt, pepper and maybe Caesar dressing

For the meatloaf:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 small bunch of scallions, chopped (the white/light green parts)
1.5 lb ground turkey
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt & pepper
1/2 c chili sauce
1 tbsp ketchup

Preheat your oven to 425º.

Wash and slice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes (peeling off the skin now, if that’s your preference.) Place them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil, cooking until fork tender (around 15-20 minutes post-boiling point.) Drain and set aside.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until tender & translucent. Remove from heat, and add them to a large bowl along with the turkey, bread crumbs, egg, scallions and salt/pepper. A few shakes of paprika or chili powder would do no harm here. Mix well – with your own hands – until all is combined.

Grease up your muffin tin. With an ice cream scoop (or plain spoon), scoop the meatloaf mixture into each muffin cup (right up to the top.)

Blend the chili sauce and ketchup together in a small dish, then brush liberally on the tops of each meat muffin. Bake for 20 minutes. (If there’s extra sauce, you may want to reapply around halfway through the baking process.)

While the meat is baking, mash up the potatoes with a fork or spatula – unless, of course, you have a real potato masher – until it becomes one cohesive mixture. Mix in the buttermilk**, a tablespoon or two of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and maybe that Caesar dressing for extra indulgence. Try not to stick your face in it.

[**Quick, life-changing tip to make your own buttermilk, courtesy of the Joy the Baker Cookbook: In a measuring cup, pour 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar, then top with 1 cup of skim/low-fat/whole milk. Stir and let stand for two minutes. You’re welcome.]

When the meatloaves are done, pop them out of the tin. Top each with a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes. Enjoy eating sitting down, not awkwardly on a busy sidewalk.


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