Street food is picking up steam across the country, and Houston is no exception. During the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium last weekend, attendees were invited to view the exhibit "Taco Trucks and Crepes Trailers: Modern Texas Foodways" at the University of Mississippi's Gammill Gallery, running through November 19. In it, photographer Angie Mosier explores the eats and aesthetics of Texas truck food of all varieties. A partnership with and sneak peek at John T. Edge's forthcoming book Truck Food Nation, the exhibit has Houston covered.
We caught up with Mosier for an interview on the culture surrounding street food, in-the-bag Frito Pie and taco trucks as art. Here's a selection of her shots from the Houston scene -- some of these are on display in the exhibit; others are from the larger project for "Truck Food Nation." To check out a full photo blog of food trucks highlighted around the U.S. for the book, visit www.truckfoodnation.com.
Aguas frescas, fresh fruit drinks, are a popular accompaniment to truck tacos. This truck's colorful line of flavors resembles snow cone syrup with choices like piña colada and chicle azul, or blue chiclet.
Tacos Mayra displays a colorful visual menu on the outside of their truck. "Each truck vendor has the freedom to decorate or paint their vehicle however they want," Mosier said. "From a practical standpoint, it is an easy way to display a menu. From a creative standpoint, it is like any other form of marketing -- it's an expression of that vendor's taste and also how they think the public will respond to their place of business."
"I thought it was interesting that there were so many references to actual brands like Coca-Cola, Mosier said. "Some of the vendors would actually paint renditions of Coke bottles on their trucks to advertise it."
A customer waits at the counter of El Ultimo Taco on Long Point and Antoine. "I love how portable truck food is," Mosier said. "The actual elements of the vehicles are interesting to me, like the set up of the truck or the mechanics of how the truck might open up to facilitate serving and eating."
Putting the finishing touches on breakfast tacos at El Ultimo. In many cities, there is a presence of immigrants selling their traditional, ethnic food," Mosier said. "There is a mixture of traditional and more 'hipster' truck food. Houston turned out to be the city that is the most traditional. Vendors there seem to have a good support system with commissaries and truck maintenance facilities available."
El Jarro Café on Gessner, rated #1 by former Houston Press food critic (and my dad) Robb Walsh.
A range of salsa selections at Jarro Café. "Vendors have figured out how to package their food so it is easy to eat and carry which can be fun to shoot," Mosier said. "I love how paper wraps around food and how the sauce might be something colorful and in a fun little container."
Jarro Café uses permanent signage and rainbow brights to advertise their mobile taco truck. "In Houston in particular, the trucks were just visually incredible," Mosier said. "They are painted in very bright colors and the feel is very 'street carnival' in a way."
Taquería Torres offers car registration while you enjoy your tacos al pastor. Mosier comments on the larger social framework of street food: "I was excited about shooting the images surrounding the food and folks of street food, and it turned out to be compelling on many levels. There are political and social issues surrounding the culture as well as a certain angle of creativity and efficiency that the operators must incorporate."
Elote con crema, a roasted corn cocktail, at Melissa's Roasted Corn. Mosier on traditional ethnic food to-go: "I think that modern eaters are seeing the value in having traditional food available in a convenient, affordable venue but also as a way of preserving the flavors and traditions of those foodways."
Melissa's Roasted Corn on Beechnut.
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Frito Pie straight out of the bag at Refresquería Rio Verde. "One of the most incredible ways to prepare and serve a dish was Frito Pie. The operator actually takes a single serving bag of Fritos corn chips, slits it open on one side, then piles chili and cheese and peppers directly on top of the chips. They stick a plastic spoon down into the mixture and just hand you the bag to eat out of," Mosier said.
Breakfast tacos on fresh-made corn tortillas at Taquería Las Palmitas.
The tortillas on your breakfast tacos at Taquería Las Palmitas are fresh-made right there in the truck.
A cold watermelon agua fresca is the perfect way to wash down your truck tacos.