Chapter 28: Various Hidden Opinions
Translated by Gumihou
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“Puchi!” Xiang Yun accidentally let out a laugh. She quickly shook her head and said, “Since Missy did not say anything about it, then it should be all right.”
The old madam was so happy when she heard this that her chopsticks came up again, but was interrupted by Duan Tingxuan, “Grandmother, you really can’t eat more of these.”
“Why? Didn’t you bring this to me as filial consideration? Could it be that you secretly intend to keep this to yourself and is afraid that I’ll eat everything? Is this why you want to stop me?” old madam Fang glared at her grandson, where’s the filial consideration you wish to show me? How is this filial consideration? Are you trying to bully this old lady?
Duan Tingxuan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This strict grandmother of his who had always placed rules and customs above all else turned out to be an unexpected foodie. No wonder upon wondering into Mei Yue Lou he found himself trapped by its delicious food. So this was the source of it all. His parents had never placed any special importance on food, so he’d been wondering just where had this bit of weakness came from? Turns out it’s from this venerable old madam.
“Hn?” the old madam snorted loudly, her meaning very clear. Just how are you going to explain yourself?
“Grandmother, there are still two more dishes. If you eat all the Liang Pi, wouldn’t that leave you less space for other to enjoy other dishes? Don’t say this grandson of yours did not warn you, the bone soup is almost too delicious to be true.”
“What a close call, I almost forgot about this.” in front of gourmet food, even the stern old madam could joke around. Pretending to wipe her forehead, as if she had really been frightened into a cold sweat. Then, her suspicion arose once more. “Bone soup? Isn’t that stuff used to boil noodles or serve as extra seasoning for other dishes? What is it? Can we really drink it straight?”
Duan Tingxuan nodded with a smile. “Oh yes, your grandson guarantees that this bone soup can be drunk straight. Once you try it, you’ll be convinced that this is actually food from heaven, one that us humans could only sip a few mouthfuls.”
“Is it really that good? To the point where you rearranged the poems of your ancestors?” old madam Fang felt curious and amused. By now, Duan Tingxuan himself could not wait any more and reached out to remove the cover on the third pot, and found himself looking at a pile of ordinary ingredients. Stir fried bean sprouts and fresh bamboo shoots. This was something normally eaten at the mansion. In the eyes of everyone, there was a vague sense of relief, thank goodness something normal finally appeared.
It’s just some regular cooking, how could this Su Nuan Nuan be some kind of chef?
After many years of self polishing, Su Nuan Nuan had mastered the used of various seasoning to the point of perfection. Her grasp of heating technique was so perfect that even imperial kitchens could not be compared. How could a mere high official’s palace kitchens be able to beat her in terms of technique?
Old Madam Fang grabbed a bowl of rice and ate half a plate of the bean sprouts in one go. She was almost full when she realized that they have not officially started eating yet. It’s almost unbelievable how she had lost herself so many times in one day. With a slightly embarrassed face, she said. “Let’s eat, let’s eat, just letting you watch me eat makes me really self conscious.”
The people around could not help themselves as they rolled their eyes. This old lady still have some face to say this kind of words? Didn’t you just happily ate half a plate? If you really have no self conscious, would you actually swallow the the plate? Really, it’s just some bamboo shoot and bean sprouts, do you really have to eat it like it’s some kind of special gourmet food? What kind of good food have not touched your lips before?
Though they all thought like this, their faces still wore ingratiating smiles. Normally, in front of this venerable grandmother, Madam Yang would have little to say, but due to her son’s extraordinary demonstrations, she also laughed along happily. “Why is old madam in such a hurry to send us away? What’s a little waiting for a good meal? In any case, let us take a look at this bones soup that could only be described as heaven’s food, where mere mortals could only sip a little before we leave.”
Hearing this, everyone laughed heartily. Even the old madam was swaying with laughter as she pointed at Madam Yang, still laughing she said, “Yes, yes, very well, with such a splendid son, as a mother you have the right to be proud. Fine, fine, in order to prevent you all from calling me an old foodie lady, I’ll let you all have a look. I am curious myself. I know that bone soup could be fragrant and delicious, but could the stuff really be drunk directly? Never heard of this.”
As she spoke, Duan Tingxuan already removed the fourth large bowl’s cover. Immediately, a powerful meaty fragrance permeated the air. Xue Zi Lan smiled, “It’s definitely fragrant, is this the bone soup mentioned by my Lord? It doesn’t look like it. What are those things inside? That looks like red dates, and are those…peanuts?”
For some time, everyone speculated over the soup and what it contained. Old Madam Fang immediately had a small bowl, and felt that it was not enough. Seeing the daughter-in-laws, granddaughter-in-laws as well as her many great-grandsons around her, she gave a little he-he chuckle and said. “Very well, very well, I can’t finish this all by myself. Chiu Ling, you portion this out for everyone. While it won’t make you full, you can at least try some. This is really a never seen before gourmet dish.”
Everyone’s curiosity had been arose. Hearing Old Madam Fang word it this way, they immediately clamoured their thanks. This made the old lady happy enough to laugh out loud. She turned to Chiu Ling, “Enough, I am very happy today. Mu appetite is good too. Peel a Zong Zi (sticky rice dumpling)  for me, pick out one with meat in it.”
Duan Tingxuan smiled. “Old madam, please don’t eat too much. They are wrapping Zong Zi there too, but we could only try them at night. I heard that they are stuffed with all kinds of interesting things. Afterwards, I shall bring some for old madam to try.”
Old Madam Fang was stunned, for a moment. She quickly replied with a smile and a nod. “They are? Oh, that’s good. What kind of fancy Zong Zi would they come up with?”
The things brought over were not ungenerous, but since it was split among so many people in the end it was not enough. The children were still young, and had almost completely surrounded the smoothie bowl. The adults only managed to try a mouthful each, though they all thought it was delicious and wished to eat more, none quite have the face to fight with the children over it. They could only stare as the small children battle among themselves for the smoothie.
Due to this pleasant surprise, the Dragon Boat Festival lunch was a cheerful success all around. Only, once lunch was over and with the excuse that Old Lady Fang must rest her frail body that everyone dispersed, leaving only Duan Tingxuan in her house.
As they walked away, the smiles on the various masters and mistresses of the house faded. All kinds of hidden thoughts could no longer be concealed as they floated up and colour their faces with all kinds of expressions.
“Where did elder brother get those kinds of fresh and innovative dishes? For this Dragon Boat Festival, in order to make a good impression, we have prepared all kinds of rare spices in order to show our filial consideration. Who would have known that he would grab the limelight with those few dishes and turn her head so quickly? All our efforts had been wasted, I just can’t take it, I just can’t!”
Surname Shi entered the house, muttering angrily all the while. When she did not hear her husband’s reply, she turned and saw Duan Tingye pacing up and down slowly behind her. Unhappily, she said, “What are you doing walking around like that? Think of a good plan, ah.”
Duan Tingye gave his wife a look, and said just as unhappily, “What if I stop walking around? Will a good plan just appear?”
Surname Shi stood up, “This kind of good food can’t just suddenly appear. I’m thinking, to give such an elaborated show coupled with cooking skills, a woman has to be involved. Knowing elder brother’s attitude, perhaps he’s harbouring someone outside? Possibly because he can’t just bring her into the house, he sought to entice the old madam over to his side. As long as he can appease the old woman, everything will go smoothly for him.
The more she talked about it, the more convinced she became. She directed a smiled and Duan Tingye, “Since you’re often outside, have you not heard anything? Follow any rumours you might hear, once we get to the bottom of it we can just drop it at the right time and watch the show. At that time, won’t the old master be even more disappointed by elder brother?”
Duan Tingye shook his head. “You are thinking too much. Not only did I hear nothing. But that elder brother of ours even bought in prostitute in as a concubine, what could he possibly be worried of that needs the old madam’s approval? From what I can see, though this matter is curious, it’s not something out of the blue. Did you not notice the two maids? Even the old madam mentioned it, those two maids clearly came from first madam’s side, say…do you think it’s possible that those things were made by first madam?”
Surname Shi curled her lips, and sneered. “How could that incompetent, poisonous woman have such a detailed mind? If she’s really that good, she have would never have been cast into Mei Yue Lou. You listen to me, those two maids are just red herrings, he must have some slut outside. You just pay careful attentions to the rumours outside. Whatever you hear could only benefit us.”
Hearing his wife’s analysis, Duan Tingye could not help but be excited too. There’s a saying that husband and wife tended to resemble each other after marriage, this was an especially significant point. Just look at this Second Young Master Duan, after having married such a greedy and scheming woman, with an imagination that could make her a successful novelist, he also grew excited over the imagined outcome. As such, Duan Tingye was swept up by ‘Duan Tingxuan has a kept woman outside’ theory and spent over half a month chasing after rumours. In the end, the result was like scooping water with a basket, a waste of time and energy.
Naturally, though Surname Shi was an evil woman and Duan Tingye was no virtuous bird himself. However, because these two are united in their hearts and mind, in their part of the mansion, there were no other women aside from two maids residing there. We have to admit, in this regard, Second Young Master Duan was a better man for focusing all of his attention on his wife and rejected the lecherous ways of his elder brother.
In the end, it was due to the lack of information that lead Second Young Master Duan to chase after the rumours in Surname Shi’s imagination. For Xu Ran Yun, no such mistaken path was trodden upon.
When Hong Lian and Xiang Yun appeared, her heart rattled like crisis drums. A few days ago she had thought that she and Duan Tingxuan would join forces to eradicate that terrible woman. When no news of the three women’s fates came to her, she had already raised the danger level up of Mei Yue Lou by two levels.
However, because Dragon Boat Festival was just around the corner and there were too many things to take care of, she had put that matter away, thinking to deal with them after the festival. She had to nip this flame of interest on that woman as soon as possible.
Who would have thought that in just a few days, what had been a little flame had erupted into an inferno, managing to even burn an impression upon the old madam. Who knows, perhaps this woman would even burn her way back into the inner court, how could this not make her furious?
Author’s Note: Ask for recommendation tickets, don’t forget me, I’ll write more!
 Zong Zi – Glutinous rice (sticky rice) wrapped in bamboo leaves. May be sweet or savoury, may be filled with meat, salted duck’s eggs, crushed roasted peanuts, black eyed peas, chestnuts or fatty pork, or all of the above.
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Translated by Gumihou at kitchennovel dot com
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