Today, Tuesday, September 22nd we’re hitting the streets and will be publicly vending in the Longwood Medical Area on Blackfan Street for CommuteFest, a fun event featuring food trucks, bands, and other assorted goodies. We’ll be there from 11:30-1:30 and will be bringing our two seasonals: pumpkin spice and apple crisp along with salted caramel, Nutella, samoa, double vanilla, cookies ‘n’ cream, and Guinness! Drop by for Tuesday cupcakes and make your day sweeter!
When I first started my food truck back in 2010 I had no idea the myriad of licenses, certificates, and permits that would be required to run this business. But, I was determined and not thwarted even by the city’s own confusion over which permits or which department I was supposed to go to. Five years later the city of Boston and surrounding towns have thought about, developed plans, and instituted regulations to handle this new industry. Food truck licensing and permitting requirements vary from town to town, except for one special state license–Hawking and Peddling–one of the first I needed and obtained and it has not changed an iota since the beginning of time, I think. It’s a permit to vend or hawk or peddle to the public. All vendors–be it a truck, a cart, or a person standing there with goods must have this license.
Getting this license is a two-step process. First step, trek to my local police station which happens to be Boston Police Headquarters for me, have the Chief of Police sign off on my good character standing. Next up, the Division of Standards, at One Ashburton Place. Since it’s a state building you have to go through the metal detector (same with the police headquarters), I always seem to set it off–keys, change, belt buckle?
This office doesn’t accept credit, debit cards, or personal checks, they do accept cash, certified check, registered check, or money order. Really?! What year is this? The state building, however, is very accommodating in that they have an ATM machine conveniently located in the lobby. After handing the form over to the woman behind the big glass window (why is there a big glass window?), I head down to the lobby to get cash, “exact amount” she tells me. The ATM machine is not my bank so inconveniently there is a $3 service charge–I’m asked if I’d like to continue with the transaction. I don’t have much choice, so, yes, I continue on taking $80 out for my $62 license. By the way, the license is actually $60 and $2 is for the plastic sleeve it comes in. One year I said to the kindly woman behind the glass that I still had a perfectly good plastic sleeve, I didn’t need a replacement, just charge me the $60 and I’ll reuse the old one, thank you. No, that’s not how they do it. You must pay for the sleeve and license together. So much for recycling.
The ATM machine spits out nice new crisp twenty dollar bills and I head over to the little convenience store also very conveniently located in the lobby. I grab a water–it’s been one of those humid days–there’s no easy way to get to Ashburton Place, you have to walk a bit from any T stop. I put the water on the counter. The clerk, a courteous man in his late 50s or early 60s, is tilting his head in the general direction of where I imagine a small television must be showing the ball game I can hear in the background. He picks up the water bottle, says “one water bottle”, and I hand him the $20. He feels it, really feels it then holds it close up to his face. I think he’s looking for some kind of watermark or something, he says, “$1.10 out of . . . ” and hesitates, waiting for me to answer him. I catch on to the fact that he is blind or vision-impaired in some way. “Twenty,” I say, and now I’m wondering if everyone says they have a twenty. “Sorry,” I say, “that’s all I have.” “No problem,” he says and counts out my $18.90 in change. I glance down to the other end of the counter and notice another clerk, a woman, and think, oh, that’s good, someone else to “verify” what customers are handing them, but to my surprise both of these people are blind or vision-impaired in some way. What!? the two of them!? Obviously, they are well able to do their jobs and customers must be honest–good to know. There is a tip jar directly in front of me and I do feel extra-compelled to tip them for their service.
And it’s back through the metal detector, up the elevators, and to the Division of Standards I go with exact cash in hand. So, this license, if you’ve never seen one, looks as it it’s been typed on a really old typewriter using Prestige Elite or some very old typeface. Not kidding. You almost half expect the person behind the large glass window to head over to a big metal typewriter and hear her click, click, click, click-clickity-click. But she does not, I don’t think. I didn’t hear clicking anyway. She magically produces this incredibly old-fashioned looking piece of paper with an official state stamp embossed on it. The text on this thing reads:
BE IT KNOWN unto all to whom these presents come, that the above-named person is herby licensed to go about as a HAWKER or PEDLER in all the Cities and Towns in this Commonwealth, and to sell or expose for sale or barter any ….
I’m not making this up. Don’t even get me going on how peddler is spelled on this license, or should I say spelt. It’s this part of the business that I feel like I’m in merry ‘ol England. If you look up hawker and peddler in the dictionary the terms used to describe this profession are not very flattering. And this is how your food truck career begins, my friends.
I have no idea why this particular license amuses me. I suppose that in our current world of internet access, mobile phones that can do incredible things, the fact that my 80-something-year-old mother not only has a cell phone, but knows how to: text, use Pandora, sign up and watch Netflix, and grocery shop online–just makes this particular license seem so interestingly unique (read odd) and quaintly historic (read outdated). That and the fact that it has seemingly not changed since the days of yore when people actually knew what a hawker and/or a peddler were is incredibly surprising to me.
As amusing as this license seems to be, it is by far the quickest to get and probably the most straightforward and understandable. Good for historic, odd licenses of yore!
Stay tuned for the next post: The Unicorn Food Truck Location.
If you’re like me and have a want-to-do list that’s an arm’s length long and haven’t gotten around to even ticking off the first four—then high-five to you—you’re not alone. I could blame it on the snowpocalypse. Ok I will. So this past Saturday, before another snow storm started and while the roads were mostly drivable, I took the opportunity to visit two winter farmer’s markets: Egleston in JP and Roslindale—markets I have vended at in the past and have good memories of.
The Egleston Farmer’s Market is in a new location this season at the Sam Adams Brewery Complex just across from where tours of the brewery take place and the Roslindale’s new Winter Farmer’s Market is held at the Sons of Italy on Birch St. (off Corinth St.) in Roslindale. Both markets are open Saturdays from 10-2.
The Egleston market is closing for the season after this Saturday (February 28th) and will reopen in the spring. Each of these markets had a great selection of vendors from fruit/veggies, cheese/eggs, tea/coffee, baked goods, spices, nuts, jams and what I didn’t see was too many duplicate vendors—nice job market managers!
Some of the goods I bought:
Q’s Nuts—who doesn’t love a nut?! I bought 3 for $10 small packs: Mexican Chocolate with a bit of cinnamon, Original Sweet, and Coquito with rum and coconut. The 3 were supposed to last all week. Obviously I have a problem because they were all gone by Sunday night.
The Popover Lady—I couldn’t resist a popover, a small personal-sized strawberry coconut pie, a blueberry and a cranberry scone.
Let me first say that I’m really picky about my baked goods. I find most stuff out there way too sweet. Naomi bakes small pies, popovers in cinnamon and sugar, Asiago cheese, and plain, and she had scones in blueberry, lemon, and cranberry on that day (that’s 3 different flavors). The scones are flaky yet not falling apart, her pies are not overly sweet, the crust is baked just right with the amount of fruit to crust ratio spot-on, and the popovers always consistently delicious. Popovers are $3, scones are $2, and small pies are $5 or $6.
Doves and Figs Jams—I have a jar of store-bought jam at home but Robin’s jams are unique and the flavors are so intense, I couldn’t help myself. I bought the Cranberry Fruit Mustard consisting of cranberries, mustard seed, and spice—I’m a big fan of sweet and spice. I added this to my plain ‘ol grilled cheese, and wow, this was absolutely delicious. I also got a small jar of the Winter Carnival: apple, pear, and cranberry conserve—excellent on just crackers and if I’d had any goat cheese (next time I hit up Foxboro cheese) I would’ve topped it with that. Jars are $5 each.
Samira’s Homemade—always a staple for delicious hummus, pita bread, mixed olives with herbs, and spinach filled pastry.
And last but not least, al Fresh Co is a company that takes CSA a step further. Laurel sources local ingredients creating recipes for you made from what’s in season. She packages up the pre-washed, cut, and measured ingredients in brown paper tied with twine, puts the recipe, nutritional information and instructions on a label, and all you have to do is light up the stove and in less than a half hour you have dinner made.
What makes these farmer’s markets worth the trip is that most of this stuff can’t be bought at a grocery store because these vendors are too small and haven’t gotten into or don’t want to do major wholesale. What makes the food so good is that it’s made by people who love what they do and put their all into it—you can tell by the quality of their products. If you’re around the area on Saturday take some time and check ‘em out!
The Science of Baking
I don’t know why but the simple act of tossing together a few basic ingredients like flour, fat, a rising agent, and when necessary, a sweetener resulting in a hearty peasant bread or maybe a 4-tiered wedding cake–has always fascinated me. Take eggs, for example. The magical egg. Think about it–you can scramble it, fry it, boil it, bake it–and that’s just the meal. Moving on to dessert–you can add it to bread, add it to cake, add just the yolks to cake, or just the whites. You can whip the egg whites with sugar for a delicious meringue, add a bit of butter for a swiss meringue–just amazing. I wanted to know more about how and why the same ingredients could have different outcomes.
Why do we need xx amount of sugar in cake? How many strokes is enough when told mix until just incorporated–what happens if you over or under mix?
After four years of professionally baking and many, many more years baking as a hobby, I’ve discovered that the science behind baking goes so much further than just following a basic recipe. There are many other influences that effect the whys and hows of making cake or any other baked good or dessert.
I learned that environmental influences like how cold or warm your room is can have an impact on the outcome of whatever you’re baking. The heat and humidity of 90 degree days in mid-August can result in your batch yielding several dozen more cupcakes than when making them on a January day when your stainless steel clad industrial kitchen is freezing cold, for example. And it’s not just the temperature of the room, but how well (or not) the batter has been mixed. Some batters like to be mixed long, some don’t need but a quick mix “until incorporated”. But why?
One of the best books I found for getting a really well-written and useful lesson on the science of baking is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, Cake Bible. She explains the science of batter mixing, the need for sugar in tenderizing cake, and she gives reasons baking soda is needed as opposed to baking powder. This book was given to me by my husband for one of my twenty-something birthdays and has been an indispensable text book for getting me through Baking 101, 102 and so on throughout the years. It was this book with its beautiful glossy photographs of a scarlet bomb, strawberry Maria, chocolate oblivion that took my desire to bake to a need to bake level. I needed to make a jelly roll that looked beautiful, tightly rolled, with just the right amount of gorgeous red raspberry puree peaking through.
So, why bake? I guess I just really like dessert! But mostly, the creativity of putting ingredients together to create so many different things is, umm, really appetizing. And delicious!