Chapter 58: The Unwritten Rule
“Well Shuilian jie, I will be heading home now.” Seeing Lin Si Yao come out of the kitchen, Xicui knew they were about to have lunch, so she got up, patted off the dead leaves that had fallen on her clothes and said so.
“Why don’t you stay with us for lunch?” Su Shuilian smiled and continued, “A Yao prepared some stewed pork knuckle.”
It was given to her by Aunt Tian. Her maternal family had slaughtered a sow, and she was given a hind leg.
Since Tian Dabao was accepted as Lin Si Yao’s disciple, the Tian couple had long wanted to give them a present as a thank you. And so, early in the morning, Aunt Tian had come with a whole pork leg as a present.
Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao initially did not want to receive the gift.
Su Shuilian believed that this hind leg could be sold for multiple taels, and if Tian House were to keep it, they could save a month’s worth of money.
As for Lin Si Yao, he was indifferent about it. However, seeing that Su Shuilian was reluctant to accept it, he did not want it either.
Mutual goodwill, sorry, he was never used to that sort of thing because of his past occupation.
In the end, Aunt Tian got tired of politely pushing back the pig leg and took the initiative to walk into their kitchen. Taking a butcher knife by the cutting board, she struck down at the pig’s leg, cutting it into two pieces.
“Girl, I’m no longer going to be polite. How about you pick one of the two pieces and I’ll take the other half home. You must take one of the pieces, or else, if I were to bring this back, Uncle Tian will kill me. ” Holding the butcher knife, Aunt Tian flung her arms, gesturing Su Shuilian to quickly choose one of the pieces.
In order for them to not choose a smaller piece out of kindness, Aunt Tian made sure to cut two even halves. The half with the hoof was slender, but long, and for the upper thigh, which was filled with meat, she made sure to cut a little shorter. In terms of weight, Aunt Tian’s eyes were able to judge it with precision.
Unable to persuade Aunt Tian otherwise, Su Shuilian picked the half with the knuckle. It had been a while since she’d had halogen trotters and she had also craved it.
Lin Si Yao was amused, watching her rare greedy expression.
Then they acquired the steps to making halogen trotters from Aunt Tian. They were to first wash and then cut the pig leg into smaller pieces. Then, use the pork lard to boil some hot water in a large pot with garlic. Following that, more garlic, hibiscus trionum, chennai, anessete, melon zest, lemon zest, dried red pepper, bay leaves, patchouli, clove, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. With some cooking wine and 10 different kinds of seasoning, the pork knuckle is then added into the boiling broth. It is first cooked under a full fire, but then the flames are to be lowered to let the stew slowly simmer. This took the whole morning. After Lin Si Yao had washed the other vegetables, he calmly watched the fire in the kitchen.
“No, I think eating with A Yao ge is too stressful. Hahaha…” Xicui made a mischievous face and started to walk into the main room with Su Shuilian.
Su Shuilian was amused by what Xicui had said and laughed. Following Xicui through the main room, she placed the bear mattress topper on a chair before seeing Xicui out.
“Shuilian jie, are you really really sure that you don’t want to accept the commission?” As Xicui walked closer to the entrance gate, she asked once more. She really did not want Su Shuilian to lose the chance of making eight taels because of a careless decision.
Su Shuilian shook her head, “No, not with one of short notice. I do not plan to accept any until next year.” She had to prepare a lot this year. Not only clothing and footwear, there were also many miscellaneous items she had to complete.
Xicui reluctantly nodded, “Ok then, I’ll go into the city tomorrow and refuse the offer for you ok?”
“Ok.” Su Shuilian smiled and nodded, and waved Xicui goodbye.
“A Yao, come, try and see if this fits you.” Su Shuilian shook the thick outerwear that she had just completed before walking out of the south door from the main room. She called out to Lin Si Yao who had just collected and stored the dried fish from earlier.
Lin Si Yao nodded with a smile. Quickening his pace, Lin Si Yao quickly put the rest of the fish into a cabinet in the kitchen where the wolf puppies could not reach before washing his hands and making his way towards the main room.
“So fast?” Lin Si Yao smiled and asked. She had only started yesterday morning and was already finished today?
“The weather is getting colder, yet you still refuse to put on another layer.” Su Shuilian pouted and complained, however, at the same time, she helped Lin Si Yao out of his jacket and put on the padded outerwear she had made for him.
“It fits perfectly.” Lin Si Yao lowered his head and stole a kiss, “Thank you!” He quietly said.
“Who said before not to be courteous as couples?” Su Shuilian glared at him, but with the blush on her face, it was clear to see she was just shy and not angry.
“I just want to thank you for marrying me.” Lin Si Yao spoke by her ear, his hot breath caused a blush to creep on from her neck to her ears.
“Enough, put the jacket on.” Su Shuilian helped him put on his jacket as a sugar like sweetness bubbled in her heart. When did he learn how to sweet talk like that?
“What do you want for dinner? Is steamed fish with scallions ok?” Lin Si Yao rolled up his sleeves as he prepared to go to the kitchen to make dinner.
Ever since he had settled down, his cooking skills had only continued to grow. From his original knowledge of only barbecuing and stir fry, Lin Si Yao now knew more than a dozen different methods of cooking food. From steaming, stewing, deep frying, it was to say, a chef was an occupation that needed a lot of energy and time.
However, if it was to be made for his beloved woman, he was willing to do so.
“Ok.” Su Shuilian saw no reason to disagree, after all, she loved fish. It was only because it was hard for her to pick out the bones, but now, Lin Si Yao was able to somehow pick out all of the bones of the fish, and the fish dishes he made were always boneless.
What’s more, the fish in the tank were almost overflowing.
A few days ago, Tian Dabao came again with his family’s fish net. He said that he wanted, like his Shifu, to catch and dry fish so that he can enjoy fish during winter.
And so, Lin Si Yao made a special trip with him to the west side of the river. Fishing for three days, they had filled ten large wooden buckets full of fish.
In addition to the multiple varieties of fish, there were also several catties of shrimp, about twenty fat river crabs, and even a turtle that weighed about five to six catties. In short, the harvest was abundant.
In the end, Tian Dabao only took home three buckets of fish for his mother to dry.
And the rest was left with Lin Si Yao, saying it was to show respect for Shifu and Shi Niang. This made Su Shuilian chuckle.
They had a large tank for fish at home, but it did not mean they could sustain all of these fishes in it.
And so, Lin Si Yao picked out the smaller fishes of the bunch to be washed, salted, and dried. From their previous harvest, most of the fishes were also preserved the same way, and because of that, they had an abundance of dried salted fish.
As for the shrimp, other than making a stir fry with scallions, some were also given to Tian House and Lao House as they enjoyed a feast of fresh shrimps. As for the remaining two catties, it was salted, boiled, and then dried. In the future, when making soup, the shrimps can be added in to add more umami taste.
Of the twenty crabs, they kept eight of the wooden barrels, and the rest was given to Tian Dabao to take back to his family. His family had a total of six people, so they had enough crabs for everyone to enjoy two.
As for the other fish and the turtle, Lin Si Yao kept them in the tank for until New Years.
It was going to be their first New Years since moving to Fan Hua Town, so they should have some good offerings for their ancestors and also Bodhisattva.
Although Lin Si Yao did not know who his ancestors were, he had only learned about this ceremonial ritual from the talkative Aunt Lao.
The reason why Aunt Lao had told him about this, was firstly because he was incharge of the kitchen, it would make more sense to speak to him than Su Shuilian. Secondly, it was to only give him an early reminder as the items needed for the ritual would only become more expensive as it gets closer to new years.
Thinking that Su Shuilian was previously from a noble family and would place importance on this, Lin Si Yao became meticulous with this matter. All of the things needed for the offering, including food and furniture had long been prepared.
And Su Shuilian who had watched him proactively preparing all of these things, was also told that several offerings were needed. Although it was all arranged by Lin Si Yao, she still paid close attention to any useful information from others to help him out.
As a result, they were both unusually active in preparing the offerings for the ritual. They both simply wanted to do something for each other.
As for their reason for this ritual… it was thrown into the back of their mind. They had never thought to communicate with each other about this matter which had resulted in a misunderstanding. However, this could be counted as a well-intentioned misunderstanding, right?
In the end, the ritual of laba*, sending off the kitchen god, giving offerings, as well as welcoming the kitchen god back, were all accomplished in a smooth and orderly manner.
*(腊八粥/Laba congee: ceremonial rice porridge dish eaten on the 8th day of the 12th month in the Chinese calendar)
There was something that Su Shuilian honestly could not understand… With some many fishes in the river, why were there never farmers going out to net fish? Not only could they add more variety to their home dish, the fish could also be sold to the restaurant in the city for some money. Wouldn’t that be great?
“Oh, Si Niang, you didn’t know? There is an unwritten rule that people can only fish from the river by their house.” Until finally, Su Shuilian asked Tian Dabao, who laughed and said, “Why did you think I had to drag Shifu to fish every time? Haha, Shi Niang also has times of stupidity.”
So it was like that! It had finally dawned on Su Shuilian. She decided to ignore the blunt words that blurted out from Tian Dabao’s mouth and turned to Lin Si Yao calmly standing beside her, “A Yao, you had already knew about this?”
“Nm, found out when the house was being built.” Lin Si Yao touched his nose, trying to contain his smile. He could naturally hear the anger in her voice. He could also hear the blame from the loss of face from his disciple because he had not informed her of this matter earlier.
Lin Si Yao had indeed heard this information from the carpenters who had worked building this house as they chatted about the pros and cons of living in a isolated area of town. However he did not think this would create such an incident and so he had never spoken to her about this information.
“But you guys went to the foot of Xiufeng to fish before… Wasn’t that a public place?” Su Shuilian was confused.
“That’s because…” Tian Dabao paused midway to look at Su Shuilian’s face full of expectation, before continuing, “…no one is as powerful as Shifu and I! HAHAHA!”
Eh? Su Shuilian turned to look at Lin Si Yao, who was also chuckling at her, could it be…
“To continue towards the river at the foot of Xiufeng, there is a trench that is eight meters wide.” Lin Si Yao held Su Shuilian’s shoulder and softly explain, “Dabao’s current qigong is good enough, so I was able to bring him there.”
“Oh” Su Shuilian gave him a glare. She leaned closer to his ear, teeth clenched as she angrily continued, “Are you happy watching me make a fool of myself?” Don’t think that she didn’t see his smiling face from the very start. It was even more hateful than his usual cold face!
“Haha…” Lin Si Yao could not help but chuckle. He could not resist pinching her nose before giving her a kiss. He was immediately attracted to the playful her and completely disregarded his disciple who was looking at them in a grimace.
“Don’t be angry, Dabao always speaks without thinking of the consequences. And I would never want to see you making a fool of yourself.” Lin Si Yao started to panic when he saw that Su Shuilian had turned around, as if ignoring him. He gave Tian Dabao a harsh glare while trying to appease her.
“Hmph! You guys just won’t have a share of the (unaged) osmanthus and glutinous rice wine tonight!”
After she spoke out, Su Shuilian pretended to be angry as she stormed into the kitchen, and with a ‘bang’ she slammed the door shut.
With her back facing the kitchen door, Su Shuilian could not help but start laughing. He couldn’t even tell if she was really angry or just faking it! And he actually kissed her in front of Dabao… My goodness!
As for the two left outside, they looked at each other as one quickly scrambled his way towards the kitchen door. Knocking at the door, he started to plead, “Shi Niang, I was wrong, please don’t be angry with me. Mother always said that I knocked my head dumb and would spew random words…. Aiyo…. Shi Niang, don’t be angry anymore Shi Niang… Fairy jiejie…” Tian Dabao squatted in front of the kitchen door as he continuously apologized for the words he had said without a second thought.
Lin Si Yao had heard Su Shuilian’s laughter in the kitchen, so he had realised that she was not angry. Or was not as angry as she displayed herself to be. And because of that, he was not in a hurry like Tian Dao to act in such a shameless manner. Even if he was unable to enjoy the osmanthus wine that she had brewed, he had a method of appeasing her. Of course, that was to be used at night, when his disciple is no longer here.
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