I am not one to cling to the past. This year started badly, but time has worn away the stresses of having a van with no engine. Since getting him back the Beast, our old old food van, has unhurriedly attended every event we have invited him to with sometimes nothing more than the merest puff of disconcertingly black smoke. It’s like we’re playing street food on easy mode.
Game mechanics aside, the Beast isn’t getting any younger. The breakdown earlier this year was the closest we have ever come to chucking it in and plugging back into the matrix, so we have been looking for old van alternatives. I’ll spare you the exact thought process – I’m not totally confident there was one. The outcome is that we are now the owners of a new old van.
The van itself is a Bedford CF 250 Motorhome. A classic of the British manufacturing golden age and therefore even more prone to surprising and entertaining faults than that German classic already sitting on our drive. It is, I think, a bit more toasties than a VW, but at the moment it’s still a motorhome.
My theory is that two unreliable old food vans are better than one. We can have one in bits on the drive whilst the other sails around the Warwickshire countryside bringing toasted glory to a town near you. It does rely on us actually finishing the project, which will be a whole truck full of work. Fulling converting a campervan into a kitchen is big business these days, and you can pay big money for the privilege. But while I occasionally gaze enviously into the slick conversions of the better funded street food start-ups, it’s not for me.
I like that street food, especially Birmingham street food, is a bit of a bodge job at times. Some of the greatest street food events in the Midlands happen miles out of everyone’s way (the Seasonal Markets this Saturday for example). Nobody cares if you are in a gazebo, a trailer or a van as long as the food tastes right and most of it has been prepared in a domestic kitchen. The whole industry is a bit erratic, unpredictable and full of strangely passionate, wild-eyed people who will happily corner you for hours and rant about the best kind of relish for a burger. And that’s just the customers.
So this feels right.
The Bedford is older than the Beast by a fair stretch, but here’s where the motorhome logic comes in. As these snub-nosed boxes were only ever used twice a year for the ritual holiday to Bognor Regis the mileage is less than half of what the Beast has seen. The coach-built back end is also a good foot wider and has more headroom, so should be a more practical kitchen once it’s finished.
The plan is to use the quiet part of the year to see if we can get it sorted, and to get it out on the road by next summer. I’m excited to have a new plan, our first since “try to not go bankrupt”. It all seems terribly promising, just as soon as we work out how to get a fridge through that door.
Oh, and if you remember The Painting, that’s gonna be happening.