I was elated to see our fair city pass a food truck ordinance last month.
Food trucks will open up a variety of cuisines and cooking styles for us to experience and enjoy. Many of my restaurant friends already have or are building a food truck for catering and attending festivals. Miss Sophie's isn't one of them. I've experienced food truck life and I think I'll sit this one out.
Love for my children took me into the food truck phase of my life. In the summer of 1997, my oldest son, Larry, fulfilled a dream of his and joined Carolina Crown, a drum and bugle corps based out of Fort Mill, S.C. Drum and bugle corps travel all summer competing and performing with other drum corps across the country. Back then a drum and bugle corps consisted of 135 members ranging from age 14 to 21. The members, instructional staff and administrative staff traveled together in four charter buses, a 15-passenger van, an equipment tractor trailer, and a food truck tractor trailer.
The food truck was run by volunteers, mostly parents of the members who, like me, couldn't bear to be away from their children that long. I volunteered to help them out for one week that summer and actually enjoyed it.
The next year, Larry didn't march, but his brother Jeremiah and his sister Loraine did. I ended up traveling with them the entire summer working in the food truck under Sherry, who had been running the food truck for three summers. The next year, Sherry retired and I was passed the torch which I carried for the next five years - the last two of those years, none of my children were members.
The food truck was equipped with a commercial stove, griddle, three-compartment sink, and eventually a convection oven and small walk-in cooler. All non-perishable food was stored in the back portion of the truck. The one thing it didn't have was air conditioning.
Out of that truck, we fed the members breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late night snack. Some days, breakfast, lunch and dinner all took place between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. and by 5, the truck had to be loaded and secured to travel to the show site. After the performance, we served a late-night snack before they loaded the buses and traveled to the next show. Sometimes they arrived at their housing site (usually schools with football fields) within two to three hours; some nights it would be six hours or more.
They slept on the buses and crashed on gym floors for a few hours after arriving at the housing site. The volunteers did the same. I learned to shower in locker rooms again, even when there wasn't any hot water, and to sleep pretty soundly on a classroom floor. On average, Crown traveled 8,000 to 10,000 miles in an eight-week period. Oh, did I mention that I volunteered to do this without pay?
As part of my job, I had to plan meals around how much time I had to cook them. I sent my food orders to the home office every two weeks and they made arrangements to have a US Foods truck meet us at our location.
One of my fondest memories is getting a $4,000 food truck order in the parking lot of Hershey Park in the middle of a hot July day. The heat from the concrete parking lot made the temperature of the truck well over 100 degrees. We were hurrying to get the food loaded and in the refrigerator before it spoiled and the truck generator quit working. We quickly shoved everything into the truck and I scoured the area for electricity. We ended up unplugging a couple of drink machines on the outside of the park and using the receptacles to power the refrigerator. I felt kind of bad, but you do what you have to do.
I have hundreds of stories like the Hershey Park incident, and while I wouldn't take anything for my summers with those amazing young men and women, I just can't bring myself to get excited about operating a food truck. So for the time being, I'll just wish all you food truck entrepreneurs the best of luck, while I stand at the stove of my stationary and well air-conditioned kitchen.
Meals from the food truck were simple, but always enjoyed. One meal we named "Trevor's Meal" because Trevor asked every single day when we were having it again. A few months ago, I had some smoked sausage left over from a lowcountry boil and decided to make Steve Trevor's meal and he loved it. I was thinking as I made it how quickly a meal can come together with smoked sausage, so I played with some recipes for quick smoked sausage meals. I hope you enjoy a few of my favorites.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.