|Vlog Old Street Memory|
A wisp of smoke gently rose from the clay stove while Ms. Zhang Jingsu was busy stir-frying in the pot. Dishes with authentic local flavor were being prepared one by one. “Meals from Mom outshine all the delicacies in the world” Dong Jianfei wrote in his vlog uploaded on Douyin, Tiktok in China. The vlog was shot in an old Street in Jinhua Economic and Technological Development Zone called Luobu. Over a year ago, Dong began to record “old street memory” by vlog.
Dong was born and raised here. In his childhood, he was often taken by his mother Ms. Zhang to go for a walk down the street. With a history of over 400 years, the old Luobu Street thrived in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (around 14th-18th century). In its flourishing peak, people said there were nine out of ten households there doing business. Every morning, every household opened their doors to set up stalls. There were stores selling noodles, bread, soy sauce, and also barbers, teahouses... It was crowded all the time, yet with a very pleasant atmosphere to walk through.
Twenty years ago, the family of Ms. Zhang bought a house on the street through an auction. It consisted of three courtyards and was once used by the supply and marketing cooperative. In the lobby, they sold soy sauce, and in the backyard, they took recyclables. In 2020, Dong, as a successful entrepreneur, returned to the street, and self-designed and renovated the old house. For over a decade, he has been collecting antiques, like an old-fashioned chopstick holder, bicycles designed to sell popsicles, and a black-and-white TV set. He keeps them in this house which he has transformed into a historic style.
In 2020, the Luobu old street also got renovated, and opened to the public again. Together, the street became lively again. “Here in the countryside, we have the most satisfied life and unrelenting happiness.” Last year, Dong registered an account on Douyin, “Laojie Memory”, and started to make videos of his beautiful rural life on his phone. In his vlog, Ms. Zhang, now 72 years old, catches fish, digs lotus root, raises chickens, collects chestnuts, grows vegetables, and makes sauces, pickles, glutinous rice balls, noodles, and rice tofu. She is a master at doing almost everything. Ms. Zhang also cooks different meals every day, among which “meatball soup” is Dong’s favorite. “When I was young, we were not well-off enough to regularly have meat in our diet. So Mom would make “meatballs” using tofu and sweet potato starch and cook them in soup. Every time we had this, I could not help but think how come this soup is so good. The pleasant memory of this dish accompanies Dong all the way from childhood to now.
In the backyard, they have now constructed two clay stoves that can hold five pots. One that holds two pots is set outdoors, and another is in the room inside. A large pot can be used to cook tofu with ox head during spring festival, and smaller pots can do home cooking in various styles. When it is too hot, they cook indoors; when it gets cooler, they can cook outside. Ms. Zhang has been spending time in the kitchen since she was young. She also once opened a restaurant with her son and was the head chef.
After viewing these vlogs, followers left their comments to praise Ms. Zhang as being very relatable, as she made them think of their own moms. Till now, Dong has made about 200 vlogs and received 540,000 likes, with over 2.7 million views. “At the very beginning, I took too much footage. Now I am selective and kept only the footage that is relevant to the topic, and hide the rest.”
Although his vlogs have reminded many of their sweet memories, some have doubts about the authenticity of the house, wondering if it was merely a mockup used for the purpose of vlogging. Regarding this, Dong said, “The village has been developing. Those scenes in the vlogs are all real. There were nothing demonstrated. To shoot reality is the very intention of my recording.”
For his earlier recordings, Dong would take Mom into the hills just for vlogging; now he mainly vlogs daily life around his house and the old street. A follower left a comment, “It’s so heartwarming. Though the recipes are all homely fare, they are better than all the delicacies in the world.” (By Du Xiaoping - Jinhua Evening News, translated by Lin Yuqin, edited by Mariam Ayad)