No plastic forks for this fare

Exotic, mouthwatering smells are wafting down Wood Street. And they appear to be coming from Philippe LeBlond’s new bike shop.

Exotic, mouthwatering smells are wafting down Wood Street.

And they appear to be coming from Philippe LeBlond’s new bike shop.

But, don’t be fooled.

The culprit is actually a white cube van parked in his driveway.

It looks like a chip truck that should be dripping grease and gravy, but this fast-food shuttle serves up healthy, homemade fare.

Fresh falafels, lamb gyros — gyro rhymes with “hero” the menu informs — black bean burritos and pizza quesadillas make up some of the menu, along with freshly squeezed lemon, cranberry juice and a crazy concoction of bananas, chocolate syrup, peanut butter and strawberries called The Hot Evening Banana.

“And even it’s healthy,” said sole proprietor and cook Rosa Brown.

“I mean, it’s got fresh bananas, strawberries and peanut butter — I had one for breakfast, but without the chocolate syrup.”

It used to be called the banana burrito, but that was a pathetic name, she said with a laugh.

Brown also serves up “perotis.”

A cross between curried perogies and roti, the peroti is a savoury wrap filled with curried potatoes, melted cheese and mango chutney.

In the big cities it’s easy to get quick, healthy, affordable food, said Brown.

“You can pop in and grab a roti or a falafel with no fuss.

“But in the Yukon there’s a pretty limited selection.

“So, I wanted to add some new items.”

Calling herself Vagabond Street Foods, Brown links her ethnic fare with the idea of wandering through different places and cultures.

“And I was a vagabond in a sense, drifting through my early years — I loved it,” she said.

After earning a degree in biology, Brown headed north looking for work about 11 years ago.

“I wanted to be Farley Mowat,” she said.

Instead, she ended up working in offices, first for the Yukon Conservation Society, then for renewable resources in Old Crow.

Unhappy with how her dream job turned out, Brown returned to her vagabond roots for a while, and cooked in a few bush camps.

But she wasn’t very good at it.

“I’m just not a meat-and-potatoes type person,” she said.

Then she got offered a gig doing craft services — catering and first aid — on a film set, and loved it.

The independence of film work is appealing, she said.

“I get to be my own boss.”

She stuck with craft services, working out of rental vans for a while, then decided to buy her own truck — the white Grumman Olson Curbmaster she still uses.

It’s a ’74 GM with a big 350 engine, so it’s really hard on gas, she said.

“Which is why I like being parked here.

“And its body is aluminum, made by the same company that made those old, aluminum Grumman canoes.

“As a kid, I remember paddling one of those canoes and seeing all the rocks in Algonquin Park scrapped up by aluminum.

“So, I’ve moved from the aluminum canoes of my childhood to an aluminum truck,” she said with a laugh.

Because the Yukon movie business is seasonal and sporadic, Brown is always looking for summer work.

The first year with her new truck she travelled the music festival circuit selling scoop ice cream, hot dogs and pop.

The markup on hot dogs, ice cream and pop is incredible, she said.

“I made lots of money, but I didn’t like it.”

Brown doesn’t even eat hot dogs and takes issue with soft drinks.

“I try to stay away from things like Coke,” she said.

“Those packaged drinks are an environmental disaster — and here we are shipping all this sugar and water up the highway.”

The healthy, tasty food Brown now dishes up is way more labour intensive, she said.

Especially because she mixes everything from scratch, soaking then boiling the chickpeas for her falafels, squeezing the lemons for her juice, and chopping up veggies.

“I am trying to create meals you can eat with one hand while you’re walking or doing other stuff,” said Brown.

“So there’s no plastic forks in this business. I’m trying to keep packaging to a minimum.”

Brown has set up shop twice before, once on the Whitehorse waterfront and another summer in Dawson, parking by the west ferry landing.

But, in both locations, she had trouble with water and power sources and had to move her van nightly.

“I was spending all this time and energy trying to manage the van,” she said.

“But this new location is perfect.”

Plus it’s a good marriage between businesses, added Brown.

“Philippe’s bike clients are also my customers, we call it, ‘Active living and healthy eating,’” she said with a smile.

Brown plans to stay open till September, when the movie business should start to pick-up again.

“So my year won’t have just one job or one routine,” she said.

“That’s what I love about it.”

And, because it’s a one-person show, Brown gets to do a little bit of everything — even some deskwork.

“So, what I’m going to put into it is what I’m going to get out of it and there’s a creative element to it too,” she said.

Brown has a couple of new recipes brewing, but they aren’t ready for unveiling yet. And she wants to paint the van orange.

“I want to find a look,” she said.

With fresh orange and pink flowers on the counter, red and orange cupboards in the van and a cute picnic table, complete with awning and table cloth on LeBlond’s front lawn, she’s well on her way.

Vagabond Street Foods is open Monday to Friday from noon till 7 p.m. But on Thursdays, Brown leaves LeBlond’s at 1:30 p.m. and drives her van to the community market in Shipyards Park.

Her van is parked in LeBlond’s driveway on Wood Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.

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