There was going to be a dinner that evening, and Li Du wanted to whip up a feast.
In the end, Mrs. Martin stopped him and said, "Men should set up the Christmas tree, while women prepare the Christmas Eve meal. Gotta let the women show what they're made of, right?"
Sophie, who had been affixing ribbons on the Christmas tree, made a face and giggled, "It's time for me to show what I'm made of, Mom. I remember that I've been preparing the past few years' Christmas Eve dinners already."
Mrs. Martin smiled warmly. "Of course. I've got such a capable daughter, don't I? But I've got to prepare the snacks, which I have always baked, right?"
The turkey was an indispensable dish at Christmas; Mr. and Mrs. Martin had already prepared the ingredients. Sophie was busy working in the kitchen, stuffing the turkey with spices and vegetables.
When Li Du came back from the bathroom, he asked, "Do you need my help?"
Sophie pushed him away and said, "Leave it to me. This is easy work, I can handle it easily."
It got dark early in the winter, and that day's weather was exceptionally gloomy, so Li Du felt as though the sky had turned darker earlier than usual. But at this time, all of America was ablaze with lights, be it at high-end villas or the slums. Every household put up lights up and celebrated Christmas Eve each year.
As night fell, Sophie and Mrs. Martin began to fill the table with dishesthe Christmas Eve dinner was about to begin.
"First, we'll have the appetizer: poached apple in red wine and cinnamon." Sophie came over with a big soup bowl. She gave a little wiggle in front of Li Du. "Well, how does this look?"
A few snow-white apples were floating in the gleaming, translucent red wine. A brownish-gray powder had been sprinkled at the top. Needless to say, this was cinnamon powder. The cinnamon in America was the same as the cinnamon bark that the Chinese used, except that they preferred to grind it and use it in powder form to flavor dishes.
Li Du showed her his thumbs up and said, "It looks great."
"Not only does it look great, it tastes fabulous too," Sophie said smugly. "Come, try it."
She scooped out a bowl each for the four of them. Crispy Noodles stretched his paw out and clawed at her skirt while raising his head expectantly and licking his mouth with his pink tongue incessantly.
Sophie slapped her forehead and asked, "Li, did you bring their rice bowls with you?"
Li Du drank the soup made of red wine and said, "Forgot. Just get any bowl."
Mr. Martin said, "What a simple matter. After we take a bowl each, they can have the rest. Just disinfect the soup bowl after that."
Sophie shook her head. "That won't work."
"Why not?" Mr. Martin wondered, as he picked up the soup bowl and put it on the ground. With a welcoming expression, he said, "Come cuties, let's eat together."
Seeing the food, Ah Meow was the first to rush up. However, after he lowered his head and took a sniff, he shook his head and backed away when he realized that it wasn't to his liking.
Ah Ow and Crispy Noodles wanted to eat something but Ah Meow bared his claws and howled, "Meow!"
Ah Ow and Crispy Noodles didn't dare make any move forward. They could only eye the food in the bowl but could not eat it.
Sophie asked, "See? Now you understand why it couldn't work?"
She got two small bowls, picked the apples out and put them in the bowl. Crispy Noodles washed an apple in the water and then started to chomp on it happily.
After taking a sniff, Ah Ow didn't bite. Although she was fond of carbohydrates, she didn't like fruit.
Sophie had prepared food for them, having brought along chicken liver, pig liver, and cow liver. Americans, especially Christians, didn't eat animal innards, and so these things were sold cheaply in supermarkets.
She boiled them in plain water and fed them to the three bratsthis was their favorite food.
Ah Meow's favorite was the tender chicken liver. After finishing his own meal, his eyes turned and at lightning speed, he dashed toward Ah Ow.
Ah Ow was big-sized and had a good appetite, so she was given the largest portion.
Seeing that the chicken liver was snatched from her bowl, Ah Ow stretched her neck out furiously and howled with all her might. "Awwoooo!"
Li Du and Sophie chased after Ah Meow to try and grab the chicken liver from his mouth. Ah Meow sprinted off; he not only ran but also leaped up and down. By the time Li Du managed to catch hold of him with much effort, there was no sign of the chicken liver.
Ah Ow was trailing behind them and when she saw that they had caught Ah Meow, she went forward in search of the chicken liver. After searching around, she still couldn't find it, and so she looked at the two of them with a puzzled and aggrieved expression on her face.
Li Du spread his hands out in resignation. "No more."
Ah Ow blinked, and stretched her neck out in protest before howling, "Awoo! Awoo!"
At this time, the turkey was ready. A large turkey weighed more than 20 poundsit was impossible for four people to finish it .
In fact, for the Christmas Eve feast and Thanksgiving dinner, the roast turkey was just a symbol. Unless it was a large family, the leftover turkey would have to be thrown away.
There was no such wastage with the three brats around. Sophie tore off a huge drumstick and gave it to Ah Ow.She stroked her head softly and said, "Here, a big drumstick for Ah Ow. None for Ah Meow, the bad boy."
Ah Ow quickly took off with the drumstick and tried to squirrel into the gap under the sofa.
"It'll be useless even if you get in there," Li Du said in resignation. "Ah Meow could also follow you in."
The wolf cub turned back to look at Ah Meow, who stared at her with his big green eyes. After some thought, she ran to Sophie's feet before tucking in there.
Ah Meow had wanted to get close to snatch the drumstick. Sophie knocked on his head with a dinner knife. "Ah Meow, this is not right. You shouldn't snatch anything from your buddy. Move aside."
The ocelot's mouth twitched; he mewed out loud as he went to snatch the pig liver from Crispy Noodleshe was now willing to settle for pig liver instead.
Crispy Noodles hurriedly threw the food into his own bowl and then pounced over the top of the bowl. Ah Meow was stunned. He could only meow and when he couldn't find any gap, he left resentfully.
As they watched the three little ones fight it out, Mr. Martin and his wife laughed.
When they stopped laughing, the old man had a thoughtful expression on his face. "Is our life too unexciting? Maybe we should have a pet?"
Mrs. Martin shook her head. "Better forget it," she laughed, "unless you can keep them company and guide them the way Li does."
"I'm an A grade professor," the old man said, disgruntled. "I don't believe that I'll lose to Li when it comes to educating!"
"Really cannot be compared," Mrs. Martin said.
"I am living proof of your failure in education," Sophie added another stab to his heart.
The Christmas Eve was very sumptuous. Besides the appetizer and the roasted turkey, there was also the grilled clam with oregano, the Italian baked seafood chowder, shrimp, the macaroni and cheese with herbs, cream corn soup, and eggnog.
The four of them chatted as they ate. After the main meal, they had dessert.
While Sophie and her mother cleared the table, the old man looked up and said to Li Du, "Did you ever wonder why I am in favor of Sophie dating you? Look at how great this is, you don't have to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with your parents. In the future, you can spend Christmas here at our home, instead of the two of us being lonely here."
"That's true," Li Du said with a smile.
As the four of them chatted around the fireplace, Ah Meow, Crispy Noodles, and Ah Ow sat at their feet and dozed off. It was a peaceful and comfortable Christmas Eve.