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The Rickshaw Retrospective: The Rickshaw Diet

The Rickshaw Retrospective: The Rickshaw Diet


By Adam Slight

When you rickshaw for the summer, you are always hungry. At least for me, my appetite was insatiable from May to August and the phrase “hole in your leg” almost takes on literal meaning. I found that even when I gorged and feasted, I was never truly full (and would be hungry again half an hour later.) While my business partner Brian has recently shared his take on the rickshaw diet, I feel like I have my own unique culinary reflections as well as some stories to share that show a different side of things.

About 6 months before my career as a rickshaw professional began, I was somewhat overweight. My post-athletic high school lifestyle had clashed with my University student lifestyle, resulting in a physique inspired by a Pop-Tart rather than classical sculpture. Sometime around Christmas in 2009 I had decided to make a change in my lifestyle. I was eating better, exercising more seriously, and I shed 20 lbs by the summer. By then I had begun pulling a rickshaw, where I lost another 7 or 8 lbs.

Having just lost 25 lbs, I was delighted to learn that when you rickshaw you can also pretty much eat as much of whatever you want without suffering the consequences. Our monthly all-you-can-eat buffets could attest to that, where Brian and I would compete to see who could eat the most chicken fajitas (Brian won with 17, while I followed with a dignified 15 fajitas, plus a bowl of ice cream). This was also demonstrated by our frequent trips to the nearby candy store, Sugar Mountain. When business was slow one of us would look at the other, suggest “Sugar Mountain,” and then run gleefully to stock up on sugary treats. More often than not, business would pick up immediately after we had each devoured 3 lbs of candy, and the ensuing rickshaw rides would make us all want to vomit.

Speaking of vomit.

Brian and I held another food-related contest in 2009. We each attempted the coming-of-age feat of drinking 4L of milk within an hour, without throwing it up. After about 45 minutes and only a half a liter of milk left to drink I could no longer bear the bloated pains and icy headache that I was suffering. I induced vomit only to engage in a hellish rapid-fire of consecutive mini-throw-ups (a passer-by confusedly shouted “Bud Light Lime!”. Brian on the other hand consumed all 4L of milk in about 20 minutes and only needed to hold it down to win the contest. As he sought refuge in his van, dazed and in pain, a fellow runner thought he would make a “milkshake” (ha-ha). Chris climbed onto the back of Brian’s van and began to bounce up and down, violently rocking and shaking  the vehicle, and subsequently the contents of Brian’s milky stomach. Brian urgently poked his head out the window in what can only be described as a dairy explosion. 4L of white milk waterfalled (waterfell?) from Brian’s mouth culminating in a vast ocean beneath the van.

If you haven’t lost your appetite, let me talk some more about food!

When you pull a rickshaw for the summer, the streets become your second home, and I think part of this has to do with the fact that you eat many of your meals in your rickshaw on the curb. You become very familiar with the different places to eat, and where you can get the most nourishing meals for for the least amount of money. I recall one runner in my first year eating a raw fish in her rickshaw. She was also known to eat cookies off the ground and donuts offered by a homeless man—but I doubt any of this is related to the fact that she pulled a rickshaw.

Early on, I fastened a cooler to my rickshaw, where I would store barbecued chicken breasts and steaks for later consumption (last year Brian bought half a cow’s worth of steak and would come equipped with roasts and home-made jerky). On Canada Day of 2010 I prepared for my rigorous day by consuming four delicious barbecued chicken breasts, and fueled my day with a disgusting constant feed of vector bars.

I think rickshaw runners are relatively blessed with a simple business model. Basically, as long as you have a functioning rickshaw, a road, and some people, you can make money. Often overlooked in this model is the required fuel for operating the rickshaw—that “fuel” being food. This is something that I overlooked when I first started operating a rickshaw. After about three weeks of work, after I had overcome the initial difficulties of pulling human beings in a cart, I noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to muster the energy to make it up the hills. I mentioned this to one of my co-workers, and he gave me the seemingly obvious advice that my diet was lacking the needed protein.

After a hard night of running, food is on everyone’s minds. Trips to the 24-hour grocery store are an after-work tradition, where you spend $12 on cheese-sticks, cookies, chocolate milk, yogurt, pizza buns, and whatever else is within arm’s reach. We would stay in the parking lot until 4:30 am goofing off, holding immature competitions (see above), recounting that night’s stories, and making fun of each other. These trips to the grocery store became something we would look forward to.

While Brian is correct–quality food is necessary if you don’t want to face exhaustion when leading a highly active lifestyle– if you could get away with feasting on buckets of candy with no repercussions, wouldn’t you?


Brian Clarke on January 20, 2012 AT 08 am

Oh, the milk challenge. Not something I want to remember while eating breakfast.