The history of the food truck in America
Can you guess when the concept of a food truck began in the United States? We see them (food trucks) everywhere we drive these days, but where did they get their origin?
A quick look at history books will reveal that the modern food truck actually got its origin from the chuckwagons found on cattle drives during the mid-to-late 1800s. Cattle ranch owners would need to “drive” cattle hundreds of miles, from ranch to railyard, and the cowboys necessary to drive thousands of cattle that distance would need to eat during the weeks-long ordeal. To solve that logistical problem, Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher, outfitted an old Army wagon in 1866 with shelves to hold food for his ranch-hands. On those shelves he put the basic ingredients for meals like beans, coffee, cornmeal, bacon, and barrels of water to drink.
By the late 1800s, retrofitted covered wagons started to appear on the East Coast, in some of the larger cities, parked in front of newspaper offices and some of the larger corporations. From those wagons, sandwiches and coffee were sold to employees.
Fast-forward to the 1950s, and every major city would have a fleet of food trucks serving hamburgers, French fries, hot dogs, tacos, and other fast-food staples of the American work scene. Jump ahead to the 2010s, during the Great Recession, and the former “roach coaches” became chic, and specialty foods appeared on the streets, with gourmet dishes served to a work force on the go, a work force too busy to sit down in a fancy restaurant, but still curious about other cuisines and willing to pay for the convenience of the food truck menu.