In Praise of Street Food

Today there was an annual Independence Day street fair in my neighborhood. I love street fairs even though they are often hot and overcrowded because they always involve delicious street food! I grew up with high street food standards as a result of living in New York City, where the hot dogs are the best in the world and you could often get a lovely potato knish from the same vendor that sold you the hot dog, or maybe a smoky soft pretzel. Living in the midwest for much of the past decade, I grew used to its heavier, often deep-fried street food: foot-long Italian sausages, corn on the cob, pork chop sandwiches, funnel cakes.

I did not know what to expect today at my first Utah street fair, but I was not disappointed. There was a refreshingly cosmopolitan array of choices (hurray for cities!), including Greek food, Indian food, several panini stands, two taco trucks, a Belgian waffle cart, a sushi truck,  and American standbys like barbecued chicken, pulled pork, and hamburgers. There were so many tantalizing options that I found myself sampling from three vendors, beginning my lunch with a samosa, moving on to a grass-fed burger that was probably the best hamburger I’ve had in Utah, and finishing with a pork taco and part of a chicken quesadilla. All of this fantastic food only cost $14.50 total. I’m often cynical about America, but street food is something that we get right!

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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