Did anyone watch the show on the Food Network, The Great Food Truck Race? I did and as usual I can't just watch a TV show and be content with being "just a viewer". I become the shows I watch, morphing into ideas with all the forethought of a poo flinging monkey. It could be some kind of insecurity or mental instability maybe the result of a mild stroke perhaps?
I watched this Food Truck show and became uncomfortably fascinated once again by trucks with food on them. I say "once again" because this would not be my first time consorting with the idea of running a food truck. I in fact had a food truck 15 years ago. However rogue the truck was, I was successful. So why not try again… during a recession… in midst of the worst economic downturn since..ever? I was in full "Cake Baby" mode and when I get an idea in my pea sized brain, I can't stop, I won't stop.
So in the late Summer of 2010 much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter I went on to buy a cargo van from a local guy on Craigslist It was perfect, close by and the price was really, really low…So low in fact I often wondered if the dents in the headlights and grill were from the previous owner hitting something living, which would now be dead gauging from the severity of the dents…even still, I was psychotically happy with my purchase. My husband was designated (by me) food truck builder, with me as his supervisor, till food truck or death do us part and it damn near came to that. My husband was not happy nor did he subscribe to this arrangement. Piece by piece over a very, very cold winter he endured/installed: flooring, duct-work, workbenches, prep sinks, plumbing, fans, windows, propane tanks, linoleum flooring with me manically dreaming about being on the road again, making my own menu and being my own boss. I'm sure my husband was dreaming about Spring and where to bury my body once the ground thawed. Not that I did nothing the whole time, I helped when he needed me to but most of it was beyond my expertise. My expertise would come later when I was on the road making money for my family a unbridled success, in my mind.
It was early May 2011 when my husband finished the truck, he painted it with white epoxy paint and resentment. The truck was beautiful, I was at the apex of manic gloating and my anxiety about the truck passing the NJ Board of Health inspection was epic. We passed no problem and I was on my way to instant success in the Food Truck concessions and vending business. First stop was a large flea market that required a $375 space fee (per day) to get into. I was convinced in my hugely inflated sense of reality that we would make money because the market there is LOADED with people. I dragged my 20 year old daughter with me to help. With family by my side I can achieve anything…As true as I thought that was, the reality is my daughter had painted the truck with the same color of resentment as my husband… We took in exactly $20 that day, the market was dead. The operating costs of propane, space fee, diesel fuel, food, containers, equipment, time, were staggering and this was just for one day… I left undeterred, this truck was going to make money and I was going to find a niche and sure as hell was not going to tell my husband how bad I bombed, last I saw him he had a shovel in the backyard behind the shed.
As the months went by my confidence in the fact that my food truck was tanking was at an all time high. My 14 year old son was my biggest supporter and best assistant, no matter how bad a day we had, he was always encouraging me and was a really good sport, he was the surprise rainbow in the middle of what I now realized was a horrible shitstorm. All townships require permits to vend in their town and this fee is high when it comes to a food truck wanting to operate within a township, it's simply not done in suburbia. In Southern Nj there is not one town that wanted my super trendy food truck to vend within their limits without paying at least $300 a day (with the exception of Cherry Hill Twp who only wanted $175 for the year), obviously the people who make up these fee's watched the same bullshit reality show about Food Trucks as I did. I went from town to town vending here and there, never breaking $200 ever, I must have pissed at least $5000 down the drain that Summer in township fee's alone!
Limping, dragging and bleeding money into the Fall, I decided for my family's sake I had to cut and run. I listed the truck on Craigslist. After two months of complete idiots and lookyloo's we finally had a buyer. They were college students from NYC. One of them had permission from his uncle who owned a bar there to vend outside. Frankly, as hard as it was to say I failed to myself and my family, I was happy to sell it to those two kids, I was tired and worn out and they had the exuberance and excitement about the truck that not only the truck deserved but that only the young can have. We made back our money and after several months of soothing bruised and battered egos and focusing on what's important in my life, I realize I have what I need right here in my family. I can leave the food truck idea to the youngsters out there. What I really wanted out of this whole thing wasn't money or anything like that, what I wanted was to keep my maturing family from growing and changing…in a warped way I was scared of losing my babies and the changes my marriage would inevitably go through, it was my way of keeping my family together as it was… and what I learned is that I shouldn't have held them hostage to keep my nest full, no matter where our children go, will always be a family.