I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Andover, Massachusetts.
Greetings from Andover, Massachusetts
N 42° 36.3908’ W 071° 9.7237’ Elev. 118 ft.
A siren wailed when the vehicle arrived. I thought it was the cops or EMTs. Either would’ve explained the crowd that quickly surrounded the vehicle. Everybody wants to gawk. It turned out the vehicle that announced its arrival with an adrenalin-inducing clarion call was the Ballardvale Catering truck. Welcome to an early morning wake-up call in Andover.
I’ve delivered to too many places to recount and over the years I’ve seen and heard a lot of catering trucks. But I’ve never heard one with a freakin’ siren for a horn. I’ve heard regular horns, La Cucaracha (Spanish for “The Cockroach”) horns, and train horns, but never a freakin’ siren. If nothing else it gets your attention.
It turned out the Ballardvale Catering truck and its operator, Mark, embodied a classic Northeast tradition: Catering trucks that truly fulfill the needs of its customers. Because not only does he provide them with food, he also extends informal credit to patrons who are short on cash. This is a uniquely Northeast thing. I’ve never seen credit extended by catering trucks to its customers anywhere else.
Mark extends the credit and his customers always pay him the total amount they owe. No records are kept. It’s on the honor system. It works out well. After all, he knows where they work and, if they don’t pay their tab or try to short him, they get cut off and go hungry. It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship.
Besides the freakin’ siren, Mark’s truck was unusual as it contained something I’ve never seen on one: a pizza oven. In addition to fresh-baked pizzas, he also made fresh-baked chocolate chip and sugar cookies.
As is normal for catering trucks — affectionately called “roach coaches” by truck drivers — they carry a little bit of everything. In the hot case I noticed a bunch of grilled sausages. They turned out to be bratwursts, hot dogs, and hot and mild Italian sausages resting on a bed of grilled red and green bell peppers and onion.
I got a hot Italian sausage sandwich on a hoagie roll ($4). The sandwich consisted of two sausage links about 4 inches long, and had great flavor and a really, really nice “crunch.” Because I got to build the sandwich myself I loaded it up with plenty of those wonderful grilled peppers and onions. It turned out to be one of the most delicious, satisfying breakfasts I’d had in a long time.
I really failed myself at the Ballardvale Catering truck though. As I was taking pictures I noticed what looked like pierogies or empanadas in the hot case. I made a mental note to ask Mark what they were and then get one before I left. As per normal, I forgot and by the time I’d rushed back around the building he’d already rolled away. And so it goes.
And so we roll.
Ballardvale Catering, here and there in Andover, Massachusetts
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.