Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Looking at the two bottles, Monkey asked curiously, “Master, what are these for?”
Fangzheng smiled. “For eating dumplings!”
“Uh? Don’t we eat them directly? I tried a bit directly just now, and it was delicious, if maybe just a little bland.” Squirrel wiped his oily mouth as he commented happily.
Fangzheng smiled. “Jingkuan, the difference between humans and animals is that the former are quite particular when it comes to eating. Animals do not choose their food or the way they eat it, eating once they have it. However, humans are particular about how they eat their food, when they eat it, and what matches with it…”
“Master, don’t they find it troublesome? Can they resist their appetite when the food is in front of them?” Squirrel asked.
Fangzheng shook his head. “At times, trouble sets the mood. This is culture and also a type of tradition. It’s just like praying to Buddha. In fact, when praying to Buddha, as long as one is respectful towards Buddha, chanting scriptures or saying Amitabha from time to time should be sufficient. With the heart in the right place, Buddha will be there. However, people often like to scale tall mountains in search for ancient monasteries, change into clean clothes, offer incense, and donate incense money as a way to show respect to Buddha. Some people even travel thousands of kilometers, kowtowing every step they take so as to show their sincerity. Do you know why?”
“Because they have long lives. They are silly!” Squirrel said boldly.
Fangzheng rapped him on the head with his chopsticks and laughed. “Nonsense!” Then Fangzheng said in all seriousness, “That’s a form of expressing faith. From a certain point of view, faith is full of silly actions, but it’s precisely because of such silly actions that faith, which is an ethereal thing, turns into something actual. Those actions can be mimicked, emulated, and handed down. This results in a heritage. The meaning behind such rituals and acts then become heritage as well.”
When Fangzheng said this, he felt pleased when he saw his disciples looking deep in thought.
At that moment, Squirrel raised his head and asked, “Master, having said so much, it sounds right. But what does this have to do with adding soy sauce and vinegar when eating dumplings?”
Fangzheng smiled and said in all seriousness, “It matters a lot!”
“How?” his disciples pressed.
Fangzheng said, “Because eating them like that—is delicious!”
Lone Wolf, Monkey, Squirrel, and Red Boy were instantly stunned. Speechlessness overwhelmed them. So after all that had been said, it was just bullsh*t! It being delicious was the key point.
Fangzheng laughed loudly when he saw this. “It being delicious is key. Of course, this is also a form of particularity. Southerners like soup dumplings. They have clear and thick soup, and I’m not too sure about the details. But for us Northeasterners, eating dumplings is relatively more troublesome. From the beginning, the fillings cannot be too salty, and not too much meat can be stuffed in. If it’s too salty, it won’t match with the condiments later. If there’s too much meat, one will not be able to eat too many dumplings as it will stuff you. Of course, we are all eating vegetarian dumplings and have nothing to do with meat. In short, northeastern dumplings typically have more vegetables than meat. Of course, some families prefer meat and aren’t afraid of feeling stuffed because of meaty dumplings. So they put in more meat. As for dumplings with only meat fillings… Such dumplings easily clump and turn hard due to the excessive meat. After cooking them, they won’t make for a nice sight.”
“Master, there’s something strange inside the dumplings.” By that moment, Squirrel had finished his first dumpling, and his mouth was lathered in oil. His tiny face was beaming with bliss as his eyes were narrowed. He pointed at something that looked like a wheat head in the dumpling plate.
Fangzheng smiled. “That isn’t anything strange. It’s also a dumpling. There’s some history to making dumplings. The northeast is different from the south. The southern winter still has fresh flowers and green trees, so there’s plenty of things and food that children can amuse themselves with. For us, we don’t make dumplings until winter, but when we begin making dumplings, we often face a conundrum.”
“What’s the conundrum?” Red Boy asked.
Fangzheng squinted his eyes as he looked at Red Boy. “Brats!”
Red Boy said, “Uh… Master, can we not launch personal attacks at such times?”
Fangzheng roared with laughter. “I’m not launching personal attacks but stating the truth. When the village makes dumplings, they aren’t just limited to about fifty. Once they start, they will make hundreds, if not thousands of them. With so many dumplings, all handmade, to go from making the dough, to adding the fillings, and finally taking care of the wrapping, that’s a lot of work. It’s impossible to finish all of that in a short period of time. Therefore, the entire family goes at it in full force. At this time, brats become troublesome. No one can watch over them, so they cause trouble. In order to coax the children, the elders came up with all sorts of dumplings. They come in the shape of mice, wheat heads, pigs, flowers, etc. They’re like toys made of dough. The elders place them in front of the children, letting them watch and protect them. That way, the brats are quelled.
“Similarly, brats don’t eat their meals peacefully. They often make a fuss while eating. After a few mouthfuls to fill their stomachs, they start being hyperactive and seek to have fun everywhere. By using such strange, attractive, and fun dumplings, elders can attract the attention of these fellows to stay by the dinner table and eat quietly. Since these dumplings are hard to wrap, there is usually only one portion per pot. But children really like it. As long as the elders say, ‘If you continue running, these dumplings might be eaten by someone else,’ all of them return obediently to watch over their dumplings.”
“Uh, to have to resort to so many tricks for a meal. You adults sure don’t have it easy,” Red Boy said as he smacked his lips.
Fangzheng shot a glance at Red Boy. “Oh? How did your mother deal with you when you didn’t eat your meals?”
Red Boy thought for a moment and said, “What a joke. How can I not have eaten my meals when I was young?”
Fangzheng rapped him on the head. “Speak the truth. No lies!”
Red Boy thought of the outcome from their lying yesterday and immediately turned honest. He said with tears streaming down his cheeks. “If I didn’t want to eat, my dad would cast a spell, making my mouth impossible to close. My mom would then stuff food into it and even stick the chopsticks in to press the food down… Sigh.”
Fangzheng, Lone Wolf, Monkey, and Squirrel immediately gave him a look of pity. Indeed, a demons’ child had it in for him.
Fangzheng patted Red Boy on the shoulder. “Good child, it’s a miracle you are alive.”
“Master, you haven’t told us what the two bottles are for yet,” Monkey asked, displeased.
Fangzheng smacked himself in the head, having nearly forgotten about it. “This is a dipping sauce. Although our dumplings have a variety of fillings, such as chives with eggs, pickled vegetables, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, and meat, but these dumplings all have a unique point. Their taste isn’t particularly strong! Northeasterners like their food to taste strong, so they match it with dips. Dips can be different according to a person’s taste. Every dipping sauce is mixed differently. Soy sauce is the main ingredient, and one can match it with some vinegar, spicy oil, sesame oil, minced garlic, chives, fermented beans, and other condiments to one’s taste. If you then dip one of the dumplings into your sauce and eat it, you will instantly find that the bland dumplings gain all sorts of new flavors with the sauce acting as a catalyst! The taste is truly delicious. Hehe…”