Keep the Food Alive

by Amanda Bent /
Amanda Bent's picture
Oct 21, 2014 / 0 comments

When I first moved to San Francisco four months ago, I had no idea what to expect. It’s a city, I got that much, and as with any city, there is so much to see and do around here.

But fresh from spending a year working hard and playing hard in the heart of Washington, D.C., I just came here ready to relax while I prepare for graduate school. Still, being the explorer I am, and the adventurer my sister is, we can’t help but go out every now and then to discover what this place has to offer. Knowing I take solace best in food, my sister took me to a place my foodie heart could have only dreamed of. That place is called Off the Grid.

Off the Grid truck in Oakland

Off the Grid truck in Oakland

It is not actually a place, but rather a mass market on the move; food trucks that come together to showcase the beauty of a diverse community. In this haven, one discovers the world: from the curries of India, Korean bulgogis, falafel from the Mediterranean, the sweet plantains of Puerto Rico, to a French-inspired crème brulee cart. They take you on a journey, a journey where your taste buds can try something different. With all the foods cultivated to appeal to varied palates, they are ready to satisfy any stomach’s desires—as long as other hungry bellies didn’t beat you to it.  

Korean Fusion truck, Off the Grid Food Trucks, San Francisco

Trucks at Off the Grid Oakland (above and below)

Curry Up truck, Off the Grid Food Trucks, San Francisco

I myself have now been to three of the numerous market locations: two in San Francisco and the other in Oakland, which is where I went most recently. Not only did this one deliver amazing food, but also delivered pulsating music. Partnering with the Oakland Museum of California, the place was transformed by the trucks, hanging lights, a live band and a body-packed dance floor.

Dance floor at the Oakland Museum of California, Off the Grid SF

Dance floor at the Oakland Museum of California

Standing in line at Curry Up Now, my foot tapped to the beat of the music. Rhythmic sounds of a Latino group blasted from the speakers, with the singer belting out in Spanish, pumping up the crowd’s energy. After about twenty minutes in line, I finally got to the counter and requested one of their best-selling fusion items: the sexy fries. As stated on their menu, this dish is made of cross-cut sweet potato fries, queso and onions, with a choice of chicken tikka masala, paneer tikka masala, carne (beef), or vegan. My mouth watered as I pictured a spoonful of fries with the chicken tikka masala going down my throat. 

“Sorry, we’re sold out of sexy fries,” the cashier told me. “Noo!!” I cried. Feeling disgruntled, I quickly shifted my order to my second choice, something a little less fusion and a little more Indian. A kathi roll, with the flat bread paratha acting as the wrap, and shredded chicken, chutney, and onions put on the inside. After about five minutes, my number was called and I grabbed my paper box carrying the roll. I was about to join my sister in the Puerto Rican truck line when I overheard someone say that the all trucks had to stop serving at 9:00. I could not leave without trying one of the crème brulee cart concoctions, so, trying to avoid looking like a glutton, I stuffed my box inside my bag and went to the cart’s line.

Crème Brulee Cart, Off the Grid Food Trucks, San Francisco

Crème Brulee Cart

My eyes scanned the menu and stopped on the Golden Gate Sunrise. I chuckled, thinking about how I live in the Sunset District, and more often than not it feels as though the sun rarely rises and mainly sets. But truly it was the nutella cornflakes and caramel sauce that made me choose this one. I placed my order, waited for it to be ready, and picked it up just as my sister passed by me.

Enjoying my kathi roll, Off the Grid Food Trucks, San Francisco

Enjoying my kathi roll (above) and Golden Gate Sunrise (below)

Golden Gate Sunrise Creme Brulee, Off the grid food trucks, San Franscisco

As I sat down on the steps, eating my roll and crème brulee, I could not help but radiate smiles. This is life. The sounds of the people, the taste of good food, and the coming together of different cultures, all co-existing as one shining emblem that reflects unity. 

It is gatherings such as this one that unveil the merger of our communities. As the world becomes more globalized and homogenous, with traditions fizzling out, it is refreshing to see such revival spread like wildfire. People want to keep their traditions alive, and others want to get a taste of those traditions. In the U.S. alone, there are so many advertisements in supermarkets, on the streets, in front of restaurants, all marketing this message: “Come try our traditional (culture’s) food!” It is the need for preservation coupled with this thirst for tasting authenticity that makes these markets thrive. It’s not only through food trucks, and not just here in the Bay Area, but it can be seen all over the country; through farmers’ markets, local and chain restaurants, and in all the little neighborhoods with their own flair — Little Asia, Little Italy, and Germantown, just to name a few.

These cultural markets, events, and gatherings are not a phase; they are the symbol of a movement. A movement of the people to bring back what once was lost, hold on to what still exists, and celebrate in our distinctions and commonalities as one heterogeneous race. This is how we are building a global community, and I, for one, am excited to see how we continue to develop and grow.

Mediterranean, Off the Grid Food Trucks, San Franscisco



Amanda Bent is the Cultural Awareness and Diversity Editor for Wandering Educators and works in in English Department as the Undergraduate Programs and Web Coordinator at San Francisco State University. She holds a BA in Anthropology and English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently enrolled in the Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program at SFSU.