Peace, love and local food on wheels

Co-op dishes up ‘Om-style cookin’ from big, yellow truck

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England Porter, Lawrence, one of the co-owners of the Blissful Bite food truck, talks to customers during the annual Relay for Life event, held Friday, June 7, 2013, at Free State High School.

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Tristan Landwehr, Lawrence, one of the co-owners of the Blissful Bite food truck, makes a gluten-free taco during the annual Relay for Life event, held Friday, June 7, 2013, at Free State High School.

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England Porter, Lawrence, right, one of the co-owners of the Blissful Bite food truck, hands Amy Oelschlaeger, Lawrence, an order of quesadillas during the annual Relay for Life event, held Friday, June 7, 2013, at Free State High School.

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The Blissful Bite's "Hassome Avocado" with beet relish, amino acids and toasted sesame seeds.

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A gluten free taco from the Blissful Bite food truck.

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England Porter, Lawrence, one of the co-owners of the Blissful Bite food truck, talks to customers during the annual Relay for Life event, held Friday, June 7, 2013, at Free State High School.

Where's the Blissful Bite?

The Blissful Bite truck appears occasionally at community events and regularly at the Saturday Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market. Owners also regularly serve food from a tent at the Tuesday Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market.

Find updates about the truck's food offerings and whereabouts on Facebook, at facebook.com/bliss.coop.

Think food trucks are all about greasy gyros and cheap street tacos? Think again, at least if you’re in Lawrence.

Lawrence’s food truck scene has an active membership of just one, but the big, yellow mobile kitchen we do have also has memberships in a couple other scenes: farm-to-table eating and co-ops.

The Blissful Bite first hit the streets under the ownership of Anil Kamat, who built the truck and created its signature healthy, organic “Mexican-Indian fusion” cuisine — Mexican inspired by living in the Southwest and Indian inspired by his father’s homeland.

Around the time Kamat was looking to sell the truck, another group of Lawrencians living together at Sunflower House was brainstorming entrepreneurship opportunities.

Not only did the six 20-somethings want a business they could run as a co-op but they also wanted it to mesh with, as member Jason Hering puts it, their “value sets.”

“Om Style Cookin’!” — the Blissful Bite’s motto — fit to a tee.

“We were all driven by the desire to do things we felt good about doing,” co-op member England Porter said.

The co-op took over the truck this spring and is working to purchase it from Kamat over a period of three years, Porter said. She said not only was the food truck a niche that wasn’t being filled in Lawrence but it was also in line with the ethics of community-building and local, organic and sustainable food.

Blissful Bite co-op members grow as many ingredients as possible themselves at Willing Horse Farm, located at the east edge of town near Brook Creek Park. Porter said they’re starting to harvest crops like kale, radishes and carrots now, and they’re growing beans and other crops they hope to add to the homegrown mix next year.

The food is all vegetarian and some vegan, although owners have considered adding meat options once they’re better established. They’re also gauging interest in a CSR — a “community-supported restaurant” program, where they’d create a different meal every week and deliver it or offer it for pickup to subscribers.

In Lawrence, mobile food vendors are not allowed to sell food on public property, including the street, said city clerk Jonathan Douglass. Vendors with a valid license from the city may sell on private property with the owner’s permission, but they can’t stay in a single location longer than three hours in a day.

For now, the Blissful Bite truck appears occasionally at community events and regularly at the Saturday Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market. At the smaller Tuesday market, members opt to save gas and generator time by preparing food in the truck then driving it in cars to the market, where they serve it from a tent.

Dishes vary each day, but owners said favorites include gluten-free tacos, breakfast burritos, red lentil curry and from-scratch vegetarian sausage.

This week at the Tuesday market, co-op members cheerfully took orders — and plenty of questions about the day’s offerings.

Why is that drink called Haymaker’s Punch? (The old-timey recipe, also known as switchel, was refreshing and restorative after a hard day’s work in the heat).

On the avocado with beet relish, what exactly are amino acids? (A liquid that looks and tastes like soy sauce but is way better for you.)

Did you grow the kale for the kale chips? (Yes! And they’re oven-baked, with sunflower oil.)

It probably goes without saying, but being laid-back is a requirement for successfully running a business as a co-op.

Tristan Landwehr said he moved to Lawrence mainly to be a part of its co-op scene.

“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t like the idea of trying to be the boss over anyone,” he said. He likes that all six Blissful Bite owners are workers, but the group has no employees.

Landwehr’s girlfriend, Madeline Reed, another partner, said she was looking for the same vibe.

“I have always wanted to work in a cooperative environment,” Reed said. “It’s fun, and it’s very satisfying.”

Comments

Megan Green Stuke 1 year, 3 months ago

I didn't think food trucks were legal in Lawrence! This is good news if they are - I'm sure we'll be seeing more!

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Nikki May 1 year, 3 months ago

According to the article, they are barely legal. Way too many loopholes to make it a big time thing, sadly.

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sustainabilitysister 1 year, 3 months ago

I'd love to see more opportunities for these small businesses in Larryville. Austin has done this well. http://roaminghunger.com/aus

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alm77 1 year, 3 months ago

"In Lawrence, mobile food vendors are not allowed to sell food on public property, including the street, said city clerk Jonathan Douglass."

What about the ice cream truck? He's on our street often enough.

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