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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Food Trucks: High-Class Eats For The Streets

We’re taking it to the streets and exploring food trucks in Columbus, Ohio with Bethia Woolf. And, Happy Pig serves high class, local food from a two-man cart.

Eric Sjaaheim Of Happy Pig Food Cart

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Eric Sjaaheim writes today's lunch menu for Happy Pig.

Bringing The Food To The Consumer

Got a craving for tacos but don’t live near a restaurant? Want to support a local farm, but think it’s impossible because you live in the heart of the Bronx? Want to eat healthy but the gas station is your only local grocer?

Food trucks to the rescue.

In Los Angeles, the birthplace of the craze, hundreds of trucks roam the streets selling everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Indian food to Korean tacos.

The New York City-based Truck Farm doesn’t just bring you the produce, it brings you the earth that grew it. It’s a mobile garden in the bed of a 1986 pickup truck.

Grocery A-Go-Go

In New Mexico, MoGro has adopted the concept of mobile food to bring affordable groceries to food deserts.

There’s a similar program happening in Kansas City, the Beans and Greens Mobile Market. Until November, the refrigerated truck filled with local vegetables, meat, and eggs will be jumping between at least three designated spots in so-called food deserts, places where the nearest grocery store is about two miles away.

More: Read more stories about food, fuel, and field from the team at Harvest Public Media.

The Thrill Of The Chase

van outside a taco truck

Photo: Mike Beaumont

Bethia Woolf smiles from the driver's side of the Columbus Food Adventures van.

Our series of segments taking a look at the food scene in Columbus, Ohio continues today with a look at the taco truck culture. It’s such a vibrant part of that city’s food life that Columbus Food Adventures offers a tour dedicated solely to these mobile food vendors – it’s their most popular.

“I think partly it’s an adventure,” says Bethia Woolf, the master mind behind Columbus Food Adventures. “There’s something about the chase of tracking these trucks down.”

And you’re interacting with the owner of the business a lot of times, somebody who really cares about the food they’re serving you, which is a very different experience than going to a fast food restaurant and having somebody who often doesn’t really care about the food that they’re preparing.

“Taco truck” is an umbrella term that encompasses all sorts of food offered by the city’s over 40 mobile food vendors, from Mexican to Salvadorian, Honduran, and Colombian.

The Mexican-style tacos is two corn tortillas filled with a wide choice of meats. The meat is often slow-cooked prior to service, so the the grill simply warms it up.

Even within the Mexican trucks there’s a huge amount of variety of the different food they serve: grilled chicken, sandwiches, Mexican ice cream, and other regional specialities. “It’s a more varied tour than people are expecting.”

The Happier The Pig, The Better The Bacon

“We’re trying to create an identity with our food here,” says Eric Sjaaheim.

He and fellow owner/operator of Happy Pig Tony Cooper are serving lunch to a long line of folks on one of the busiest intersections between the campus of Indiana University and downtown Bloomington. As Cooper cooks up slabs of pork belly for their signature dish, the Notorious P.I.G., Sjaaheim describes the process of prepping the high class breakfast sandwich:

Instead of smoking the pork, we cure it and braise it. We cook it in liquid for quite some time and get a lot of flavor in there. Then, once we’re out here, we crisp it up, top it with some Brown County maple syrup, and put a sunny side up farm egg on top.

They also make the buns themselves, completing this all-Indiana sandwich.

Responsible Food

Cooper and Sjaaheim met when they were cooks at Restaurant Tallent. If Happy Pig’s popularity with the lunch and late night crowds continues to grow, they hope to soon devote all their professional energy to the food truck. It may happen sooner rather than later as they have also secured a spot as a vendor at the Bloomington Community Farmers Market.

“We feel it’s our responsibility that if we’re going to do something like this to not just serve hotdogs, but to serve high quality food for reasonable prices and expose people to a different type of eating I guess,” says Cooper.

Sjaaheim adds, “The reason we’re using local product is to show people that it’s not just a buzzword. There’s no reason to not use local product.”

News Stories In This Podcast:

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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