Food Lifestyle

The lonely gourmet in the truck

A lonely cooking trip for a Chinese truck driver.

This article was originally writen by the Chinese wechat media Rearview mirror of earth (人间后视镜) and translated by PandaYoo.com after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the original author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.

One of the words I often say when I have dinner with my friends is: “there is nothing delicious in Beijing.”

I kept repeating the saying until I found Shi Chuanhai. I was surprised to find that a man living in a truck could eat so well, even exquisite. In addition to those home-cooked dishes, braised pork with vermicelli, fried eggs with ham and fish head stew, he also cooked bread, double-skin milk, and even Oreo pudding. The most exciting part is that those fantastic dishes are all made in the narrow cabin of a truck, and like me, he is alone.

“Isn’t this the Chinese version of the Lonely Gourmet?” My friend said.

Dig the home-made Oreo pudding with a spoon and put a satisfied smile on the face. Such scene usually appears in the early morning of a Shanghai white-collar worker in a film or TV series, yet in the real world, that guy`s name is Shi Chuanhai and he is just a truck driver.

In his story, as long as Shi Chuanhai throws two corns into the pot before setting out, the truck becomes a private kitchen which is speeding along the highway.

Once on the highway, he decorated the journey a kind of romance. Be asked why he did so, Shi replied:

“cook the time,eat the loneliness.”

1.

Shi Chuanhai took out the chicken from the refrigerator on the truck. He first cut the chicken into thin slices with the knife he brought with, then further cut the chicken slices into thumb-sized pieces with scissors, poured in cooking wine, oyster sauce, cornstarch and chopped green onion (also cut with scissors), and sprinkled salt. Then Shi thoroughly stirred these ingredients and seasonings with chopsticks, turned on the electric cooker, poured oil, fry a sunny-side-up egg first, put a soft-boiled egg on a plate, and finally fried the marinated chicken.

The vegetables and bread were prepared last night, put in a fresh-keeping box, which including three slices of toast, lettuce leaves, and sliced tomatoes.

He first put lettuce and tomatoes on toast, add the fried egg, for which was made the first layer. Then he covered it with the the second slice of the toast, placed lettuce, cooked chicken fillets and tomato slices in turn. In addition, he put some salad dressing and covered with the third slice of toast. That was how the second layer being done. However, he looked down and found that there was still a piece of chicken left in the pan, so he picked up the toast opn top, put the chicken on, and added more lettuce leaves.

In the last step, he packed the dish with plastic wrap, pressed it and then cut in half with knife. Now the sandwich was ready. He added some more salad dressing before eating, then opened his mouth, took a big bite. Time to enjoy.

He could also make mango milkshakes and Oreo pudding in the truck. Netizens commented that: “Are you an amateur truck driver or a professional chef?”; “this is not a truck but a truck-like kitchen”; “you are the coolest truck driver I have ever seen.”

Shi Chuanhai is a 32-year-old truck driver who specializes in transporting sofas in Wujiang District, Suzhou. On August 1, 2019, he started posting videos of cooking in his truck on Kuaishou, of which widely attracted attention.

In the video, he weared a gray suit and jeans, a black wristwatch on his left hand, with a short and clean haircut. His face was clean too, and he had small eyes with single eyelids, the corners of his mouth rosed unconsciously as if he were always smiling slyly.

Shi`s driving cabin is spotless. Despite he cooks every day, you can’t see dust, oil stains or vegetable leaves, rice, or bread crumbs, wich makes it very dinstinct from what odinary tracks will look like. In his cabin, you can even see a steamer and a juicer.

Someone first shared his video to Weibo, then many netizens forwarded their comments, and finally the media began to chase him. However, Shi was under great psychological pressure and refused to be interviewed for a time, mainly because some netizens questioned that he was a fake truck driver.

“The truck is specially rented to make a video, isn’t it?”;”how can a truck be so clean?” Or “how do truck drivers have time to cook?”

Those queries made he unhappy. His truck is nearly brand-new because the company just transferred to him last year. Every time he comes back from a long distance, he washes the truck. Moreover, more than 200 trucks in their fleet are very clean.

Non-professionals do not understand that truck drivers take care of their cars like birds take care of their nests. Trucks are not only a transportation vehicles but also another home for these long haul drivers.

2.

Shi Chuanhai uses Kwai to share videos because he is lonely, and he cooks because of the same reason. He called videotaping a “way to vent loneliness”.

In the summer of 2018, Shi Chuanhai partnered with a friend to do business and borrowed 800, 000 yuan. However, the investment was unsuccessful. The original goal was not achieved, and he faced serious loss. Shi`s father has leukemia and he has two daughters. The eldest daughter is in the first grade, and the younger is three years old. His wife is a housewife, whick makes Shi Chuanhai the only source of income for the family. From partners to debtors, Shi Chuanhai even considered to sell the house to pay the debts.

That was the most hard time for Shi Chuanhai. He spent the first half of 2019 in a state of “bewilderment” and “indifference”. Friends around him knew that he was in debt and left him one after another.

Someone asked him: Shi Chuanhai, how old are you? He said: “I was born in 1984, you do the math.” He also forgot in which year he got married. He had to ask his wife the age of his eldest daughter in order to calculate the date of marriage.

On August 1, 2019, he suddenly got over it and backed into life. “I just want to live well now,” he said to himself. He likes fishing, but he gives up because of thework. Shi also likes cooking and think about all kinds of new ways to make dishes, so he decides to share videos on Kwai while cooking.

The net name of Shi is “Yudahai”(Literally translated into stupid sea), the sea is his nickname and his wife likes to call that. “Stupid” has a profound meaning in Chinese, intended to warn himself not to be too fickle or make friends rashly. He values friendship so much that he never refuse to lend money to friends when being asked, even if he has no money.

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Even so, on one occasion, a new friend Shi met online, who was also a driver, borrowed money from him. This guy said that he had no money to pay the fine, so Shi transferred that person 1000 yuan. A few days later, Shi was blocked by that person.

Shi Chuanhai was hurt again, so he got into the habit of not chatting with strangers casually.

In the studio, Shi does not speak actively — he just answers whatever netizens ask. In addition, he never forwardly informs the time of next live broadcasting, just let it be. He actually likes live broadcasting and likes being teased by netizens about “what is the brand of your pan” or “are you married” in those long nights, by which could ease the strong feeling of loneliness

In the earliest days, Shi Chuanhai worked for KeDi supermarket in Shanghai, delivering goods to more than 60 stores a day. It nearly took the whole night to finish his job. During that time, he could only eat steamed buns day bay day, literally. After a few years, he changed to his current company and was responsible for the Sichuan and Chongqing transport route. Only single trip of his route was over 4,000 kilometre and during trips, farmhouses on the service areas was where he ate.

At that time, he and his cousin shared a truck, and the food cost them more than 100 yuan a day. The raw meat of farmhouse was put in a large basin, and flies flew around. Once, he threw up after eating.

Therefore, Shi Chuanhai’s original intention is very simple: in order to eat safely.

He spent more than 300 yuan on an transformer, which could transform the power supply in the truck into a power source that can be used in household devices. This is harmful to the battery to a certain extent, and the truck can`t be shutted down when parking, but it is still much safer than gas.

Then he bought electric kettles, rice cookers, and electric saucepan , all of which were low-power appliances under a kilowatt. He was reluctant to buy a refrigerator, but after the meat spoiled several times, he finally determined to spend more than 1,000 yuan to buy a car refrigerator.

He mainly eats eggs and ham sausages, even “eating eggs as meat”, yet Shi Chuanhai’s favorite food is braised meat. He blanches the meat at home, and when he starts driving, he puts the meat and seasoning into the saucepan. When he arrives the next service area, the meat is cooked.

“you don’t need to care how long it will take. It has nothing to do with whether you drive or not. You just need to do your job and turn on the the cooking appliances in the service area. There must be time to press the switch while driving, right? “

Shi Chuanhai said, “people believe that the truck driver is bitter and dirty and eat badly. I wish to break these stereotype.” He cooks bread, soup buns, double-skinned milk and fruit salad on the truck. Shi not only has enough to eat, but also eat in a joyful way.

3.

On Chinese video sites, truck driver Shi Chuanhai is quite unique — he does not sell products.

More than 70% of Shi Chuanhai’s fans are women. “Men don’t watch people cook,” and female viewers say he “lives a more exquisite life than women.”

Beauty brands are looking for him to advertise. He doesn’t know anything about cosmetics, so he refuses. Some home appliance brands are looking for him and he receives invitations from manufacturers every day. However, he seldom replied due to worry about the quality of those products. The only goods he promted so far were agricultural products, for example, he sold 500 kg apples for a slow-selling orchard in Hebei during the epidemic.

His friend advised him, “just do it. If you don’t spend some energy on your account, it will gradually lose its value.” He replied, “it’s enough to have a few people in my broadcast room to chat.”

Shi Chuanhai wants to make money, but he can’t tolerate himself becoming hypocritical. He saw that some celebrities acted so differently online from offline.

“isn’t it all fake? How do you get others to accept it? I do want to promote the positive content, but I can’t fake it. “

He has been driving for 13 years, and people will be able to look down on the immediate gains and losses when there are many things about life and death. Both in the early hours of the morning, he had two car accidents, both because of fatigue driving. From three to five in the morning, the accident rate of truck drivers is the highest.

The first time was a rainy night, trees on both sides of the road blocked his view. A bike suddenly came out and his truck hit it, and the bike fell out of shape. Fortunately, the man was not hurt, so he gave that man some money to repair the bike.

On another occasion, his eyes were open, but he was too sleepy and fell asleep. He drove his car to the exclusion zone in the middle of the road. “Something will happen sooner or later,” he thought. Several times before, he had driven the truck to the opposite side untill someone honked the horn to wake him up.

All this happened ten years ago. After getting married, he seldom burns the midnight oil again.

Shi Chuanhai’s truck

Shi Chuanhai is from Lu’an, Anhui Province. He left home all the year round for driving, first in Shanghai and then in Taizhou for a year. In 2017, he went to Suzhou. His routes were Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Anhui, and Henan, with fixed destinations.

Every morning, he gets up at 7 o’clock, drives out, usually has a meal at 9 or 10:00, and continues to drive. In the evening, he will cook a meal carefully, finish eating, go on his way, and be back at about 11:00.

Drivers can`t do anything during driving. Sometimes, he will play some music and listen to those old songs over and over again, such as “999 roses”, “really love you”, “persistent all the way” and so on. He doesn’t listen to the radio because he hates advertising. When he got to the service area, he took a bath and went back to the car.

He is used to sleeping in the car. “It is more comfortable.”

Only during the Spring Festival can Shi Chuanhai be reunited with his family. His wife is separated from him all year round. After having a child, his wife pay almost all the attention to the child. When he misses her, Shi will call her but he doesn’t know what to say, so he talks about the child. After hangs up the phone, he “becomes alone again.”

Loneliness is inevitable.

Once, a netizen asked him “Why are you cooking?”

He replied in six words: “cook the time, eat the loneliness.”

Shi Chuanhai doesn’t want to be a truck driver all his life.

The year before last, he invested heavily in a friend’s business for the same reason — “even I have to go home and farm, I still want to be with my wife and children.” Shi Chuanhai hopes to have more audiences so that he can make money by selling goods according to his conscience. He remembered once when his eldest daughter was still a child, she could not recognize him and began to cry in fear when he came home.

“No one wants to drive, and no one wants their children to cry when they see their father.” Shi Chuanhai recalled this when he was making egg tarts for his daughter. He specially asked for leave to go home because his wife had a minor operation a few days ago. In the afternoon, he planed to go to Henan, asked a friend for a debt, and then went back to Suzhou.

Now, he still owes 450,000 yuan of his debt, and if his friend doesn’t pay it back, he expects to pay it off in eight years.

It means that he has to keep driving; has to separate with his children; has to be that lonely gourmet in the truck.

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