Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
During the new year festival, they visited relatives, had festive dinners, and the time passed quickly. In a blink of an eye, it was the Lantern Festival.
Fireworks were traditionally set off on the Lantern Festival throughout China, and Li Du’s hometown was no exception. Every family would set off fireworks at this time of the year.
However, the government now paid more attention to taking care of the environment, and fireworks management was stricter. The county administration prohibited the citizens from setting off fireworks at home. Instead, everyone was supposed to gather at the square, and the authorities would be the ones to set off the fireworks.
Li Du saw the notice and said to Sophie, “I’ll take you to see the fireworks after dinner. They are beautiful.”
Ivana came to China too. She was a gifted child and learned languages very fast. She did not only speak German and English fluently, but she also spoke Mandarin. When Sophie took lessons in Mandarin she would bring Ivana along.
Ivana understood Li Du’s words and whispered, “Can I go and see the fireworks too?”
Children were always interested in fireworks.
Li Du touched her head and said, “Of course, there is a children’s fireworks area. Your father will take you there, and Aunty and Uncle will buy you a lot of fireworks later.”
Ivana clapped quietly, her eyes shaping into beautiful crescents as she smiled.
Sure enough, money was so powerful that with little more than one million, the girl now looked like a pretty, blonde doll.
She would be more beautiful in the future, not thanks to nature, but by artificial means.
Because the child was growing up, her skin and bones were constantly changing, so she would have to undergo plastic surgery every year, for better or worse.
Li Du’s parents put a kneading board on the coffee table and took out the glutinous rice dough and the fillings that they had prepared beforehand to roll their own dumplings.
There were many types of those, and their tastes were all different. Therefore, Li Du’s father prepared many types of fillings. There were about ten big bowls of them.
Li Du came closer to see and asked, “Hey, how come do you have so many different types of fillings this year? I haven’t seen anything like this for a long time.”
Before he went to junior high school, his family’s living standard was relatively low.
Li Du was his parents’ only child and they loved him very much. Although their family wasn’t rich, they still gave him their best.
Li Du’s father knew how to make many dumpling fillings, including black sesame, peanut paste, red bean paste, crushed walnuts and some fruit fillings, such as apple paste, pear paste and peach paste.
However, Li Du’s favorite was dumplings stuffed with hawthorn cakes, a popular childhood snack for his generation. It tasted soft and flaky with a sweet and sour taste and was very famous.
Hawthorn cake dumplings were refreshingly sweet and sour, while other traditional fillings, like black sesame and peanut butter, were too greasy and would soon make one feel sick.
In this way, the fresh hawthorn cake filling was far superior.
Later, when Li Du went to university, he didn’t eat hawthorn cake dumplings anymore. In his heart, this was a taste reserved for the festival in his hometown.
Li Du’s father, as usual, prepared hawthorn cake. This was not difficult to do. He only needed to smash the hawthorn into a paste and add some honey to make it a little sticky.
Li Du went to roll the hawthorn cake. Ah Meng placed its front claws on the coffee table and placed its head on its claws, looking with concentration on the red hawthorn cake without even blinking.
“Do you want to eat it?” Li Du rolled a piece and showed it to Ah Meng.
Ah Meng hurriedly opened its mouth to eat, but Li Du did not give him the treat, putting it on the coffee table instead.
The honey badger’s flexible forelimbs were an important tool for digging holes, but they were a bit too short to reach the coffee table top.
This made it frustrated. Honey badgers had a sweet tooth and were especially fond of honey. That was how they got their name.
They also had a well-developed sense of smell, which made Ah Meng go wild over the sweetness of hawthorn cakes and, of course, the fragrance of honey.
Ah Meow looked on coldly, but when he saw Ah Meng’s plight, he suddenly jumped up on the coffee table and grabbed the hawthorn cake with his sharp claws.
Seeing that its food had been taken away, Ah Meng flew into a rage, opening its mouth and squeaking.
When Ah Meow put his paw in front of its mouth, Ah Meng realized that his companion was actually trying to help. Happy, he stopped howling and waited for the food with high anticipation.
Then, while it waited, Ah Meow pulled back its claws and put the hawthorn cake into his mouth.
Ah Meng flared up again. His moods would change quickly, and the honey badger was very excitable. He was used to extremes of agitation and anger.
Hawthorn cake was not to Ah Meow’s taste, however, and he promptly spat it out.
Seeing this, Ah Meng was overjoyed again and rushed up to eat the hawthorn cake that Ah Meow had discarded.
“You two are so silly,” Li Du shook his head.
The little ones were greedy creatures. The dumpling fillings were all made of either fresh or dried fruit, and their sweet fragrance was tempting. The five little ones kept hanging around trying to find a way to eat one.
From time to time, Li Du’s parents had to shoo them away and scold them in a humorous manner to prevent the little thieves from getting too free.
Li Du was so annoyed that he unscrewed the honey pot and put a spoonful of honey on Ali’s big tail.
Ali was stunned and did not know what this was supposed to be.
Soon it understood, however. Ah Meng’s eyes lit up and it ran after Ali. It caught the kangaroo’s tail and stuck out its tongue to lick it.
Kangaroo’s tail was an important organ of balance, and they would feel uncomfortable if someone held their tail.
Ali then struggled to run, and Ah Meng ran after him.
Li Du sprinkled some cooked, shredded sesame seeds on the ground. Crispy Noodles threw itself down and started eating them. He was slow, but when he had something to occupy him, he would not disturb the others.
Ah Meow was very clever and it was not easy to fool him. He was not easy to deal with since he could jump around and climb the sofas and walls.
Li Du tied a balloon on Ah Meow’s tail. Ah Meow was dissatisfied and tried to shake it off. Then Ah Ow saw it, and immediately dashed towards his backside,
Thus he sent all the five little ones off, and they were busy with each other in the midst of general strife.
Sophie gave Li Du a thumbs-up and said, “Wow, clever move.”
Li Du said in an off-hand manner, “I knew I’d need some strategy to deal with these little ones.”
Li Du’s father turned around and said, “Okay, stop showing off and finish preparing the fillings. We are waiting for you.”
Making dumplings involved a lot of rolling.
For example, the sweet dumplings filled with hawthorn cakes were first made into small balls, then glutinous rice flour was stuck in a strainer and mixed with a little water. Then they were rolled in the big bowl containing glutinous rice flour.
The Martins laughed and took out their cameras.
Li Du’s mother said, “Your in-laws are so curious about everything. Didn’t they ever see dumplings before on TV?”
“They don’t eat dumplings at all,” said Li Du.
Li Du’s father said, “Well, I’ll let them have a taste of our family recipe.”