Kate reviews Tiffany Harelik's book series, the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbooks.
by Kate Heyhoe
Who can resist the variety of food trailers parked on streets and lots across the country?
Some of today's most original dishes come not from big fancy kitchens, but from rolling food trucks, especially in towns like Austin and Portland. Now, Tiffany Harelik takes you on a wild and wonderful ride: she's tracked down the best food truck recipes so you can savor the same trailer foods at home.
Harelik's series, the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbooks, spotlights signature dishes on wheels, Putting a double meaning on the term "behind the grill," she shares the anecdotes, tips, and back-stories of the trailer cooks themselves. She used Kickstarter to launch her first book, and now the History Press publishes the series, which includes the Austin Edition, Volumes 1 & 2, and a Portland edition to be released in 2013.
As fitting for a cramped trailer kitchen, the Austin recipes are not complicated or time consuming, and they're packed with flavors as big and bold as the Lone Star State. But don't consider them "Texas" dishes. You'll find local Southwestern flair mixed with a whole world of specialties, like Moroccan Fish with Vegetables (The Flying Carpet), Watermelon and Goat Cheese Wedge Salad (Luke's Inside Out), and Chicken Yassa (Cazamance).
I love that these books give readers a true taste of the town: you get a vivid sense of what people are like on both sides of the truck window. Austin is young, edgy, techie, and arty, and world-famous as the home of SXSW and Austin City Limits. So no one here thinks twice when offered dishes like Sweet Po Tater Tots with Feta-Ranch Dipping Sauce, or Kimchi Fries with Beef Bulkogi, or coffee-infused Bacon Jam, which would pair nicely with hot, fried Zeppole. "Keep Austin Weird" is the local motto, and keeping Austin food weirder reflects that mission. But it's a good weird.
Harelik's long blond tresses, short skirt, and cowboy boots reflect a sassy Texas passion for big, bold impact. She's committed to great food on wheels. She draws inspiration from her great-grandfather Haskell Harelik, who came to the States as a Russian immigrant, ran a banana food cart in the early 1900s, and ultimately opened five general stores in central Texas. She introduces modern-day dreamers who bring this same pioneering, nostalgic spirit to the al fresco experience, as they roll out their favorite recipes from around the globe.
Never been to a food trailer? Check out Harelik's How-To Guide for Beginners, for tips on trailer etiquette (who knew?) and maximizing the fun. You'll of course miss the live trailer experience when cooking the recipes at home, but Harelik's descriptions, the snazzy photos, and the book's snappy design effectively bring the trailer world to you.
One final note: These books are worth buying as real, physical books, because the quality of the series' design and materials really shines. The look-and-feel sizzles with the spirit of Austin's trailers, bursting with hip colors, patterns, and energized fun. Kudos to Tom Kirsch Design for putting eye-popping appeal into an already appertizing topic, and to the publisher for using quality paper and inks.
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Copyright © 2013, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified February 2013
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