Xochi is co-owner of the rainbo street food van, money from which goes to their Food for Freedom initiative, rescuing child labourers in Nepal
In the summer of 2011, Xochi Balfour and her boyfriend Ben Sheinwald quit their office jobs to set up a food van. Travelling around London and the UK, they sell homemade Japanese gyoza dumplings and crunchy, colourful salad from a converted 1948 Ford pickup truck, money from which goes to their Food for Freedom initiative, rescuing child labourers in Nepal.
During the week, they trade at KERB, Street Feast and other one-off markets and events. Full details and blogs can be found on their website.
What have we learned in these first four seasons on our street food odyssey? Myriad lessons in life and love. To spare you the rest of your day I will mention only those most salient points which we feel might be of interest or use.
Something wonderfully and brilliantly provincial is happening in force right now in London: the Saturday market is back. Communities across the capital are ditching their local supermarkets, meeting likeminded neighbours and indulging in a lazy cup of freshly brewed coffee while they're at it.
What an edifying start to 2013 we have had. Since I last wrote, we have spent six action-packed weeks travelling, visiting our partner NGO Base in the west of Nepal and then heading down to India for sun, sand and sea while the street food world recuperated from a gruelling 2012, ready for action after a January spent more or less in hibernation.
Oh my goodness it is Christmas already. Where the summer and autumn went I have only a vague idea; it feels at once an eternity and a moment since we first nervously opened the hatch of our big old van on Leather Lane back in June.
It is no secret that street food in London is thriving. Every month new traders hit the scene with mind boggling new concepts and taste combinations crazy enough to make Heston think twice... But our own experience thus far has been fraught by intransigent councils and endless negotiating with the powers that be.
With our first summer season done and dusted, we have finally come up for air and got ourselves back on track since launching the van in the spring. We have slept, eaten and tidied like never before and now we are ripe and ready for autumn in the city and beyond.
To those struggling to find work, or perhaps work that they truly value or engage with, I would say this: find your passion, find an idea, go after it with all you have and don't listen to the people who tell you you are mad
So says Tolkein, anyway. And wandering and roaming is exactly what we want to do in our rainbo van. To that end, we decided last week to spread our wings and leave Leather Lane behind in search of new horizons and mouths to feed.
Also abundant on Leather Lane are the very busy lunchtime executives. As we mostly cook our dumplings to order, so that everything is fresh and nothing hangs around, these customers can be slightly problematic. You would be surprised at how few people are willing or able to wait five minutes for their lunch.
I know I have been quiet since we got going in the van. In what could be considered a cavalier move, we booked ourselves in for two festivals back to back, three weeks into trading, and the last couple of weeks have been a hazy blur of heavy rain, ubiquitous mud, wayward tent pegs and hungry strangers.
This week, my boyfriend Ben and I launched our new street food business, rainbo, at London's Leather Lane market. Having quit our office jobs to run Petra Barran's chocolate van at markets and festivals last summer, we craved crunchy salads and light, healthy food on the move, so we decided to set up our own van selling just that.
12/06/2012 09:12 BST
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