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The Budding Aromas from Taco Trucks: Taste and Space in Austin, Texas

Robert D. Lemon


This paper evaluates how taste preferences produce space in Austin, Texas. Austin is a booming city. Indeed, it has been the fastest growing metro area in the United States for the past 20 years. It is also renowned for its evolving and enthralling food truck scene. Food trucks of all sorts spring up throughout the city. Some of the more innovative foods stem from gourmet trucks. And these trucks often become symbolic capital that spur gentrification. Other trucks, such as the traditional taco truck, are ensconced in marginalized neighborhoods. They feed the working masses of Mexicans who flock to Austin to find work. Certainly, the gourmet truck vendors experiment with food flavors; however, taco truck entrepreneurs are innovative as well. The taco truck cooks modify their menus to accommodate Austin’s shifting demographics. To this end, I argue Austin’s landscape transformation can be examined through cooking practices. This paper takes a close look at how immigrant cooks negotiate social spaces through the foods they make. In so doing, I interviewed two traditional taco truck owners about how they decide what to cook based on the social spaces in which they park their trucks. Surprisingly, their subtle choices reflect the changing culture and budding taste preferences of the city’s residents.


Tacos; Mexican cuisines; food studies; urban studies; food geography; urban transformations

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