Edge, a roving food writer for the New York Times, has eaten his way across all the top food truck–friendly cities of the U.S., from Seattle and Portland, Ore., to Madison, Wis., and Minneapolis, down to Austin, Tex., and up to Philly and New York City. He presents 150 of his favorite recipes, taken either directly from the vendors when they were willing to divulge their secrets, or else recreated by his colleague, and the book’s photographer, Angie Mosier. It is not surprising that the array of snacks is multicultural in the extreme, but it is interesting to see how certain dishes have jumped the boundaries of their traditional homelands. Jambalaya turns up in Oregon, albeit a healthier than normal version made with red beets and parsnips. Jerk pork in Wisconsin gets the Sloppy Joe treatment, tossed with “store-bought Jamaican barbecue sauce” and served on a bun. And from a Japanese food cart in Philadelphia, canned tuna, mayo, soy sauce, rice, and spice are wrapped in nori and called tuna onigiri. More authentic walk and eat offerings include a traditional Frito pie from Houston, with the chili poured atop a torn open bag of chips, and L.A.-style beef tacos with tortillas dipped in lard before heating. Some of the chefs have spent too much time in their tiny work spaces: how else to explain creations such as the macaroni and cheese sandwich, and the grilled cheese cheeseburger wherein a dainty burger and some lettuce is nestled between two grilled cheese sandwiches? Agent: David Black. (May)
New York Times food columnist Edge (Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South, 2007, etc.) explores "outsider food, immigrant food, [and] the food of the underclass" in an intelligently organized cookbook featuring a smorgasbord of American street foods. In cities such as Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Houston and New York, the author gathered recipes that range from the familiar with an ethnic twist (sumac on tater tots) to regional fare (Portland poutine) to fast food (burgers and tacos) to healthier concoctions (Ethiopian lentils and tuna onigiri). Many employ simple ingredients, as well as flavorful sauces and marinades. Whether served in hearty or bite-sized portions, they are often characterized by their portable, comforting nature. Readers who may have initially equated "truck food" with greasy spoons will be pleasantly surprised to discover that quick methods such as deep-frying are limited, as are the more excessive creations, including a grilled cheese cheeseburger. Adventurous palates will also find fusions such as Kimchi quesadillas and crepes with chicken, veggies and coconut. Edge contextualizes his topic with well-considered introductions to each section--"Fries and Pies," "Waffles and Their Kin," "Brunch on Wheels," "Unexpected Pleasures," "Sandwich Up!, "Rolling in Sweets," etc.--and to the recipes. He also provides background on topics of interest to food-trivia enthusiasts, from the popularity of sriracha to tidbits given by the cooks he encountered. The book is especially noteworthy for its vibrant portrayal of cities as hotbeds for innovation. Despite their fleeting nature, these creations endure in a winning combination of graphic design, cross-cultural flair and writing on one of the staples of the urban food landscape.