Then it was our turn. Our first attempts were almost comically bad; the dumplings' skins split most of the time, spilling the filling before we'd even finished them, and the few that we managed to keep whole looked like uneven lumps of clay. Still, we pressed ahead: soon we had trays full of dumplings that, while not as beautiful as the dozens of perfect versions Li Laoshi had produced in the same period, would probably hold together. As the party guests began to arrive, Li Laoshi scooped up the dumplings and disappeared, only to bring them back just a few minutes later, perfectly boiled. Everyone dug in, devouring the dumplings - the pretty ones and the not-so perfect.