Award winning food writer and former Atlantan John T. Edge will return on Wednesday, May 30th to promote his new book “The Truck Food Cookbook”. The new book explores the exploding truck and cart food movement across the country and collects over 150 recipes from food trucks in 15+ cities Edge visited during his research.
Edge, a former contributor to the AJC, is a five-time James Beard Award nominee and a winner earlier this month of The MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, writes the monthly “United Tastes” for The New York Times. Edge also acts as the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a non-profit institute based at the University of Mississippi dedicated to documenting, studying, and celebrating the diverse food cultures of the American South.
Another Atlanta resident, food stylist Angie Mosier, provided all of the photography for the book, as well as collected and interpreted all of the recipes as well. Much has changed in Atlanta since Edge was in the process of writing “The Truck Food Cookbook”, and now that the scene has picked up in his former home town, he wanted to celebrate the book and Mosier’s contribution in her hometown.
Beginning at noon on May 30th, Edge will be at the food truck gathering hosted at The Stove Works in Inman Park at 112 Krog St. He, along with A Capella Books will be part of the convoy as he signs copies of his new cookbook.
I spoke with Edge on the phone recently, and discussed “The Truck Food Cookbook”, as well as some of the things he observed in his year long trek across the US exploring the truck food scene.
JW: What is the background on the book? Where did the idea for The Truck Food Cookbook come from?
JTE: I was traveling in Vietnam about 6 or 8 years ago, with my rear on the curb and feet in the gutter, eating this great banh mi sandwich with shaved cucumber and fresh picked cilantro from a garden not twenty paces away, and I had this moment of thinking “Why don’t we have street food like this in America?” When I got home and started traveling some, I saw the beginnings of what I was documenting and celebrating in the book, which is this ascendance of truck food/cart food/street food all across the country. I ended up traveling to about 15 different cities over the course of a year, trying to make sense of what is going on in those cities, and to document the rise of truck food in those cities, with this idea that our love affair with food in America seems to be maturing. As it matures, people are going to demand good food, not just from white table cloth restaurants, but good food day in and day out. I think one of the great markers of democratization of good food in America is this truck food movement.
JW: Where did the recipes come from that appear in the book?
JTE: About 75-80% of them came from the carts themselves. Angie coaxed, cajoled, and sweet talked those vendors and restaurateurs into providing us the recipes. No book pays homage to those operators, so we wanted recipes that were enigmatic of those trucks. There were some cases where the cart or truck said “no”, and if that was the case, we did a recipe that was inspired by them based on my observations and Angie’s observations on what they do and how they do it.
JW: Of all of the cities that you visited, which city would you say has embraced the food truck movement more than the rest?
JTE: There are a bunch of different ways to answer that. I think that, in the South, Durham North Carolina probably has the most vital scene. Probably the scene I found most surprising was Madison, Wisconsin. The city has curated a United Nations of food carts on the University Mall in that town. So, there is an East African cart next to a Jamaican cart next to a hippie vegetarian cart. I think Madison is really surprising and great.
JW: Did you visit Atlanta while writing the book?
When I was writing this, Atlanta was not a street food city. It wasn’t a part of the fabric of the city then. I think Christiane Lauterbach had just started Atlantafoodcarts.com around that time. Atlanta didn’t have at that point, though it now does, a scene worthy of comparison to say Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, or Durham. There have certainly been some improvements in Atlanta since then, and I think that within 6 months, Atlanta will figure it all out.
The Stove Works in Inman Park, 112 Krog St., hosts a fleet of food trucks, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday. John T. Edge will be there signing copies of “The Truck Food Cookbook” at noon on May 30.
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog