Setting the table

Recent political activity provides a good sign that Boston wants to be a food-forward city

By Devra First
Globe Staff / July 28, 2010

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Devra First: It’s been an interesting few weeks for food in Boston politically. Mayor Thomas Menino tapped Edith Murnane to be the city’s first food czar. And City Council president Michael Ross called for a hearing on food trucks, which have had difficulty getting permits. Do you think Boston is a food-forward city, or in the process of becoming one?

Ora M: Any idea what the job description for a “food czar’’ is?

D.F.: From the Globe story: “Murnane, 46, will work out of the mayor’s office to coordinate food policy across the city, having an impact on everything from school lunches to farmers’ markets, antiobesity efforts to meals for home-bound seniors.’’ It’s an exciting development for sustainability and food justice. I am hoping that Murnane wants a public market, because it’s really about time for that.

MC: I love the idea of the public market, and improving school food for kids. Gotta get them eating the right things when they’re young. Those habits last a lifetime.

Ora M: Just as long as the food czar doesn’t side with the corporate heavyweights against the smaller up-and-comers, I’ll be happy. Not to say that there aren’t some major players that produce some great food too.

Marc H: I’m very excited about all the food trucks coming to the area, and definitely glad to hear that there will be a food truck festival coming to the South End soon [Aug. 8].

Ora M: Do you think restaurant owners nearby resent food trucks? The more choices, the better for the area, methinks.

D.F.: It might be tough for a brick-and-mortar sandwich shop if a sandwich truck pulls up out front, selling similar products for less. But I don’t really think anyone needs to worry about that. Sometimes cities fret that trucks will take business away that might have filled empty storefronts, but I don’t think that’s a real concern either. Have a good product and people will buy it, truck or store. And it’s great to see Mike Ross recognize food trucks’ potential, as well as restaurants’ potential to boost a city’s profile and increase economic health.

Everymoms: I think the competition makes everyone try harder to put out a better product.

Foodielicious: I think Mike Ross looks a little like Michael Scott. Which makes me love him even more. Sorry, not at all food-related.

D.F.: What food trucks would you most like to see in Boston?

Marc H: I want to see some taco trucks like they have in San Diego.

Foodielicious: KOGI TACO TRUCK!

MC: More tacos, please! Would love a Kogi-style Korean BBQ taco truck. A banh mi truck would be huge.

D.F.: I would dearly love to see a ramen truck, with really great broths and traditional toppings and good noodles. Where is the ramen? That’s a trend we’ve been slow to pick up on.

Ora M: Being Portuguese, I would like to see a sardine grill and fried smelt truck, but not sure if Americans are ready for that yet. . .

Lisa: Speaking of boosting a city’s profile, did you happen to see the Hungry Traveler column about Boston in the July issue of Cooking Light? All about Boston being “late to the party’’ and “slow to adapt’’ when it comes to trends. I beg to differ.

D.F.: If you’re comparing to New York or San Francisco, there’s a grain of truth there. But in the scheme of the rest of the country, I disagree. What do you all think?

Sarah B: I’m pretty sure we have totes overdone every trend out there! Small plates, comfort food, cupcakes, check check check.

Lisa: Cooking Light did give a nod of approval: “Once the city tackles a trend, it’s not just done more calmly (easily confused with ‘boringly’), but better.’’ I’m just not sure following a trend is a good thing. We have plenty of original chefs here.

Excerpted from Devra First’s weekly chat. Go to today at 11 a.m. to chat live about your favorite dishes, recipes, and restaurants. Devra First can be reached at