Dish of the Day: Street food – what is it really?
Street food is essentially people making their way with what they have, be it a talent for dumplings or skills in roasting frogs. Street food vendors are not rich, and as they don’t have the opportunity to own a bistro or restaurant, they operate on the street. If any rent is paid, it is small; wheelbarrows, oil drums and all the rest are put into action in place of a proper kitchen. It is about eking out a living.
This style of cooking (slightly poshed-up) has, in recent years, made the journey to the UK, probably via NYC like most things, and what a wonderful addition it was to our food scene. Talented cooks finally had the opportunity to showcase their talents and sell their goods in a way they never would have been able to before, wherever it may be. Happy days, low rent and low outgoings for the vendors meant us lot got amazing food, which was affordable. The scene was cool, music was important, cocktails started appearing in old tins cans and everyone was happy.
That’s until business minds started sticking their noses in and taking advantage of what they saw as cool vibe.
There are some places that celebrate street food, inviting most of the prominent street food vendors along, so all were in one accessible place, almost like an American tailgate party, with foodies being able to have multiple food-gasms all within a hop and a skip of each other. Sounds great, right? Like a London Hawker Centre, except for the fact that these places are asking for £400 per night per vendor, or 30% of their takings. £400 per night is £146,000 per year. 146k. What a number.
The result? The only people that can afford it are either backed by someone to help with the financial load, aren’t street food people at all, just people wanting to get in on a scene, or they simply don’t make any money, which defeats the whole object, providing they are relying on it to make a living.
If they are doing it for a hobby and are happy to barely break even, then good for them, but we must remember that the real street food people, the people who sweat blood to make a living from it, are now not able to be a part of it, and sadly, lose all the positive PR that gets thrown around on social media about it.
That’s the way of the world I guess, but it doesn’t make it right, and I hope this little post helps raise awareness so these people can still do what they do, because, simply put, the British food scene is a better place with proper street fooders, than it is without them.Tagged in: street food
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