Tales from food trucking

My sister says I should be writing about food trucking, which sounds like the opening line to the weirdest diary-style YA novel ever written. Here’s some thoughts.


I work on three trucks right now: the pie truck, and two sandwich/burger trucks that sell at Boeing. On the sandwich trucks, I cook a little, but mostly I run the window, taking orders and money, delivering food.

At both sandwich trucks, I ask customers for their names so I can call out their orders when they’re ready. I make a somewhat concerted effort to learn the names of my regulars at the different trucks; it just seems like a nice thing to do, a welcoming, friendly, where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of thing. I’ve probably managed to learn thirty names and faces, but there’s another forty or so faces that I recognize but can’t put names too.

It’s easier to remember names that aren’t European, or are attached to non-white faces. Selam and Salim I learned quickly. Unusual names in general stick out, like Slim or Stokes or Ramses or Desi. People with custom orders stick out, too, like Susan or Patricia or May.

The real problem is the short, common men’s names. If your name is Joe or Scott or Steve, Jeff or Greg or Dan, I almost certainly can’t remember your name. There are multiples of all these names coming to the trucks every day, and generally speaking I’ve managed to associate one face with any given name, and that’s it. I know one Scott; the others are all “you’re that guy who was here yesterday.” Plus, weirdly, it’s hard for me to remember names if regulars from one truck come to one of the other trucks. It’s like how walking through a door resets your brain.

I guess the takeaway point here is, if you’re a regular somewhere and want the staff to remember your name, try giving something unusual: a nickname, or surname. And if we can’t remember your name, please don’t take it personally. We do remember you — and we’re just delighted you’ve come back again.

The other day I was describing my summer schedule to my friends Piper and Lasheena, and Lasheena asked “so you’re working six to seven days a week … how does that work with having a personal life?” And I kind of stared at her blankly for way too long and then said that I make it work, one way or another. Which is true!

But I also get a weird charge from interacting with people, especially my regulars. I’ve had conversations twice with regulars today about the horror convention I’m going to this weekend, extended ones about what horror movies we like and who I hope to meet. I don’t think these guys even know my name, they just know I serve them food four out of five days a week. But those interactions do a lot to recharge my extrovert batteries and satisfy the human need for interaction.

Although having some personal life is nice too.

This weekend, after more than a year in our current kitchen, we’re moving! Today was the last time I should ever be at that kitchen. Leaving tonight was like some odd rendition of Good Night Moon.

Good night to this kitchen
Where we did our baking
Good night to the alley
Where I spent so long waiting

Good night to the walk-in
I’m afraid this is it
Good night plastic flaps
That were covered in … gunk

Good night to the back lot
And your dumpsters and stenches
Good night to the crows —
Opportunistic mensches

Good night to the padlocks
Good night to the gate
That I loathe dealing with
When it’s cold and it’s late

Good night to the flag
That’s as big as the block
Be it red, white and blue
Or supporting the ‘Hawks

Good night to you, potholes
I hit in the dark
Good night, too, Safe Access
And so long, Skylark

Good night to you, bridge,
Where the cops lie in wait
For speeders or drunks
Or expired license plates

Good night to the shoe
Lying lost on the verge
Good night to the backup
Of cars waiting to merge

Good night to the route
Down to Fourth and Spokane
To avoid that damn merge lane
And its rush hour jam

And so long to Rainier’s R
Shining red in the night
I’ll see you again,
But to Delridge — good night.

Adventures in feeding myself (a continuing series)


My mom recently sent me a copy of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, and my roommate’s mom recently gifted us with a few pounds of zucchini, so today I tried the rustic Italian zucchini pasta from the book. I was a little worried I’d oversalted, but it has come out pretty tasty! Next time I might add some garlic and onions, and definitely cook up some fake chicken to add protein.

Self-indulgent food post


While I am normally not the kind of person who takes pictures of food, this is delicious and beautiful and I made it. Spinach, red onion, strawberries, and fake Chik’n, topped with raspberry vinaigrette and paired with Deschutes Brewerystout.

Most stuff I cook is about at this level of complexity — sautee, mix, put on plate, put in face — but I’m really proud of it because for a long time, the level of cooking I could do topped out at “boil water, put in instant soup.” And now, via a careful curated combination of being addicted to Chopped on the Food Network and drawing inspiration from restaurants (thanks for this salad, Bear Tooth!), plus a couple of inpspirational friends (like Jessica D-G and Rachel H), I cook meals for myself more days a week than I don’t, on average. Like an adult! Or something.

Next step: cooking for other people?…

A place at the table

A midafternoon break somewhere on the Camino: a tomato and cheese bocadillo, cerveza, my credencial, and my trusty walking stick. This photo actually has relatively little to do with this post, but I have almost no photos of actual albergues and I really like this one.

One reason I want to go back and do the Camino again is the albergues.

Albergues, or refugios, are an integral part of the Camino’s infrastructure. They’re roughly equivalent to hostels all over Europe — usually they provide a bed in a dorm, or possibly beds in a private room for a little extra, a shared bathroom, and a place to wash your clothes. Along most of the Camino, a stay at an albergue costs under €10 per night per person; about €8 is pretty typical.

There are a few oddities about the albergues, though, compared to the hostels you may have stayed in elsewhere in Europe. First is the fact that most of them lock their doors at 10 p.m. The logic seems to be that peregrinos need their sleep and by God, they are going to get it whether they want to or not. Locking the doors at 10 discourages peregrinos from over-indulging in the local nightlife (if there is any) and encourages an early bed time. You can, of course, leave the albergue any time you want, which is important because a lot of peregrinos want to start off before sunrise in order to get most of their walking down before the heat of the day around 1 p.m. And you will have to leave the albergue by 8 a.m. the next morning; stays of multiple nights are highly discouraged, unless you have a doctor’s note saying that you need to stay longer. The hospitaler@s have a lot of cleaning to do, and they’ll have a fresh pack of pilgrims at their doorstep in the afternoon, so you need to move on.

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Of coffee cups and caprese, of hazelnuts and things

IMAG0377My ugly American moment coming back from Rome (an odyssey that involved a two-hour delay leaving Rome, rebookings in Heathrow, and frantic sprinting through the Vancouver airport to make my connection to Seattle, not to mention middle seats on every flight including being stuck next to a friendly but elbow-happy and beer-swigging (Northern?) Englishman on the transatlantic one–)

Uh, let me start over.

My ugly American moment coming back from Rome came as I tried to navigate Vancouver’s beautiful but confusing airport, and I spotted a Starbucks shop, and inwardly sighed contentedly at the sight. There’s not a single Starbucks in all of Italy — the nearest one is in Cannes, France — and I kind of missed it.

(Somewhere, my sister just shuddered in horror and isn’t sure why.)

I actually really, really enjoyed the cafes in Italy. In Rome, at least, they take their food slowly and their coffee quickly; the etymology of espresso, according to Wikipedia, is linked to the English word “express,” in both the senses of “specific” and “fast.” When you walk into a bar, you order café for a single shot of espresso served in a tiny cup, usually with sugar on the side. You drink your espresso standing up at the bar. Sitting at a table costs an extra €0,40 or so, usually, and the coffeeshop culture doesn’t encourage the sit-down-for-hours-with-your-laptop behavior American coffeeshops do. Sitting and kibbitzing for a while is certainly welcome, though.

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On blackberries

A clump of blackberries, some ripe, some not.

How can you not want to eat these?

It’s summer in Seattle, and that means that those asshole bushes with all the prickers that grow everywhere in Seattle are finally doing what they were made to do, which is producing blackberries.

Whenever I go by blackberry vines, I think of Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker:

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