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Food truck junkie

POSTED June 27, 2009 5:19 p.m.
Remember when you were a child, playing outside on one of those hot summer days, and all of a sudden music started faintly lilting across your front yard?
At first you might have dismissed it, attributed the sound to some radio or record player. But then the noise of neighbor children screaming became audible. The music gradually grew louder and louder.
And, then, the ice cream truck rounded the corner on to your block and you ran inside to beg your parents for a dollar.
Whether you ordered an Astro Pop, a Mickey Mouse head on a stick, or a strawberry shortcake bar, ice cream that came from a truck just tasted a little sweeter than the sort that came from your parents’ freezer. It was a special treat, the sort of thing that could brighten your whole day.
It may seem amazing, but my life is still made better at the sight of a food-bearing truck, even today. Though, where once a snow cone would raise my spirits, I now burst out in toothy smiles at the mention of super burritos, falafels, and sometimes even corn dogs. But it wasn’t always like this.
You see, over the years, somehow, I lost my appreciation for the humble ice cream truck and its kin. I delved into the world of fine dining, thumbing my nose at vehicular eateries for what would be my dining dark period.
After all, I thought, why would I want to eat a Drumstick from a grimy old mail truck when I could have a slice of tiramisu? Or perhaps some berries and zabaglione? Or even a slice of black tie cheesecake?
As a friend of mine once told me, “liking expensive things just means you have good taste.”
Unfortunately, that sort of “good taste” isn’t something that’s very practical on a journalist’s salary.
Sure, the best Turlock meal I’ve ever eaten was at Bistro 234. I salivate to this day just thinking about it.
Picture a petit filet mignon, perfectly cooked to medium rare, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with creamy gorgonzola butter and sprouts. Imagine meat so tender that it melts in your mouth as the flavors of cheese and bacon intertwine, conducting a spirited yet delicate symphony across your taste buds.
And then imagine the bill coming at the end of the meal. While Bistro is by no means overpriced when you consider the quality, my meager paychecks make frequent fine dining an impossibility.
Fortunately, thanks to a past Journal graphic designer, I relearned the simple majesty of truck-based foods.
I remember one day he walked in with a aluminum foil wrapped cylinder, sitting on a paper plate with two slices of lime. My stomach rumbling, I peered over as he unwrapped an enormous burrito and bit in, unleashing amazing scents of asada, onions, spices, and cilantro across the office.
I casually strolled over to his desk and asked him where he’d found such an amazing piece of cuisine.
Imagine my amazement when he responded, “Oh, at the taco truck just down Center Street.”
The next day I went down to the taco truck, forked over $4.50, and sat down with my first taco truck burrito. I was immediately struck by the bold, simple flavors, the delicious, raw nature of the meal.
Where my meal at Bistro was a concerto, the taco truck food was a punk rock song. Restricted by a small kitchen, powered by just a few propane burners, the taco truck made do with just a handful of simple ingredients but extracted all the flavor out of each one.
Sure, the flavors aren’t quite as refined as an aged filet mignon, but the taco trucks capture a certain joy of cooking that seems buried beneath carefully calculated flavor profiles at fine dining establishments.
From the day of my first burrito forward, I’ve been a truck junkie. I eat at taco trucks, Greek trucks, and pretty much any food vendor with wheels across the city of Turlock.
The food is simple, yet powerful. Inexpensive, yet delicious.
Sure, you might turn your nose up at the idea of eating food made in a truck. But I’d be willing to wager that I see you in line at the Stanislaus County Fair next month, waiting next to a wheeled kitchen for some deep-fried delicacy.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com, call 634-9141 ext. 2005, or hang out at Silva’s Taco Truck for long enough and he’ll probably show up.

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