Thursday, May 19, 2011

Food Trucks

This goes into the category of self reflection that may be painful for some. Feel free to skip it. ~Sara

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NPR had been talking for days on end about food trucks. Food trucks, these big steel rigs with sides that raised and lowered. Men, usually, manned these trucks serving up food to people in downtown areas. This was apparently some great big new trend and everyone was trying to figure out how it worked. People were enamored with the idea of the food truck. The most popular kind, being mostly in California, were Mexican/Korean-fusion taco trucks. This amuses the hell out of me.

I grew up with a food truck.

The way in which I interact with these stories on NPR is with a sense of fascination, horror, and revulsion. The part of me that is fascinated is the part that grew up with the food trucks. There is the little girl that thinks it is about time that these trucks have become so popular. She thinks about her father getting up at three in the morning to pack up the food. The food was what it was called. It was called the food because I made the food. I made the food with my sister. Together we would make the food. There were three types of food. The biscuits were one type of food. Then there was the hot food and the cold food. I was responsible for the hot food and the cold food. For a while it was a daily chore until we learned ways to do most of the food on the weekend with the aid of a freezer.

The food was just a chore. Standing over the oven for hours, making hundreds of hamburgers, steaks, fried bologna, pizza rolls. This was just what I had to be done. It was the food. The food would go on the truck. The food would be sold. The selling of the food would keep us all in our own food and give us whatever opportunities it was we were looking for.

I look back at this time with a surprising lack of feeling, but when I hear people talk about food trucks I can’t help to think of it with some sort of fondness, a fascination.

Then the horror. The horror of this chore thrust upon children who continued to perpetuate the construction of the food. The horror of being trapped in this factory work mode of food construction which fell both inside and outside the realm of child labor. The realization that it many ways this was the worst kind of slavery. The horror being how much a part of my growing life it was. How I tacitly accepted it, and how I could do the food some weeks with a sense of pride, and others with a sense of absolute depression. I was eight when I started making the food. It continued for ten years.

The revulsion? The revulsion may be hard to understand. The revulsion is this self-doubting, self-destroying, self-loathing that is instilled with food. The revulsion is the root of my personal doubt. The revulsion is where I have to acknowledge that my desire to achieve, to be praised, to feel worthy at all comes from food. Food was responsible for how I viewed my interaction with my father. Good food meant I was loved, that I had succeeded, that I had gone beyond somehow and demonstrated that I was worthy of affection. Bad food meant that I was a horrible spoiled girl, not worthy of attention or affection. Bad food meant that I was a burden who did nothing to redeem herself and her worthlessness.

I loved the food.

I hated the food.

The truck, this big steel monstrosity that would be filled with hot food and cold food, ran Monday through Friday. It brought food to those who had no real options for breakfast or lunch. I often would sit in the cab of the truck on summer days off and watch as my father sold the food. He brought the food to the local factory that employed adults with special needs. These adults with all their various social problems, their mental and physical disabilities, loved my father. They loved the food. They loved to come to the truck and spend their meager funds on the food. They were happy to interact.

The factory workers who couldn’t leave the mill loved the food. It was hearty food and they felt better for it. They often joked about stealing the chefs away from my father and making them brides. The office workers that could come down to shop at the truck loved the food. They loved the food and the jovial personality that sold it.

When I would ride in the front of the cab with my father, I would occasionally interact, but I did the ride around to be with my father, to have a moment with him. When he sold the food I would be filled with that essential worth, the fascination of how my life affected others and brought something worthwhile. It made it possible to continue to work, to make the food.

The horror, the revulsion, were there too. The horror that my life may be worth nothing but this food in a steel truck. The revulsion that this was all I could do.

I heard the stories of the food trucks on NPR and I couldn't help listening. It brought up a rush of feelings and rational or irrational thoughts.The stories brought specially selected horror and revulsion. In the end I hope the food trucks succeeded, as long as I didn't have to work with them ever again.

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