A Brief History of Food Trucks
Creme brulee carts and tacos sold in Airstreams. Nothing has become more synonymous with modern American food culture than mobile food trucks. There are entire festivals devoted to them, reality shows, and many a restaurant has launched a mobile version to supplement their brick and mortar locations. You might think food trucks are a catchy trend fueled by hashtags and the underground food movement (one thateven the corporate world loves), but mobile food delivery is certainly nothing new.
Push carts date back to the infant days of the United States; New Amsterdam, now known as New York City, began regulating mobile food vendors in the late 1600s. But as many an American food-related custom does, the modern day food truck finds its roots in the heart of Texas. It was here in 1866 that ranger Charles Goodnight solved the problem of cooking well while out on cattle drives: he outfitted a United States Army wagon with kitchen accoutrements and began dishing out ample servings of fresh meat and coffee. A cowboy’s culinary dream. The chuckwagon – which you could call America’s original food truck – was born.
Beyond its push carts, today’s foodie metropolis New York City was an early comer to the food truck game as well with its Night Lunch wagons. In 1893, in an attempt to better feed the working class, theChurch Temperance Society invested in a wagon that served meals from 7:30pm to 4am, giving workers a food option beyond the local saloon.
Image: Louisiana Division/City Archives, New Orleans Public Library
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