Students map diversity and culture of New Haven through food trucks
This semester, undergraduate and graduate students in Yale’s “Introduction to Public Humanities” class took to the streets to learn more about New Haven’s food culture and history. The resulting website, “Food Routes: New Haven Food Truck Stories,” will be formally launched at a public reception on Thursday, Dec. 5.
The “Introduction to Public Humanities” course focused on how academic, intellectual, and artistic work is made relevant to the public through mediums like museums, community history and art projects, and public television and radio. As a final project, the class decided to learn more about New Haven by undertaking a community history project.
The class members decided to frame their project around food because New Haven has long been a culinary destination in the Northeast, with its food offerings reflecting the city’s racial and ethnic diversity.
Instead of exploring the city’s already well-known restaurants, the project members decided to investigate a relatively new, but rapidly expanding, food phenomenon: the food truck.
“New Haven, like many other American cities, has become a food truck town,” write the class members about their project. “During any given lunch hour, food trucks serving everything from Thai to Ethiopian to Colombian cuisine line the city streets. Just as diverse as the types of fare that the trucks offer are the stories of the owners and operators of these mobile food businesses. In mapping these stories, the Food Routes project recognized food trucks as an integral, yet often overlooked, component in the cultural makeup of New Haven.”
The Food Routes project focused on six food trucks operating in and around New Haven: Ay! Arepa, The Cannoli Truck, Joe Grate’s BBQ, Peking Edo Cart, Ricky D’s Rib Shack, and Sugar Cupcakes.
The class members filmed representatives from the six trucks. “Together, these stories not only explore the reasons behind the phenomenon that is the food truck movement, but also illustrate the importance of migration to the city of New Haven and the various cultural and social networks that exist throughout the city,” write the students.
The video interviews are archived at www.newhavenfoodroutes.com. There, visitors can learn why the proprietors decided to enter the food truck business, how they decided their routes, the nature of their relationship to their cuisine, and their relationship to the city of New Haven. The site also features a view of the food trucks’ routes and bonus film footage and photos on an interactive map.
The Dec. 5 launch will take place 6–8 p.m. at the New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm St. (at Temple Street). Attendees will be able to explore the new website, speak with project members and food truck owners, and sample some of the featured food trucks’ most popular fare.