I want an all-competent treasury of knowledge for myself like the one Tong Yan has, too!
Chapter 8.2 – To “Wash Her Hands and Make Soup” (2)
When the final examinations for the multi-discipline common courses had ended, the Law Faculty took a one-week break.
Shen Yao took advantage of this one week of vacation time to fly directly to Changsha and spend a romantic week with Cheng Yu, leaving Tong Yan alone in the dormitory. Everyday, aside from studying, Tong Yan would go online to look up recipes, and after eliminating and discarding many, by Friday, she had gathered seven or eight different ones. None of them were very difficult, and building on her own foundation of cooking skills … her results this time should be a little tastier.
She had not expected that on Saturday morning, as she was preparing to head out, the door of their dormitory room opened.
That person who had rushed to Changsha for the sake of love had returned early.
“Why are you back? Didn’t you say you wouldn’t be back until Monday?”
“We had a quarrel.” Shen Yao’s lip turned down in a pout. “Where are you going? It’s Saturday today, isn’t it?”
With a vague answer that she was going to the library, Tong Yan picked up her bag and was about to run when Shen Yao unexpectedly pulled her back and looked at her grinningly. “Don’t rush off. I’m not questioning you.”
When she finished saying this, she pulled out a Nuan Bao Bao [Warm Baby] adhesive heat patch from her bag, ripped open the packaging, and, lifting up Tong Yan’s sweater, affixed it directly onto the blouse over Tong Yan’s stomach. “It’s so deathly cold outside. One of these will keep you warm for a whole day.”
Shen Yao liked to wear skirts and shorts in the winter, and she relied on this particular item to keep her warm and drive away the cold.
She had seen Shen Yao always use this. However, the price it sold at in the supermarkets was not cheap, so she had merely thought that it was interesting and had never considered using the item herself. Now that it was adhered onto her, though, she discovered that it actually was very warm and made a person feel much more comfortable.
On and off, rain fell for an entire week, and truly, it was extremely chilly.
The supermarket, though, was very lively.
Pushing a shopping cart, Gu Pingsheng walked beside her, and as she looked at the vegetables and fruit, he nodded at everything she showed him. After they had bought all the necessary ingredients, he very quickly led her over to the snack section.
Red, orange, yellow, and green packages. In the entire supermarket, this section was the most colourful.
The candied fruits and candy were sold at a separate counter.
An old Shanghainese lady stood there in front of a square display cabinet, and very enthusiastically she took a pair of scissors, cut the dried, salted dark plum in her hand, and handed the pieces towards Gu Pingsheng and Tong Yan. “It tastes very good. Hurry, give it a try.”
Seeing that she had already cut it, Tong Yan felt bad if she did not have any, and so, she took a small piece in her fingers and put it in her mouth.
“Little girl, it tastes good, yes?” the old woman asked her.
With a querying look, she glanced at Gu Pingsheng and watched as he ate one and then answered offhandedly, “It tastes pretty good.”
His words were spoken calmly and lightly, but his eyes were filled with obvious mirth. Tong Yan recalled the scene brought about by the White Rabbit candy and her cheeks flushed slightly, but before she could say anything, the old lady had pulled out a piece of dried mango and snipped off a corner for him to eat.
Ones that could be soaked in water, ones that could be eaten dry. He watched the elderly woman speak for a while and then, just like that, he weighed out seven or eight bags of candied fruit …
At his home, Tong Yan had basically not seen any snack foods, and she had not expected that he would actually like to eat these sorts of things. Tugging on his arm, she said, “I think that should be about good … There should be enough for you to eat for several months.”
“I’m buying it for you.” He could not hold back a chuckle. “I usually don’t eat these candied fruits or other candies. These last few days, when you were studying, didn’t you say you couldn’t absorb what you were reading? Eating these candied fruits, which have an intense flavour, can stimulate your sense of taste and will help improve your focus and concentration.”
She stared in surprise at the seven or eight bags of candied fruit in the cart. Ever since she was a child, she, too, had never had the habit of eating snack foods, and there were so many here that even when she graduated from university, they still would not be finished off.
“Young man.” Looking as if she was presenting a treasure, the elderly woman pointed at a glass box of lollipops and said, “This one has been selling really well lately, and they are all young girls who like to eat it. It’s made of brown sugar. When young girls eat it, it helps enrich and nourish their blood and improves their energy. There’s also huamei [preserved plums] inside, so it’s a little sour, perfect for helping your girlfriend stay alert and refreshed when she studies.”
“Sure. Could you get me a jar of them?”
Gu Pingsheng took it directly from her and placed it into the shopping cart.
As she stared at that jar packed full of lollipops, not knowing whether she should laugh or cry, Tong Yan discovered that he was actually very easily roped into buying things people were trying to sell to him.
They had come here to buy ingredients to cook, but the end result was a cart filled with snack foods. While Gu Pingsheng was not paying attention, though, she truly could not stop herself and pulled out one or two items, randomly stuffing them onto shelves.
Unexpectedly, there was a couple that, like them, was also shopping without restraint. The boy was doing the same thing as Tong Yan, stealthily slipping a box of potato chips onto a display cart of items that were on discount, while the girl was looking nonstop at the fresh snack foods and placing some into their shopping cart.
Tong Yan and the boy glanced at one another, exchanging a smile, before she turned her head back to look at Gu Pingsheng, who was standing beside a shelf with lowered eyes and reading over food descriptions.
Such a stubborn fanatic who was so serious about things, such that, for everything, he liked to carefully read over their compositions. With someone like that around her, she reckoned that, after a long enough time, her own ability to think would probably decline.
Was this habitual dependence? Her heart all of a sudden seemed to soften. Walking over to his side, she suddenly spotted, underneath the shelf, a can that had an obvious, slight bulge, so she picked it up and tossed it into their cart.
Gu Pingsheng looked at her.
“It might have gone bad. I’ll take it to the front counter and have them recycle it.” She had a sudden desire to show off her knowledge. “A bulging can indicates that the food has already oxidized and gone bad, and it can’t be eaten anymore, right?”
When she read the newspaper in the past, in a corner, there would always be something written on general knowledge of everyday life, and she would occasionally remember the odd sentence or two.
However, he only smiled. “Do you want me to say you’re right, or that you’re not right?”
She paused in surprise. “That can’t be wrong, can it? I read it from the newspaper …”
“It is indeed unsafe for consumption.” He placed an attractive-looking package of whole-grain crackers into the shopping cart and very naturally began pushing it with both hands, explaining to her as they walked, “However, it is bulging outwards because of gas production from bacterial growth, and therefore, it is unsafe from a microbiological perspective and not because of oxidation causing the food to deteriorate.”
“Teacher Gu, are you all-competent?”
Patting her on the top of her head, he answered concisely, “I can’t cook.”
While they were lining up to checkout, the previous young couple coincidentally was standing in the adjacent line, their cart filled with snacks and frozen foods as well as beverages. The two were continuously selecting and picking items up and, amidst their little bickers and squabbles, continuously placing all sorts of jars and cans in an empty cart.
In the end, the boy glanced over in their direction and hissed, “Look at those people. They actually cook. We’re just buying frozen dumplings …”
The girl also took a glimpse at the shopping cart in front of Gu Pingsheng and giggled, “Then you go learn. When you were courting me, didn’t you say you’d make Sichuan dishes for me to eat?”
The two continued to murmur between themselves, and Tong Yan listened in on them, finding them amusing. Gu Pingsheng’s arm was around her shoulder as he mouthed the question, “What are they saying?”
Half-tilting her head up, Tong Yan grinned and also silently formed her words back at him. “The girl is forcing the boy to learn how to cook.”
Gu Pingsheng’s lips pressed together and curled up on one side as he put on a helpless expression. “Don’t force me.”
Gazing at the look in his eyes, Tong Yan suddenly felt a sense of accomplishment in herself, and slipping her arm through his, she copied his expression, saying, “Rest assured. So long as I’m here, there will not be a day that you will have to cook for yourself.”
During middle and high school, Grandmother’s health had not been very good and frequently had to stay in the hospital, but prior to her stays, she would leave a fridge full of food and ingredients for her. They were all things that could not possibly be any simpler to prepare and cook. At the time, the elderly woman loved to tell her that she must learn to cook so that when she was married, she would not be spurned. But back then, Lu Bei utterly spoiled her, and any time she mentioned cooking, Lu Bei had always said, “I’ll do it. I’ll do all the cooking.”
She had had no qualms or guilt about it then. Who does not like being spoiled and doted on? Now, though, she discovered that, to be able to spoil someone was actually a very nice thing also.
Before they left, she also deliberately picked up a soymilk machine and hugged it in her arms while unashamedly letting Gu Pingsheng pay for it.
When the two of them were finally home, it was already past one o’clock in the afternoon. There was not enough time to cook lunch, so she ripped open a plastic package and cooked some noodles that had been made fresh onsite at the supermarket.
Two heaping bowls of noodles were served up, each with plenty of Lao Gan Ma [Old Godmother] Spicy Chili Crisp sauce and green vegetables added in, as well as an egg and some luncheon meat. Watching him eat and seeing that the food seemed to appeal to his tastes, Tong Yan made up an excuse, saying she could not eat any more. With her chopsticks, she took plenty of her own noodles and put it into his bowl.
The end result was, she was not full, and her studying did not even persist until four o’clock before she started to take the soybeans, which had been soaking for the last three hours, and put them into the soymilk machine. Grabbing one of those lollipops that supposedly enriched the blood and nourished the skin, she popped it into her mouth to help cut the hunger cravings.
After she had finished sautéing Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, and some other ingredients and had begun stewing the beef, she finally trotted back to the study to check in on Gu Pingsheng.
He was looking at his computer and reading some documents and reference materials.
Stealthily, Tong Yan snuck over, and from behind one side of him, she leaned forward over his shoulder to look at what he was reading. Because she was still holding her lollipop in her mouth, the white plastic stick on the end accidentally brushed against his ear. And then … she was caught.
“What are you cooking? It smells so good.” He casually pulled her onto his lap.
“Beef stewed with potatoes. Didn’t you say you like to eat spicy stuff? I’m making it the way they do over in Sichuan.” Her lollipop in hand, she could not help giving it another lick. “I don’t know if it’ll taste good or not, but at least when I was sautéing up the ingredients, it smelled really good.”
He seemed to be very interested, and since Tong Yan was also in the midst of preparing a table full of dishes and was terribly excited about it, she went ahead and gave a detailed description of what was on the menu for the night. It sounded very enticing, but at the very end, she added a caveat: “It’s my first time making them. I don’t know if they’ll taste good or not.”
She said this diffidently, but the person who was being treated like he was a lab rat was listening with great interest. As he adjusted her position on his lap slightly, his arm happened to rest across her stomach.
She was about to say more, but his brows suddenly creased together and he interrupted, “Right here, you seem to have something that’s emitting heat.”
She did not comprehend and looked at him puzzledly. It was only when he patted her on her stomach did Tong Yan suddenly clue in. “It’s a Nuan Bao Bao heat patch. It’s for … for girls to stick on themselves. In the winter, they’re used to withstand the cold and keep warm.”
If he had not mentioned it, she would have already forgotten about this thing that had given her warmth for an entire day.
He seemed to be amused by what he heard. “May I have a look?”
Sure, he could have a look … But it was just a thing that looked like a white, medicinal patch stuck on top of her blouse … There really was nothing worth looking at.
Tong Yan lifted up her sweater self-consciously to reveal the Nuan Bao Bao heat patch adhered to her blouse. And it was a white, heat-emitting … little medicinal patch-like thingy.
When his palm covered that entire white area, however, she gave a start.
In this quiet room, for him to suddenly do this type of action … Tong Yan pressed her lips together. If he wanted to …
“How long have you had this on?” His tone unexpectedly changed, and he looked at her as he asked this.
“A day.” Her thoughts were still drifting and without much focus, she gave an estimate. “About ten hours.”
“Next time, if you’re really cold, stick it on this spot.” Gu Pingsheng had soon peeled off the heat patch and re-adhered it at a position below her left shoulder, explaining the reason in way that was easy to understand. “All your blood passes by this location as it flows out from your heart to the rest of your body. That’s why, if this spot on you is warm, your entire body will slowly start to warm up, too.”
She had read the instructions on the packaging of Shen Yao’s several large packs of Nuan Bao Bao heat patches, but they had either recommended the lower abdomen or the bottom of the foot. None had ever recommended adhering it onto this position.
Tong Yan gazed at him with a worshipful look. The all-competent treasury of knowledge was beginning to demonstrate his charm and allure again.
While her idolization of him was still continuing its upwards spiral, he suddenly reached out his arm in a very natural motion and lifted up the bottom of her blouse … Her belly instantly felt cool. All she could feel, however, was her entire body’s blood rushing up to her cheeks, and she nearly leapt off of him.
“It’s a little red.” His voice was warm and gentle and also somewhat resigned. “Next time, don’t keep it on for so long. At this sort of temperature, it’s very easy to get a low temperature burn …”
He logically spoke a few more sentences, his manner utterly and ridiculously solemn.
Embarrassed, Tong Yan sat there on his lap, and even when he had lowered the bottom of her blouse again, she still remained properly seated, her entire body stiff.
Other thoughts truly had not even crossed Gu Pingsheng’s mind, but seeing her eyes constantly evading his, he found this rather fun and amusing. “When you go to the hospital for your check-up, don’t you often have to remove your clothing?”
Was that even the same?
His teasing left Tong Yan even more tongue-tied, so she simply bit down on her lollipop and swiftly fled the scene. “It’s about time. I’m going to go check on the beef.” But she had just taken a single step when, unexpectedly, he pulled her back.
His voice was there beside her ear, low, and somewhat coaxing and reassuring. “Don’t go thinking in the wrong direction.”
补血 “bu xue.” In traditional Chinese medicine, blood deficiency can occur (with many symptoms, some of them being poor memory, anxiety, dizziness, tiredness, poor appetite, etc), and when this occurs, you need to “bu xue” or nourish and replenish the blood. Blood deficiency is more commonly seen in women.
 话梅 “hua mei.” Huamei are dried plums preserved with salt, sugar, and some herbs. They are a traditional Chinese snack food and are known to be especially popular with women. Their sour flavour is said to refresh the mind as well as the mouth, and in traditional Chinese medicine, they also have many benefits.
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