The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food is Transforming the American City.

AuthorSmith, Solomon K.

Lemon, Robert. The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food is Transforming the American City. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2019.

Robert Lemons new book The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food is Transforming the American City represents the final product of two major projects. First, his dissertation, which traced how food practices both activated and altered the built environment within urban areas by investigating how the social practices of taco trucks morphed the cultural contours of three cities: Oakland (CA), Sacramento (CA), and Columbus (OH). While immersing himself into these communities, Lemon turned his interviews with local food truck owners and activists into two documentaries, Transfusion (2014) and ?Tacos or Tacos? (2011). Both played at several film festivals and were considered for awards. Although it just came out, The Taco Truck has already won the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize from the American Association of Geographers.

The Taco Truck begins with a brief history of Mexican street food and taco trucks. Crucial to this discussion is a study of taco trucks as social spaces along city streets and how these spaces culturally fit into diverse urban environments. As time passes, the space inside and around taco trucks evolves as it engages diverse communities and is influenced by them as much as it influences. As Lemon notes, the study of the taco truck's place within the city must "carefully evaluate how ethnicity, class, and culture operate across an urban environment" (4).

The Taco Truck focuses on three distinct cities in the United States: the Bay Area, California; Sacramento, California; and Columbus, Ohio. The author chose these areas because they had histories with taco trucks and mobile food vending. Each chapter demonstrates how urban culinary culture and local politics influenced where and how taco trucks could operate. The first two chapters examine street food practices across the Bay Area, focusing on how street food vending reemerged in the 1990s in Latino districts. In Oakland, where the emergence of taco trucks was viewed as an expansion of immigrant culture and resisted by city officials, community activists fought for the right of the street vendors to sell the food and occupy public place within the city. San Francisco was completely different; economic developers wanted taco trucks to step in to help immigrant women turn their small informal businesses of vending food door-to-door to immigrants...

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