Once upon a time when there was no refrigerator, every household used a cupboard. The side of the cupboard against the wall was wooden, and the other three sides were screened so that air could circulate and overnight leftovers would not be smothered.
I don’t remember any leftovers from the summer, but I always counted the amount before I cooked them, and occasionally leftovers were left overnight, but in the 37-degree heat, they must have been spoiled and dumped the next day. In other seasons, leftovers should be a common occurrence, but I don’t remember eating overnight food myself.
Our family, a table of mouths, most of them are tricky. In the past, when the family did not have enough money, my father would always go to the cafe every Sunday after getting a cream bun haircut. People who talk about this kind of style, of course, do not eat leftovers.
Mom was the youngest child from a large family. We Cantonese say “la girl la heart”, grandmother spoiled her “la girl” a mess, she naturally has a tricky mouth.
As for me, one year my mom and dad sent me to my aunt’s house out of town, but I faced a table of raw onions and blackened sauce is refused to move chopsticks, but also put on a look of aggravation to. My cousin couldn’t stand it and said that I was “just a dodgy little girl”.
Only my brother is better, he is not a very picky person, old clothes to change, he does not mind wearing, eat leftovers he is also willing. It’s just that a growing boy always needs to eat a little more good food. In such a family, the only one who ate leftovers was grandma.
At that time, a little bit of poor cooking oil could only be bought with a ticket. Since there was not enough oil in the mainland, when my aunt came back from abroad, she gave each family a bottle of oil, in addition to other things. It was hard to eat dishes that hadn’t been fried in oil overnight. Our chopsticks always passed over the bowl with the overnight vegetables and just reached for the freshly cooked vegetables. Grandma, who had just come out of the kitchen after cooking a meal, slowly finished her bowl of rice with the leftovers. She ate so quietly, without the sad face we occasionally get when we eat overnight food, that I thought it was her job to eat the leftovers after she finished cooking.
It seems that this is not the only thing that belongs to Grandma. When there was no refrigerator, I had to go shopping for food every day. In the morning of the winter months, after my mother’s call, I was willing to stretch out a head from the warmth of the blanket, the sky was not yet bright outside, and my grandmother had already come back from the grocery shopping, wearing the old cotton jacket that I hated.
I hate that old dark blue cotton jacket, there is a reason for it. Sometimes when my grandmother came back from grocery shopping and rushed to send me to school, I thought the jacket was too ugly and made sure my grandmother changed it before she would let me go. When the teacher visited me at home, my family revealed this to me. The teacher criticized me in class, saying that although I was good at schoolwork, I was not good enough in my mind.
I didn’t admit that I had a bad mind, and I only hated my grandmother and the old cotton jacket. But after two days of hating, I didn’t hate anymore. Because grandma’s cooking is not only delicious, but also fun to do, like a game. I was so fascinated by the side that I forgot I was still angry and unknowingly stepped in to play along with my grandmother.
Grandma diced a large piece of pork and mixed it with spices to make sausages. She put a funnel on the mouth of the sausage casing and filled it with diced meat, stuffing the meat inside the casing. When a sausage casing is full, the ends are tied tightly with a thick thread, and then a needle is found and many small holes are made in the sausage. Then hang the sausage on the balcony where the sun does not shine, saying that the sausage is to be air-dried in this way.
After a few weeks, the fat and soft sausages turned into a stiff head and a “little old man”, which is now ready to eat. Grandma cooked the sausage in the rice, and when the rice was ready, the sausage was also cooked. The rice cooked in this way was really fragrant. Grandma cut the red sausage into thin slices and spread them on the white plate in circles, which made the mouth water. The family had a great time eating that meal, but how many slices of sausage did Grandma eat? No one seemed to care.
In fact, Grandma is not a person who does not know how to eat good food. In summer, she took off her old cooking clothes and put on a green and black shirt with a handkerchief tucked in the lapel and a pair of black satin shoes, and then took me out to the street. Sometimes we went to Kaiser for cream cakes, and sometimes we went to Taichang for ice cream. When we passed the black bamboo fence on Shaanxi Road, we used to see an old woman, even older than Grandma, sitting on the ground selling white orchids. Grandma bought the flowers and gave them to me to pin on the buttons of my clothes, and all of a sudden we both became fragrant. Grandma was in a better mood and told me about the old days: “Grandpa used to take me to eat big dishes, and I could even cook the chicken in the big dishes!”
I had never eaten a chicken, and I wanted to know how it tasted. But my grandfather died of typhoid fever a long time ago. Grandma was widowed at the age of 24, and never thought of remarrying. When the money left by grandpa ran out, grandma also went out to work. Now she is old and has no more job. I wonder if Grandma would have to sell flowers outside on a hot day like that old lady if she didn’t have a father either. When I finished the high fence wall, I looked back at the old woman sitting on the ground, and I was worried for some reason, so I clutched her hand tighter.
I don’t know where she got the money to buy the cream cake and ice cream. I heard my mother say that my grandmother was retired, not retired. Adults say that a retirement is a lump sum of money, and a retirement is a monthly pension. In my mother’s explanation, it was as if the lack of money in our family was related to the fact that Grandma chose to retire instead of working.
There was no way back for Grandma, so Mom always said that there was not enough money for the family. Since we don’t have enough money, I should not ask for that blonde doll, maybe my aunt will bring me one next time she comes back home.
I never asked adults for money because I was afraid of being embarrassed by the rejection, but something embarrassing did happen.
Grandma had probably used up all her money, and I heard her asking Dad for his monthly allowance. The father stammered and refused to give it, saying that he would ask his mother for it; the mother also refused to give it, saying that she would ask her son for it. The three adults were at loggerheads until the night.
That night it rained, I lay in bed, unable to sleep, listening to the sound of rain outside the window. I heard the wild cats come out in the middle of the night. They were playing and fighting in the alley, and after a wild biting sound, the injured wild cat cried out, crying very miserably. I hid under the blanket and strained my ears to make sure that it was the wild cat’s cry and not my grandmother’s. Only then did my heart drop. But the tears still came out and rolled down my cheeks and into my ears.
“Just grow up quickly.” I said to myself, “When I grow up, I can earn money for my grandmother’s pocket money.”
We grew up eating the fresh and delicious dishes that Grandma made, and Grandma grew old eating our leftover overnight vegetables. When my brother started working, he immediately gave grandma pocket money. Grandma took the money and immediately went to the cigarette and paper store to buy joss sticks to pay respect to grandpa, but when she came home, she found that she had found the wrong money. It had been years since she had gone shopping, and the price of the joss sticks was different from before, and even the money had changed in appearance.
That day, my brother told me a joke about the old, confused grandmother not recognizing the money, and I laughed so hard that tears fell out of my eyes. When I used my hand to wipe my tears, I found that the tears could not be wiped away.
“Mom and Dad are actually not without money.” I asked him, “Why won’t you give grandma a little pocket money?” My brother stopped laughing and was silent for a long time.
The economy was actually tight at the time, with little salary and a wedding to plan. Dad gave him another house from the unit, and let him do everything else himself. He barely managed to get all the necessary things for the wedding, but no longer had enough money to buy jewelry for the bride.
At the wedding banquet, the grandmother stood up trembling, called the bride over, and then shivered and took off a thick and long gold necklace from her neck to put on her granddaughter-in-law. The heavy gold pendant startled everyone at the table, not knowing that the grandmother, who ate overnight food every day, still had such goodies hidden away.
By the time I was going abroad, my grandmother was even more confused in her old age. She saw me busy in and out all day long and didn’t know what I was doing. The moment I bought two large suitcases and packed all my belongings in them, my grandmother realized that I was going away.
“Ah Han, where are you going?”
“I’m going abroad to study!” I said loudly into her ear.
“What, you’ve graduated from college and you’re going to study?” Grandma looked up at me and smiled indistinctly, “You lied to me, you want to go out and find a boy, don’t you?”
“I’m not looking for a boy,” I laughed and shouted louder into her ear, “I’m going abroad to graduate school!”
“Grandma,” my brother interjected with a smile as he too shouted into her ear, “Ah Han is going back to Hong Kong to sell clothes at a stall!” Then he turned back to me and said, “Don’t go telling Grandma about ‘graduate school’, she’s old and can’t understand it.”
“Is it back to Hong Kong? You people are trying to trick me again.” Grandma was skeptical, raising a childlike, innocent face from old age to look at the two of us laughing.
“It’s all right,” Grandma said while handing me the ring on her hand, “Keep this ring, it’s full gold, so when you’re hungry, you can exchange it for two meals.”
I was holding in my hand the ring that my grandmother took off from her finger on the cab, and that ring still had her body heat on it. But by the time I earned the money, my grandmother no longer needed pocket money, not even for the doctor, and I only had time to buy her a big red birthday suit.
The day after I returned home that year, my grandmother died of terminal old age. There was nothing to salvage, all the machines in her body were so old that they broke down and all the blood vessels in her body burst.
In the years since I left the country, I’ve been trying to make a living while waiting for my favorite guy to come to me. I finally waited for him and started to learn how to cook for him. I never liked to cook, once I learned to cook the food, and soon had a pattern.
Now the family, as long as you do not ask for shark fins and bear paws, money is not enough. The refrigerator is certainly a must-have, however leftovers are still often available. At the dinner table, I push the freshly cooked dishes across the table and put the leftovers in front of myself. Seeing the people across the table eating well, my heart was filled with relief.
I remembered the dinner table when I was a child, when my grandmother ate overnight food, she had in her heart, it turned out not bitter ah. This thought, heavy heart for many years, as if some relief, but the tears still came up.
I put down my chopsticks and stood up, pretending to look at the weather outside. The sky is silent with dense goose feather snow, when the world outside has been covered with a layer of white snow. The mountains in the distance, the trees outside the window, all standing quietly in the snow, the neighbor’s roof, there is a vague smoke curling up. All this looks so peaceful and simple, the world should be like this at the beginning when God created man and he was just busy.
I looked longingly at the path in front of the door, the white path curved all the way to the sky. In a haze of tears, I clearly saw my grandmother coming from the other end of the path, wearing the old blue cotton jacket, holding a heavy vegetable basket in both hands, slowly walking home ……
Grandma, Grandma, did you come to tell me that at that time you had no job and no money, and that was the only way you could use to love us. I know now, I know.