By the sounds of this excellent article in The Guardian – Has Britain’s street food revolution run out of road? – the ‘British street food scene’ should more accurately be described as ‘quality assured food served in designated car parks at regulated times’. It sounds about as daring and vital as I imagine a cover version of Anarchy in the UK by One Direction would sound.
And that’s a shame, because – from the article – it appears as if the British street food scene began from quite honest, passionate origins. However, it has since transmogrified into a public school strewn, venture capitalist driven, corporate stink where an eye for an ‘opportunity’ is the most important entry qualification,
“There is big, serious money floating around street food,” he says. “It all comes from venture capital. Some of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past few years have been rooted in street food.” He cites Meat Wagon, Pitt Cue, Pizza Pilgrims, all of which started as trucks and now have fixed-venue catering empires. “There is a whole raft waiting to join them, and for very obvious reasons. We are in a society that values realness. The whole thing of keeping it real – that’s what these brands offer.” link
Do people really say “keeping it real” with a serious face these days? I’m sure there are some great people cooking great food in these city wagons, but when KFC rock up with their very own street food truck, I suspect those more serious vendors, who are doing their best to keep it real, must contemplate the noose,
The idea of street is bound up with our great obsession with authenticity. We’re in this desperate search for something that’s real. But street isn’t a real place,” he says. “We see it as the ultimate in authenticity, but it’s a mythical place.” link
Beyond fashion, regulation and the battle between ‘authenticity’ and ‘corporate interest’, I wonder if there’s a simpler reason why street food thrives in other countries, but is unlikely to in the UK – the weather.
I’ll leave the last word to this commenter on the article,
Yeah, its stuff like this that makes me glad I left the UK sooooo long ago, nothing is allowed to just ‘be'; it has to be ‘underground’, then rapidly become trendy, then commercialised, then passe, then everyone gets cynical and decides it was always shit. Later, there will be a ‘revival’ and it starts again but with a new lick of paint. It is just incredibly vacuous, as if the entire country is trapped in the mind of a fashion conscious teenager. link
Photo taken by me in Sài Gòn.