Chapter 61: Eating on the Sly
Holdmydonuts: xxx, those were some of the better chapters for me. I do wish that it could remain that way.
On the morning of the Laba Festival, the smell of sweet congee floated from every house.
On a rare day off on Laba Festival Wen Shouzheng got up early and cooked up a large pot of fragrant Laba congee.
“Rou’er, what have you been doing these few days with your second uncle? Why did the horse carriage come all the way to the courtyard?” Asked Wen Shouzheng.
“Nothing, dad. Second uncle just went and rescued a beauty!” Wen Rou said.
“For real? Rescue a maiden? Surely not, there’s a higher probability that he was beaten up by creditors, ba! When I asked him what happened yesterday, he refused to say anything. From what I can see, it’s better to just stay quietly and safely get through the year!” Wen Shouzheng said.
Wen Rou was about to explain when-
“Excuse me, is this the Wen family house?” Suddenly, a female voice called out.
“Who is it? So early in the morning!” Zhou’shi was incredulous as she made for the front door.
“You are…” Zhou’shi was startled, on the other side of the door was a woman dressed in a green jacket, a black apron covered her skirt. Her hair was done in a married woman stile, white face as smooth as an egg, very pretty.
“Madam Zhen? Why are you here?!” Wen Rou’s eyes were wide as they stared at the woman, her voice loud with surprise.
“Rou’er, this is?” Wen Shouzheng was wiping his hand as he came out of the kitchen.
“Second uncle, Madam Zhen came!” Wen Rou ignored her parents and ran through the house yelling.
“Madam Zhen!” Wen Shouchai hurriedly limped out, eyes surrounded by blue green bruises, a face full of smiles.
“Madam Zhen, why don’t you sit with second uncle for a bit, I’ll fetch some porridge for you! My dad and I made the Laba congee together!” As Wen Rou spoke, she skipped away.
“Ya~ there’s no need to trouble yourself. I actually brought some Laba congee for Shouchai, and some vegetable pancakes!” As soon as Madam Zhen finished speaking, Wen Rou had already brought in a bowl of Laba congee.
“Hei, hei, Madam Zhen brought me some congee? Then, I must try some!” Wen Shouchai smile was so wide his eyes disappeared.
“Second brother, didn’t you eat two large bowls already? Still want to eat? You might get indigestion!” Wen Shouzheng advised kindly.
“I want to, so just don’t bother us, all right? Let’s go Madam Zheng, come sit with me there!” Wen Shouchai shot a look at Wen Shouzheng and turned to make his way into the house.
Madam Zheng held the bowl of Laba congee Wen Rou had brought in.
With a smile, she followed after Wen Shouchai into the house.
“Rou’er, who is that woman? Just what happened, ah?” Wen Shouzheng grabbed hold of Wen Rou and pelted her with questions.
“That’s right, Rou’er. Just what is going on?” Zhou’shi was also curious.
“Hei, hei, dad, mum, I already told you, ba. This Madam Zhen is the beauty that second uncle heroically rescued, ah!” Wen Rou grinned, and proceeded to tell them every thing that had happened these past few days — in fact, when she started on yesterday’s story, she proceeded to add oil and vinegar, embellishing the details to fantastic heights.
Wen Shouchai and Zhou’shi gasp and cry out at all the right spots. To think that the gambling addict Wen Shouchai would have such guts!
“Hey, what do you think of that Madam Zhen?” Zhou’shi smiled.
“His mom, we certainly have the same thought!” Wen Shouzheng laughed.
“Second uncle is not young any more, rather than some random woman. I think that Madam Zhen seems quite pretty and intelligent, really charming, ne!” Zhou’shi laughed with him.
“Dad, mum, you’re not concern that Madam Zhen is a widow?” Wen Rou asked worriedly.
“This little brat, so what if she’s a widow? As long as she’s a good person, has a good attitude, and your uncle likes her it’s all fine!” Wen Shouzheng said.
“Dad, though you say all this, we still have to see if Madam Zhen is willing!: Wen Rou laughed cheekily.
She had just said this when, “Miss Wen, I’m leaving now, ya!” Madam Zhen came over to take her leave.
“Madam Zhen, why don’t you sit for a bit more? My mother is just about to give us some good news!” Wen Rou said naughtily.
“This child is too naughty. Madam Zhen, since you know where our house is, please don’t hesitate to drop by any time you like.” Zhou’shi said.
“Aiya, sister is really too much, I’m just here to say thank you to Shouchai!” Madam Zhen said.
“That’s right, Miss Wen, will you be setting up your stall today?” Madam Zhen asked.
“No, I’ll be resting at home since it’s the Laba Festival and look after second uncle!” Wen Rou said.
“Oh, that I’ll tell child Shui Mo not to wait! He’s been waiting the whole morning!” Madam Zhen laughed as she turned to leave.
Today is the Laba Festival, but could that old man make Laba congee?
Surely they’re not eating spring onion noodles again, ba?
Pitiful Ren Yue!
After considering this, Wen Rou said, “Please wait, Madam Zhen!”
“Is there anything?” Madam Zhen asked.
“Please take a pot of Laba congee for them, ba.” Wen Rou said, fetching a food container out.
“Them?” Madam Zhen didn’t understand.
“Shui Mo and the rest!” Wen Rou thought for a bit, and still could not bring herself to say Ren Yue’s name and ended up using Shui Mo’s name as cover.
“Oh, and the old man portion?” Madam Zhen laughed.
These few days, every time Sir Song Tao came to Wen Rou’s stall, it’s always ‘Sold Out’.
“It’s his lucky day! Just tell him that Miss Wen treats him today!” Wen Rou said, a little crossly.
The pot of Laba congee really ended up in front of Sir Song Tao.
At the table, Shui Mo had the job of splitting the porridge.
Ren Yue originally did not conform to any kind of festival, moreover this bowl of porridge was too sweet for his taste.
However, he could feel the warm tender feelings from it.
The taste was sweet yet mellow.
People who tasted it really could not resist, just one taste one would be hooked.
The moment the smooth rice congee enters the mouth, its fragrance spreads out to all corners of one’s mouth.
Between one’s tongue and teeth, various textures could be felt — tender red beans, soft lotus seeds, chewy kidney beans, plump longans, sweet dates and various types of rice.
Though Ren Yue did not like sweets, but the sweetness of this bowl of congee was not at all sickly. The fragrance lingers leaving the mouth warm and refreshed. Really made a person want to eat it over and over again.
“Teacher, this congee is really not bad, please try some!” Shui Mo was faster than Ren Yue by a single step, having drained his bowl clean.
“Won’t eat!” Sir Song Tao said crossly.
“Teacher, I’m going to town!” Ren Yue did not bother to coax and stood up with a smile.
“Teacher, I’ll go chop firewood.” Chang Sheng wiped his mouth and stood up too.
Shui Mo had to organize the books, and left as well.
With everyone gone, Sir Song Tao looked left, looked right, and looked around in a circle. When he made sure that everyone has left, he grabbed the large bowl of Laba congee and began to eat it up eagerly.
At this point the porridge had cooled and just right to eat.
Sir Song Tao put down his chopsticks and switched to a spoon, in large and small mouth fulls he gulped down the congee until the bowl in clean.
“Hahahaha!” A satisfied smile graced his face.
Sir Song Tao quickly place the bowl onto the table.
Only to see Ren Yue, Shui Mo and Chang Seng all standing in front of him, all staring at Sir Song Tao’s empty bowl with a smile
“Teacher, was the congee good?” Shui Mo asked cheerfully.
“I-I- I just don’t want to waste food, each and every grain is the result of farmer’s hard work!” Sir Song Tao’s face had turned red, nearly at lost for words.
“Teacher is still the most noble! Understands the true meaning of food, able to think of other people’s hardship while eating congee. Teacher is the most understanding! This student really admire teacher!” Ren Yue clasped his hands together in respect.
“Ren Yue, when have you learned to speak such smooth words! Think I won’t beat you!” Sir Song Tao said angrily, his face growing even redder.
“Teacher please don’t be angry, this student will accept his punishment quietly!” Ren Yue did not bother to dodge this arrow.
“Very well, using congee as theme, go write an essay. If the essay isn’t good don’t think of leaving the house. You’ll get no food either!” Sir Song Tao really looked angry now.
After Laba, Madam Zhen came over everyday to look after Wen Shouchai.
Wen Rou was still crossed with Sir Song Tao, continued to look for excuses not to learn cooking at the restaurant, and set up her stall in front of Sir Song Tao’s gate.
This time, her assistant was not Wen Shouchai, but the pretty Madam Zhen!
Every day, large groups of customers continued to come, including Shui Mo and Chang Sheng.
Ren Yue continued to lean under the willow tree to wait for the crowds to disperse, and Wen Rou always give him specially made food made with gentler flavour.
In a flash, three days past.
In the mean time, Sir Song Tao continued to join the queue only to be told that everything was ‘sold out’.
“Madam Zhen, do you think my uncle is a good person?” Wen Rou deliberately asked.
“Shouchai is a really good person, a really, really nice person!” Madam Zhen said, her cheeks tinted red.
“Madam Zhen, be my second aunt, all right?” Wen Rou asked.
“Tch, tch, tch, how could a miss such as yourself ask this kind of question. You think I won’t dare to smack you!” Madam Zhen raised her hand, but then slowly lowered it, her pale round face getting redder and redder. In fact, she looked like a shy new bride.
“Very well, I won’t talk to you, I’ll ask second uncle and ask him to marry you!” Wen Rou said in a bratty tone of voice.
“You little brat! You still have to ask if your second uncle wants a widow like me.” Madam Zhen sighed.
“If you agree we won’t even have to ask second uncle, he’ll be so happy to the point of craziness!” Wen Rou laughed.
“This girl’s words is getting more and more out of hand. You aren’t Shouchai’s parents, so how could you say this?” Madam Zhen was getting quite cheerful.
“Haih, the whole family is invested in this! If Madam Zhen marry second uncle, we don’t have to worry over him any more! Hahahaha!” Wen Rou laughed heartily.
“Madam Zhen just realized that she had fallen for Wen Rou’s tricks, and was so ashamed she did not know what to do!
While the two of them laughed, suddenly, a large horse drawn carriage appeared not far from Qing Shi Street.
A flag with a yellow background fluttered in the wind.
“Rou’er, look!” Madam Zhen called out in shock.
“Surely it’s not some random big official, ba? Do you think they’re here to see the old man?” Wen Rou muttered to herself.
In her past life this Sir Song Tao did not appear in her life at all, to think that she would encounter so many unexpected things this time round!
As the carriage came closer, Wen Rou could finally see the flag clearly.
Against a yellow background was an embroidered dragon symbol. In addition to this yellow flag was a large Sheng family flag.
Sheng Yao Shan, he’s here again?
That yellow flag clearly indicated imperial family presence! But who could it be?
Wen Rou really didn’t understand!
A green outfit, Chi Tu once again appeared before Wen Rou’s eyes.
It’s him, it’s really him!
That heroic countenance once more appeared in front of Wen Rou. The winter sun shone down his person, lighting up the smile on his heroic face face. A smile as warm as spring sun!
“General please halt, I shall go forward and send the message.” one of the soldiers lightly leapt off his horse, and made his way towards the wooden house.
“Elder brother Yao Shan, have we arrived?” A childlike voice, it came from behind Sheng Yao Shan’s finely carved horse carriage.
A plump white hand stuck out, pushing the window curtains apart.
Wen Rou was dumbfounded.
[Translator’s Note: This translator needs encouragement, so comment or donate! …please…T_T]
 Laba congee – This recipe is pretty famous and available in English!
 Chi Tu, Chinese phoneme name for Red Rabbit, Sheng Yao Shan’s horse