Planet Taco

The concept of fast food varies between people to people, and from time period to time period. For some people fast food is anywhere that is not a sit down restaurant and for others its any place that has a drive thru window. The idea of fast food has also changed through out time, at one point Mc.Donalds was the poster child for fast food, yet over the years as people have been more careful about what they put into their bodies and clean healthy living, fast food places such as salad bars have been popping out more recently.

Fast food is often times regarded as not authentic, healthy, or quite frankly good. However there is something that is shifting the ways that people see fast food, at least to me, food trucks. Food trucks have become super powerful these last few years slowly making their way to festivals, beach ares, and even St. Johns University’s campus.

Fast food trucks deliver food in a fast manner and without the hustle of having to be seated with a waiter and all the added staff and wait that comes with a restaurant. Some food trucks are even located near public benches or they set up their own. What does this do to street food? Jeffrey M. Pilcher in his book Taco Planet gives a detailed account of his experience eating at a food truck, and at Taco Bell, and his description gives way to the answer of this question,

“So which was the fast food, the carne asada from Hermosillo or the grilled steak from Taco Bell? Both delivered a quick meal for about the same price.Yet the labor that produced them -not to mention the experience of dining- could hardly have been more different. The industrial taco, mass produced in a central commissary and served under a fiber glass mission bell, seemed worlds away from the taco grilled to order and eaten under the open skies of Mexico. “

Jeffrey M. Pilcher (4)

The main point that Pilcher makes that resonates with me is the bit about Taco Bell being “mass produced in a central commissary”. Food truck laborers mass produce their food for a day or maybe a couple days but to a much different extent than a mass conglomerate such as Taco Bell does. Being Taco Bell there are employees who heat up meat in plastic bags and microwave tortillas, because that is what they are told to do.

Behind food truckers there is usually mom and pop type of entrepreneurial story. It starts with someone caring about food and wanting to share it. While Taco Bell might be a bit faster, I would pick a good food truck over a chain restaurant any day

One thought on “Planet Taco

  1. You’re right on about food trucks, and they fit into a larger story about food eaten on public streets. It’s an older tradition that restaurants, maybe even an ancient one. This is certainly the case in Mexico, as I think Pilcher does a good job pointing out. He also points out the class distinctions of people who eat in restaurants versus on the street, and food trucks in some ways model this. The recent trend, though, which you pointed to above, complicates this. That is, when there are “gourmet” food trucks, this is a different mode than working class. In this way, I believe the food truck, which was mobile in the way taco stands are, has become “gentrified” and maybe appropriated. What do you think about that claim?


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