This Noam Chomsky Food Truck Serves Pulled Pork with a Side of Politics


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This Noam Chomsky Food Truck Serves Pulled Pork with a Side of Politics

Inspired by the writings of Noam Chomsky, Glasgow-based chef Felicity Day decided to mix her left-wing ideals with cooking, and launched the Chompsky street food truck last year.
June 20, 2016, 11:00am

It's raining heavily as food traders begin setting up beside Union Canal in Edinburgh, bracing themselves for a damp flurry of lunchtime punters. Even against the grey sky, the Chompsky food truck stands out.

Inspired by the writings of American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky, chef Felicity Day and her business partner Andrew Owens-Smith decided to mix their left-wing ideals with cooking, and launched the Glasgow-based street food enterprise last year.


The Chompsky street food truck beside the Union Canal in Edinburgh. All photos by the author.

There can't be many who would cite a 21st century political thinker as the inspiration for buying a food truck, but it seems to be working.

"Chomsky links up to our vision of street food because originally, we wanted to be quite anarchical—following the rules of not following the rules and trying to create something no one had seen before," she explains. "We wanted something rebellious and anti-establishment. We are trying to step away from the idea of not having a premises and not having to pay ridiculous overheads to big corporations."

READ MORE: It's Weirdly Difficult to Start a Food Truck Business In Glasgow

The Chompsky menu changes regularly, alternating between world cuisines. One week might see the team serve New Orleans-style grilled oysters and the next, Jamaican goat curry with jerk chicken. Day and Owens-Smith also source local ingredients and visit Glasgow's Asian supermarkets for recipe inspiration.

Back at the Union Canal market, waves of office workers queue at the Chompsky truck to order today's special: bao buns with pulled pork and tempura prawns.


Bao buns with pulled pork and tempura prawns.

"For us as business owners, [the food truck] is great because we have limited outgoings. It's also good for the customer," Day says as she mixes prawns in batter before throwing them into the fryer. "All of this links to Noam Chomsky in the sense that we're not paying big corporations and people aren't paying for expensive food. We want equality for everyone."

Politics play a big part in the Chompsky duo's interaction with customers, too. Day says that she moved to Scotland from London and found a largely left-leaning community in Glasgow.


Chompsky chef and co-owner Felicity Day.

"I'm definitely not a fan of Trump," she laughs as she fills two steamed bao buns with chili salt squid. "For the food truck, we like the idea of having a company and a brand that advocates making sure you look into these things: making sure you vote, making sure you know about politics. We like to make sure people are active whether they are left wing or not. We want people to know what's going on in the world."

The Chompsky truck itself was purchased online and brought to Scotland from Devon via a 16-hour drive. Local graffiti artists were called in to decorate the exterior.


"You get a lot of people coming by asking, 'Is that to do with Chomsky?' and when they realise it is, they love it," says Day of the truck's brightly coloured paint job. "It's great when people recognise that and it makes us feel like we're doing something for a purpose as opposed to just cooking food."

Despite the cult following Chompsky seems to have developed, Day and Owens-Smith say it wasn't easy to get the business started. The pair are often forced to take the truck to pitches outside of Glasgow, as the local council is not always supportive of street food vendors. Day says food truck permits are often awarded to burger vans and that there is a "big anti-street food culture" within the city.


"Compared to places like London, street food is in its infancy in Scotland. Trying to persuade the council to give us a pitch is an uphill struggle," she adds. "I'd say there have only been a handful of people who have been successful with a licence, and they serve the standard roll and chips."

The Chompsky truck is prohibited from parking in Glasgow's town centre—something Day says links with Noam Chomsky's views on globalisation.


"It's frustrating because you walk through the city centre and you have all these big corporations who are allowed in there, because they're paying very high rates and they can afford to fail," she says. "Not even an unknown brand can get into the city centre anymore. It's just chains and big corporations coming out of nowhere—not Scottish, not local—serving boring food."


Glasgow City Council also prohibits food trucks like Chompsky from setting up within 500 metres of a high school. Day says this is because schools have contracts with large catering firms, but that children will still go to Greggs and McDonald's at lunchtime.

"They're allowed to eat unhealthy, uninteresting food. We're not trying to do that," she says. "We're not trying to feed them unhealthy food. If anything, we're trying to get them interested in the food industry, health, and nutrition."

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Glasgow City Council has organised a handful of street food festivals, but there is little hope of Chompsky getting a permanent location in the centre.

For the time being, the duo have bigger aspirations.


"Our main goal would be if Noam Chomsky came by the van and actually had some food," says Owen-Smith. "You never know."

With the lunchtime rush nearly over in Edinburgh, I watch a man stop to read the truck's menu, before noticing the name.

"Chompsky!" he says. "What's that about, then?"

I leave them to it.