Chapter 25 - Praise

Madam Li watched as Little Doudou earnestly waited at the table to drink his second sister’s fish stew. She suddenly realized that she had said something out of line. Third Brother-in-law would likely become an official in the future. She needed to flatter her third sister-in-law in order to take advantage of having an official in the family.

“Look at my awkward mouth, I just blurt out words without thinking! Third Sister-in-law, I wasn’t scolding your son Doudou, please don’t take it to heart…the table is a little crowded, I’m going to take Heizi out and go back to our rooms to eat!” Madam Li finally took the hint from her mother-in-law. Although she felt reluctant, she still towed her son behind her to leave. 

Yu Heizi only cared about eating food. However, he was a crafty young fellow and decided to take advantage of the situation and haggle for more food: “If you want me to leave the table, give me a few more pieces of meat! If you don’t, I’m going to stay here to eat!”

Madam Zhang had no other choice but to give into his demands. Although she lambasted him under her breath for being a ‘small minded bastard’, she still placed a couple pieces of meat into his bowl. She glared fiercely at Madam Li, reminding her that she needed to leave with her son!

With the two unhygienic people gone from the table, there wasn’t much to complain about for the remaining Madam Liu and her four children. No matter how busy she was, Madam Liu made sure to keep her entire family washed and clean. Her husband’s younger sister, Yu Caidie, was at the age where a girl loved being clean and beautifying herself. Madam Zhang was also a sanitary person.

Zhao Meilan barely managed to squeeze herself into a seat next to her son. Under the encouragement of Madam Zhang, she lifted her chopsticks and picked up a piece of stir-fried green vegetable. She slowly placed it into her mouth. Eh? For such a simple dish, the stir-fried fresh green vegetables with shiitake mushrooms tasted surprisingly delicious and refreshing.

Madam Zhao chewed her mouthful delicately, slowly swallowed, and then raised her head to look her second sister-in-law, Liu Muyun, in the eye. She nodded her head in approval and said, “Second Sister-in-law’s culinary skills have improved immensely in these past few months. The food tastes better compared to a few months ago.”

Liu Muyun smiled at her youngest daughter and with a voice full of pride said, “The dishes today were all cooked by Cao’er. I only helped her to wash the vegetables and the pots. I didn’t make any of the food today!” 

A rarely seen smile graced Madam Zhao’s face. “I wouldn’t have expected Xiaocao to have this kind of talent…”

Madam Zhang felt displeased that her youngest daughter-in-law was paying attention to other people. She picked up a thick slice of fatty meat with her chopsticks and thrust it into Madam Zhao’s bowl. “Third Daughter-in-law, I especially made sure to select the fattiest cut of meat today. This type of meat will ooze out flavorful oil when you eat it. Quickly try some.” 

Madam Zhao looked at Madam Zhang’s greasy and oily chopsticks. Who knew how much saliva was on those things? She felt her stomach lurch with disgust.

Sensitive to her mistress’s likes and dislikes, her servant girl hurriedly took the piece of greasy meat and said, “Elderly lady, my mistress doesn’t like to eat fatty cuts of meat. This servant thanks you in her stead.”

Seeing that a piece of meat that even she herself felt was too precious to eat being taken by a mere servant girl infuriated Madam Zhang. Her expression immediately darkened with anger. She slapped the table with a heavy hand and started haranguing, “Huh, you impudent servant! Do you have the status to sit with us at the same table to eat? How arrogant are you? And you even had the gall to eat meat! What kind of servant are you? Third Daughter-in-law, you need to discipline this maid…”

Madam Zhao placed the chopsticks onto the wooden table with a loud slap. Her full red lips were pressed into a straight line. Despite the obvious signs, Madam Zhang had not noticed that her daughter-in-law was tampering down rage and heedlessly continued to spew criticism at the maid.

“Mother-in-law, before you punish a dog you need to ask permission from its master! Anything that my maid did wrong, I will punish her myself. By yelling at her in front of other people, are you insinuating that you are displeased with me?” Madam Zhao interjected with a soft and even tempered voice after seeing her servant hold back tears in her eyes.

Madam Zhang choked down the rest of her complaints, and her old, wrinkled face turned a bright red color. She wanted to scream a few harsh words at Madam Zhao, like she usually did to her other two daughter in-laws, to discipline her. However, she was afraid that Madam Zhao would whisper honeyed and poisoned words to her husband in the bedroom and cause her favorite son to grow distant from her.

Huffing with anger, the old woman thrust her chopsticks into the stewed meat and cabbage dish and picked out a large and thick piece of fatty meat. She dropped it into her bowl——If you’re not going to eat the meat, then this old lady will eat it instead!

Seeing that her grandmother was preoccupied, Yu Xiaocao saw an opportunity and quickly placed pieces of meat into her mother’s, older brother’s, Xiaolian and Shitou’s bowls. Although she didn’t like to eat fatty cuts of meat, it didn’t mean the other members of her family were the same! The Yu Family considered themselves lucky if they could eat meat once or twice in the year. Therefore, they appreciated the fatty pieces of pork the most.

When Liu Muyun saw that her youngest daughter was too thrifty to eat meat (Author’s note: You’re thinking too much, she simply doesn’t like to eat it!) but braved her grandmother’s poor temper to place meat into her own bowl, the piece of meat became hard for Madam Liu to swallow. However, if she tried to put it back, her mother-in-law would definitely scream at her if she was found out. 

Noticing that her mother was hesitating, Xiaocao softly whispered into Madam Liu’s ear. “Mother, I don’t like being yelled at, please eat the meat faster…”

Suddenly, she noticed her grandmother lifting her head from her food. Yu Xiaocao hurriedly gave her grandmother a couple of dry fried string brings. She smiled sweetly, “Grandmother, have some string beans dry fried in lard. They’re almost as delicious as meat! You’re old so you should eat more!”

“You’re such a crafty brat, how come you’re not telling me to eat more meat? Our whole courtyard garden is filled with string beans. There’s nothing special about these!” Madam Zhang had never mastered the art of filtering her words and always blurted out what was on her mind, no matter how unpleasant it was for others to hear.

During this exchange, Madam Liu and her other children had all bolted down the meat that they rarely got to eat, even during New Year’s celebrations. Since Yu Xiaocao successfully completed her mission, she neatly grabbed a couple servings of dry fried green beans and wrapped them in a pancake. She ate the wrap with lively delight.

The dark green string beans glistened with a light coating of oil. The fragrant aroma of lard had infused into each string bean, such that every bite was flavorful without feeling greasy. Even Madam Zhao grabbed a couple of extra servings of the vegetables.

Little Doudou sat at the dinner table like a small adult and kept his mouth wide open, waiting to be fed. The simmered fish stew was as white as cow’s milk and was full of savory flavor. The meat of the fish was delicate without any bones to ruin the texture and complemented perfectly with the rich broth. The little boy’s mouth smacked with delight as he happily drank the soup. 

This little fellow had a picky palate, and Madam Zhao had gone through many trials to get him to eat more. She even would be willing to cut off her own flesh if it made her son want to eat more food. This time, her son was eating voraciously. If she was slow in feeding him, he even started opening his mouth wide and made little ‘ah...ah…’ noises begging for more. The sight of him eating with a hearty appetite made her feel incredibly happy.

Since, Yu Xiaocao had simmered the delicious soup that her son liked to eat, Madam Zhao’s demeanor towards the little girl improved perceptively. Other than Yu Caidie, Yu Xiaocao was the only other person in the entire Yu Family that Madam Zhao deigned to converse with.

Madam Zhang’s entire face folded into a brilliant smile as she watched her youngest grandson. “Grandmother’s sweet grandson likes to drink fish soup, so grandmother will leave her bowl for you…”

Madam Zhao looked at her with a bland expression and sweetly said, “Doudou usually doesn’t eat a lot of home. I don’t dare to feed him too much in the event that he might get bloated…”

Hearing that, Madam Zhang dropped the subject and merely smiled while watching Little Doudou eat his fish. She was so preoccupied that she forgot to eat her own food.

Xiaocao glanced at her little brother who was slurping fish soup next to her. Little Shitou was only a little bit older but he was also Madam Zhang’s grandson. However, the difference in treatment between the two little boys was blatantly obvious. It really made her heart ache for her little brother.

On the other hand, Little Shitou had long become accustomed to his grandmother’s cold treatment. He was solely preoccupied with eating his own meal. The food today was astoundingly sumptuous and luxurious, more so than usual. His second sister had better culinary talent than mother. Without his cousin, Heizi, there to fight for food, he needed to take advantage of the circumstances and eat more!

The men at their own table also ate with great gusto. Even Old Yu ate two more pancakes than usual. Yu Hai seized the opportunity to complete his youngest daughter’s mission and suddenly stated, “The vegetables today are pretty much as tasty as the meat. Father, do you think the same too?”

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Myst's Thoughts

Happy Father's Day!

Translator: Sanguine