36 The Fourth Miss Learns Under the Maid

    Yujia carefully watched as Hui'er went around the kitchen, grabbing tools and ingredients from their proper places and putting them on the table in front of Yujia. The ingredients looked simple enough: soaked red beans, flour, and sugar.

    While Hui'er prepared everything, she explained, \"Miss, I was going to make red bean cakes for you this morning, so that is why the beans are soaked. I didn't really get the opportunity though, as you can see, though you can see that it comes handy now.\"

    \"Red bean cakes, hm?\" Yujia mused, thinking of the dessert. She had tasted it once in college, where one of her classmates brought it over for the holidays, but the taste didn't seem to extraordinary. So, her impression of the dessert was rather faded. \"But Hui'er,\" Yujia proposed another issue, \"I don't know how to make this. I want the dish to be something that I made... so it seems a little more sincere, right?\"

    Hui'er gave Yujia a small smile. \"Then, I'll just teach you to. Are you sure you want to do this, though? Making these cakes do take a while. We might be here all night.\"

    \"It's okay.\" Yujia waved her hands carefreely. How many all nighters did she pull in her previous life? Staying up all night was not a big issue.

    And so, Hui'er began to explain to Yujia how to make the tiny pastries, displaying and explaining very step. Half of the red beans were first boiled in hot water for ten or so minutes, and afterwards, Hui'er meticulously mashed the beans into a fine paste, quoting that although the folk method of making these cakes would not require too much mashing, making a fine paste out of the red beans would create a more visually pleasing product.

    Next, Hui'er combined the sugar, flour and bean paste, kneading it into a blushing light maroon dough that she would fit into a set of cake molds that she found in one of the cabinets. After thumping the cake molds a few times, three perfectly detailed red bean cakes came out, the designs on the top elaborately depicting blooming flowers. Hui'er repeated the process again so that all the dough was used up, and then she moved onto steaming the cakes in a casket until they were ready.

    When Hui'er lifted the lid of the casket to reveal six perfectly molded red bean cakes, Yujia couldn't help but look in awe. They looked so dainty, and the sweet aroma wafting off of the steaming surface could only be described as heavenly.

    \"Now, your turn.\" Hui'er picked each cake out from the casket with a chopstick and set it out on a plate that Yujia brought her. \"Did you get it?\"

    \"Somewhat.\" Yujia tilted her head warily. \"Will you still guide me through it?\"

    \"Of course.\" A small giggle escaped Hui'er. \"But Fourth Miss, it's not difficult.\"

    \"Well, I have no experience of cooking.\" Casting the other girl a stern look as a joke, Yujia only caused Hui'er to laugh even more.

    \"Then, Miss, let's start with straining and boiling the beans.\" Hui'er grabbed half of the soaked red beans and placed them in front of Yujia, who rolled up her sleeves and began to get to work.

    While Yujia went through each step of making the cakes, she was learning more and more from Hui'er. It was wonderful to cook again after six years of her previous life eating the same, repetitive, and unhealthy foods because she was attempting to save money. And despite the fact that Yujia certainly had plenty of time on her hands after she graduated from college to cook, she always convinced herself that buying fresh ingredients was too costly, so fresh food barely happened.

    Under the dim candlelight illuminating the kitchens, Yujia found it almost therapeutic to cook.

    Halfway through mashing up the red beans- the most time consuming aspect of it all- Yujia decided to ask Hui'er a question. \"Hui'er, where did you learn making red bean cakes from?\"

    The encouraging expression on Hui'er's face dropped, and Yujia felt like she crossed some unspoken line or uncovered a sorrowful part of Hui'er's past.

    Shifting her body slightly away from her Fourth Miss, Hui'er began to organize some of the mess that she left over from the first batch of cakes while she replied quietly, \"Before I was brought to the Yang Household, I used to live in Hangzhou. I don't think I remember much about the past- I left that place when I was eight- but one of my only memories was watching my mother create these cakes.\"

    \"Oh.\" Yujia stopped mashing the red beans under her hands. \"I'm- sorry if you didn't want to talk about this.\"

    \"It's okay.\" Hui'er turned her face back to Yujia, putting on a smile that didn't seem as sincere as the one she had on before. \"I just really miss my family. I used to have a younger brother too, but I guess that today, it would be about seven years since I last saw him. But these are all old memories now, and nothing much of value.\"

    The two were silent while Yujia kept turning the red beans into a fine paste. Although she only spent three or so days with Hui'er, she already took the other girl for just a cheerful, bright person who was just there to assist her in adapting to this new world. As ignorant as it seemed, she didn't really even think that Hui'er had a past.

    Yujia truly needed to think a little more in the perspective of others.
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