Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

23.10.14

Yarraville Gardens food festival threatened by bureaucrat with one of the most absurd job titles in history.

Now, let's just get some perspective.

This city, Melbourne, has about four billion people spread across 9,900 km2 (3,857.2 sq mi). That's a lot of mouths to feed. Melbourne is also often regarded as the food capital of Australia in which the hospitality and food industries thrive. Melburnians love to be outdoors, especially on warm spring nights. It's almost compulsory. What? You're inside watching television on a night like this? They sit on sweeping lawns in Victorian-era parks (or in their own manicured back gardens), sipping cold wine and eating al fresco dinners while the aroma of barbecue drifts across the suburbs, and the children run wild silhouetted by a shimmering orange sunset. They go indoors only when darkness comes; and sleep, perchance to dream of marinated steaks and pork ribs and cold white wine and warm brulee and the best city in the whole world. And food trucks.

Food trucks have been around a long time, way back to the horse. For years, they serviced the industrial and manufacturing areas. Morris J bread vans roamed the suburbs and ghostly horse-drawn milk carts clip-clopped around pre-dawn streets. All part of the same industry, taking food to people for convenience or pleasure.

Then food trucks had a resurgence in the inner suburbs. Initially on their own, the new but retro industry soon found that trucks in pairs or even groups, rather than cannibalising the market, brought customers in even greater numbers, who were attracted by the variety and sense of occasion thus created.

In Yarraville, it was practically an impromptu food festival every weekend with up to 18 trucks lining Yarraville Gardens in what has become a tourist attraction. One truckie even bought a Citroen H van in Europe and shipped it to Australia. Customers love its pizzas, but the truck itself is a drawcard. Another van is a vintage all-over-chrome Airstream, yet another is an old green-grocer's Bedford. A food festival in which people come to admire the machinery? That's success.

So, as the hip expression goes, it's all good. Small business thrives, people enjoy a world of food in one place, and Melbourne's reputation as food capital is enhanced.

But, like grey clouds that herald a sudden rainstorm, enter the council.

Maribyrnong Council's ridiculously-named functionary, 'Acting Director, Sustainable Development' said, in an oddly contradictory statement, that while council supported the food vans, their numbers would now be limited to six.

What 'development' could be more 'sustainable' than a small business that has built its trade from scratch, using its own money?

Rubbish was mentioned as one of the factors in the new limit of six trucks. Rubbish used to be what council took away. It was their job!

Visit the Yarraville Gardens Food Trucks page for more news of this unfortunate, but all too common, and brutally stupid bureaucratic interference in people's lives.

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