Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food Cart Culture

While looking at the preceptorials offered this semester, I saw a preceptorial on Food Cart Culture...of course I had to sign up.  After being initially waitlisted, I was accepted and given the opportunity to listen toa rousing discussion regarding the culture behind the food cart as well as to devour free sandwich from Hemo's.  They offered us chicken, steak, or vegetarian sandwiches, all served with either ketchup or the irresistible Hemo sauce.  Naturally we all devoured the sandwiches out on the sidewalk in the rain before we could even make it back to the classroom.

Our professor was entirely unsure what she meant by the name of this preceptorial.  So she really brought us there to ask us our opinions on what food carts are and what sort of role they play in our culture.  We discussed different concepts regarding food carts such as money, business, ethnic cuisines, standards at food carts, as well as connotations of food carts in Philadelphia versus other cities and countries.  Some well-traveled students offered their opinions and experiences regarding food carts in other countries and the possible socioeconomic status linked with them.  Other students discussed their favorite food carts in Philadelphia and whether or not they had preconceived notions regarding food carts before coming to Penn.  Obviously we took a survey of our favorite food carts as well as the sorts of offerings to which we were drawn to as consumers.  Interestingly, though we did not choose Hemo's for our free excursion, it turned out to be one of the class favorites!  Besides the classic sandwich trucks such as Hemo's, fruit trucks are also very popular.

One thing I found most riveting in the discussion was the connotations regarding gender and food carts, not to mention the name food cart versus food truck.  Apparently in Philly, they are food trucks.  Elsewhere, they are called food carts.  Regardless, the class unanimously agreed that food carts are male-dominated eating establishment.  Though fruit trucks are popular with both men and women searching a nice in-between class snack, our class had the notion that generally men eat at food carts due to the swiftness of service and the generally female disinterest in eating alone.  The women in the class vocalized the importance women place on eating together as a social activity, whereas all agreed that men eat simply to reduce hunger.  Food carts will always be a prominent hang-out for Penn students, for they are easy to find, cheaper than dining halls, varied in their offerings, and aware of regulars.  A google search willl bring up countless websites and blogs dedicated to these eateries, and there are several excellent student-created resources online for food cart reviews right here in Philadelphia.  There's no reason to hesitate....try them all!

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