‘Street Food: USA’ is a celebration of the people behind the foods we love
Get your forks, napkins and tissues out.
Street Food is hands down one of my favourite food TV show franchises, currently playing on Netflix. Having binged volume 1 and 2 that spotlighted Asia and Latin America respectively, I was totally curious what a season on the United States would be.
The US is like Canada in the sense that many places across the country are very much melting pots of many cultures. Different cities have established neighbourhoods and communities that have amplified the food scene in their own unique way, with people from all walks of life adding to the narrative of what it means to be American and what American food is defined as.
The idea of street food is my favourite thing in the world.
You get served a delicious meal from a select menu that you know the chef is A+ at, delivered quickly, easily and cheaply.
It is the ultimate culinary experience, without all the fuss. If I had my way, I’d probably start a food truck myself! It’s a lot of hard work, but a labour of love.
Okay, back to the show.
People at the heart of it all
We often talk about food as an experience. This adventure your palette takes with each bite of simple deliciousness.
Its all very true.
But that experience is created by people, something Street Food and this volume in particular focuses on. I love how each episode spotlights an individual, their culinary journey, and really what wakes them up in the morning to wear that apron and get to work.
Hearing from people why they do what they do just lifts your spirits.
You often walk by that street vendor without thinking twice why he or she is there. What makes them want to stand on the side of a busy street, on either a very cold or very hot day, and want to sell food couple of bucks at a time.
Street Food: USA puts that “why” into perspective. Seeing these everyday chefs talk about their food, and their drive to make it, just makes you feel good inside. I was moved when I found out about the difficult journey’s a lot of these talented people have had, and the adversity they had to overcome.
For me, entertainment is not just about binging and consuming. Its about learning and reflecting. Through the power of media we are able to learn about other people and cultures in a dramatically faster way than our ancestors ever could. It would be a waste to just use it to fill in time.
Every bite we eat has a story around it from someone, and Street Food aims to put that into perspective. I found myself after each episode scribbling down a must-visit place from each episode, not just for the food but to revisit the history behind each outlet and the people who had creating radical new food experiences.
It’s not just burgers and hotdogs
If there is one thing this show likes to make plain and simple: street food in the United States ain’t just the stereotypical fast food like burgers and hotdogs.
Its a whole lot more.
With America now a place where everyone wants to be, and the population sitting at about 330 million people, you can bet that individual cultures are going to influence and inspire the local food scene. From souse to po’boys, America has good a vivid food culture from coast-to-coast.
I particularly like that different cultures are highlighted from episode-to-episode. It truly goes to show how diverse America really is, and how culinary treats from across the ocean are as in demand (if not more) as the street food that America is identified with.
More so, while there is nothing wrong with hotdogs and burgers (and there is a fair share of awesome iterations of those showcased on the show), it showcases different cultural cuisines that have helped people connect with their roots and create a sense of identity. There are moments in the series where those behind the hot plate or cooker allowed their journey in food to help define themselves as people, and thus create food that helped bring their own communities together again. That is powerful.
Lastly, the one thing that this show highlights for me is something we as society have gone into a black hole unfortunately: the idea that cheap means bad food.
Chef Thuy Pham of Mama Đút said it best: “You don’t have to be rich to eat well. Good food should belong to everybody”.
Street food for me is great, home-style food available to the masses, and this new season showcases how people across America – from all walks of life mind you – are sharing their heart and soul one plate of great food at a time.
Netflix categorizes this as a “feed-good” show.
Yes sir, it is.
The quick 30 odd minute run-time and the playful, moving narrative of each episode captures your attention and keeps you there. You feel you are like in a well-orchestrated symphony, starting slow and then building to an amazing finale.
What I also love about this show is that it manages to insert other cool stories within each episodes larger solo story narrative to really capture the essence of the city in focus. That I believe is a successful way to not leave out anything of importance, while giving the viewer a primary story to focus on as well.
The inspiring individual stories, the positive and go-getter attitudes, and the mouth-watering delicious food: each episode is 30 minutes of happiness and joy.
Whether its Juan sharing his touching family legacy and his sheer desire to take care of his family, or Tami in New York who was dealt hand-after-hand of challenges and adversities but still managed to get up because she had to “feed the people”, this show will make you feel like you haven’t before.
Bravo David Gelb and Brian McGinn for creating a show that makes people want to love not just food in a different way, but the people who pour everything they have into it. This production made me tear up, and that’s all I am going to say about it.
Street Food: USA is now playing on Netflix. Be sure to catch previous volumes that spotlight Asia and Latin America if you haven’t done so already. They are quite magnificent as well.