As she talked, she dispensed with having her maidservant serve her. The old lady picked up her chopsticks to grab more crispy pickled radish and placed it in her bowl...unconsciously, after consuming a whole bowl of nourishing and dense congee, she still wanted to eat more. She had her maidservant serve her up another bowl. She had a taste of all of the other dishes on the table. However, the one she ate the most of was still the sweet, crispy and tasty radishes.
On the other hand, the patriarch of the family loved the wine-marinated beans the most. The old man liked to have a few drinks of alcohol every day. Since the wine-marinated beans had the slight fragrance of wine and a hint of spiciness, they provoked his taste buds and made him want to eat them continuously without stopping.
As for the other members of the family, they all praised these two appetizers continuously. A satisfied expression crossed Zhou Zixu’s face. Suddenly he remembered the words that the shabbily dressed little girl, who had more dazzling talents than any of those noble young ladies, had said. He spoke to his grandfather, “Grandfather, do you think these pickled vegetables are delicious?”
Patriarch Zhou picked up a small steamed roll and used his chopsticks to place some wine-marinated beans on top. He opened his mouth wide to take a bite and closed his eyes, “Not bad…”
“Grandfather, do you think the customers would like it if Zhenxiu Restaurant added a couple small plates of these pickled vegetables to the cold appetizer platters?” At the pickled vegetable stall, the little girl had off-handedly mentioned this idea, and it lit up a lightbulb in his business minded self.
The patriarch’s eyes, which had been comfortably closed, abruptly opened wide. He placed down the chopsticks in his hands and stroked his beard. He nodded and remarked in a gratified tone, “Xu’er, Grandfather has not missed the mark with you. You really are like Second Son ah...this idea is quite feasible, so I’ll give it to you to handle!”
Zhou Zifang clenched his hand that was underneath the table into a tight fist. Despite his fingernails digging into his flesh, he felt no pain as he did his best to keep a faint smile on his face, “Grandfather, Younger Brother Xu is truly a dark horse whose ideas amaze the world! Fortunately, all of the Zhou family members have the same blood in our veins.”
Within his heart, he secretly hated his younger brother. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how well he did business-wise, in his grandfather’s heart, it wasn’t enough for him to overcome his brothers who were born from the wives of the family.
Although his grandfather had complimented him for his business acumen and talents, he was only ever given a few small-scale business ventures. Zhou Zixu was just a little brat who didn’t know anything. However, with just a simple idea that anyone could have come up with, his grandfather had decided to give him a larger share of the business in disguise, setting him up to be the successor. How could he accept this?
Within the Zhou Family, the wealthiest family in Tanggu Town, there were some people who were rejoicing and some people who worried. On the other hand, Xiaocao continued on with her usual tasks: making braised food and selling braised food. The whole household bustled around busily working to fulfill their aspirations.
After Madam Zhang made a fuss and came away with the recipe for the braised food, the next day she went to the market and bought a large pig head. She also made the butcher give her some pig intestines and tripe before she went home to prepare the food.
Pig intestines and tripe were not only dirty but also smelly. Naturally Madam Zhang didn’t want to work with these ingredients herself. However, her daughter was also at home sewing her dowry and couldn’t rough up her hands. Thus, the task naturally fell to Madam Li.
Madam Li was a lazy person who only liked to eat and gossip, so how could she possibly be someone who could do the hard work? If her efforts would result in money going into her own pocket, that would be a different story. However, all of the family’s income went straight into her mother-in-law’s control. Thus, she really had no incentive to work hard.
With one hand pinching her nose closed, Madam Li used water to wash out the nasty gunk that was inside the pig intestines. She then let the intestines soak a couple of times in clean water without scrubbing them. As for the pig head, she didn’t even bother to remove all of the hair and fur or clean out the junk in the ears before she immediately placed it in a pot to boil.
During the braising process, Madam Zhang didn’t want to waste money by using too many spices, so she cut down the amount needed for each spice by half. As for the expensive seasonings, she directly left them out. With this, the taste of the product had also been diluted.
The finished braised pig head meat and offal had a sickening stench of feces that could make anyone want to vomit. Who would want to eat something that smelled that bad? At the table, Old Yu didn’t even bother trying the plate of braised pig meat. Instead, he slapped the table and howled, “Is this food fit for humans to eat? Quickly take this off the table and throw it far away! How can anyone have the appetite to eat with a smell this disgusting around?”
Third Son Yu Bo was at home for one of his rare visits. However, the stench of the braised food made him dry heave a couple of times. He didn’t even finish the egg that was added to each of his meals before he threw down his chopsticks and went back to his room. The door to his room was slammed forcefully shut. As for Yu Caidie, she grabbed a pancake and some dried radish strips and went to the courtyard to eat her meal.
Heizi was the only person not affected by the horrible stench. Instead, he picked up a plump piece of pig head meat and ate it in large bites. Had Xiaocao been there, she would have silently laughed, ‘This stupid boy. As long as it’s meat, even if it smells worse than human excrement, he’ll still eat it!’
However, they had spent around ten copper coins to buy the pig head. In addition, the spices also cost money. All in all, they spent around twenty to thirty copper coins. If they threw this food away, wouldn’t that be the same as throwing money away?
Madam Zhang didn’t care about any of this. That afternoon, she placed the braised pig head meat and intestines into a basket and dragged Madam Li with her to the docks.
“One copper coin for a portion of meat! This is the authentic Yu Family’s braised food! Tasty and cheap...Big Brother, buy a portion and try some!” Under Madam Zhang’s prodding, Madam Li managed to squeeze out a smile on her face as she advertised their wears. However, she was quite unwilling on the inside.
It was quite an opportune time for them. There wasn’t a lot of work under Foreman Sun, so the dockworkers had all come early to wait for Xiaocao’s braised food for one copper coin a portion. When they heard Madam Li yelling, all of them came over.
As usual, Old Hao fished out two copper coins and casually asked, “Give me two portions of pickled fish...where’s Xiaocao today? How come she’s not here?”
Pickled fish? The smile on Madam Li’s face froze for a second. Madam Zhang, on the other hand, quickly took the money and said, “You’re talking about my granddaughter, ah! She’s busy today...Big Brother, we don’t have any pickled fish today. We have pig head meat and intestines, do you want some?”
“Yes, yes! Give me two portions of pig head meat, larger portions please.” Pig head meat was Old Hao’s favorite dish. He had gotten used to buying pickled fish in the afternoons, so it was a nice surprise for him that he could get some pig head meat today.
After taking over the oiled paper packet that Madam Zhang gave him, Old Hao weighed the contents in his hand a bit. He grumbled inside, ‘Why does it seem like they gave me a smaller portion of braised food today?’ However, after thinking a bit, he thought, ‘This meat is so delicious and it’s only one copper coin. A smaller portion is just a smaller portion…’
Old Hao impatiently ripped open his oiled paper packet but the smell that came out wasn’t the usual dense and appetizing smell. It was hard to describe but it assaulted his nose, causing him to scowl. He used one hand to pick up a piece and discovered that the piece still had obvious bits of pig fur, standing up tall and proud.
The braised food that Xiaocao sold for one copper coin a portion always smelled appetizing, had incredible flavor, but most importantly, she always cleaned the raw ingredients thoroughly. With this, even a fool could tell that there was something wrong with this braised food.
Old Hao held his portion of pig head meat as he squeezed through the crowd. He waved the piece with fur on it in front of Madam Zhang’s face and said, “Yo Auntie, are you absolutely sure that Xiaocao herself had braised this pig head meat?”
“Of...of course! That bit of fur must have escaped our notice when we were preparing the food. Didn’t see it then...Big Brother, I’ll swap out a new portion for you…” Madam Zhang stammered awkwardly with a stiff smile on her face.
Seeing that the old woman was hemming and hawing, Old Hao knew something fishy was going on here. He placed that piece of meat back into the paper packet and shoved the whole thing into Madam Zhang’s hand, “Go smell it yourself! Whenever you open a packet of Xiaocao’s one copper coin a portion of braised food, the smell that comes out is so good. As for yours, I almost wanted to vomit from the stench. This absolutely is not something Xiaocao made! ...I don’t want this anymore, refund me, refund me!”
Madam Zhang was like a Pixiu , gold and silver only went in and never came out. If you wanted her to refund you, tough luck! The expression on her face turned frosty, and she yelled shrilly, “You already ate it and you want your money to be refunded! Do you think bullying an old woman is easy?!”
At this time, she had already sold more than ten portions out. When the people surrounding her realized that something wasn’t right, they put their coins back into their purses and stood at the side to watch and see.
A few of the dockworkers who had just bought the food hadn’t opened up the paper pouches yet, and they hurriedly asked, “Auntie, I just got this and I haven’t even opened the pouch yet. Can I return it now?”
When Madam Zhang saw that their roaring business had slid to a halt by the complaints, she obviously had no desire to return any of the money in her hands. She pinched herself on her thigh and started screaming towards the sky, “Okay, I see how it is! You’re all trying to bully a pair of old weak women! You don’t want to pay money for your goods! The heavens witness all, are you guys not afraid of receiving retribution?”
Madam Li joined in and hollered, “We are selling food. If you already got it in hand, who knows what you’ve done to it? If you return it, how are we supposed to sell it to other people? If the goods have already been transferred, we cannot refund the purchase!!”
Old Hao pointed at the pig head meat in his hand in frustration, “The food you sell is inedible! Refunding the money is heaven’s law and earth’s principle!”
“What ‘heaven’s law and earth’s principle’? How is it not edible? If you eat it, will you die? Just eat some and see. If it really kills you, then we’ll pay your funeral fees!!” Madam Zhang shrewish side was out in full force. At any rate, she was an old woman, the workers here on the dock wouldn’t dare to touch her. If they did, then they really would be in for it!
Old Hao’s eyes widened in fury. He clenched his fist into a death grip and advanced a step, “Old woman, how can you be so unreasonable? Not only that, you’re even cursing other people to die!”
“Ahhhh! He wants to kill me!! Everyone come see, a whole group of men are trying to bully us two weak women! Is there no one here who cares...” Madam Zhang was frightened by the look of pure fury in his eyes, and she retreated two steps before she fell on the ground. She slapped her thighs as she cried and screamed.
Old Hao and the other dockworkers didn’t know whether they should laugh or cry at this situation——did she have any leg to stand on after selling counterfeit goods?!
“Grandmother, what’s wrong? Who’s trying to bully you?” The sound of Xiaocao’s voice could be heard from behind the crowd of people. The dock workers opened a small crack and let her in. With a basket slung over her arm, Xiaocao carefully walked towards where Madam Zhang was sitting.
Madam Zhang wasn’t thickfaced enough to allow the younger generation to see her in such a dismal state. She hastily got up, patted off the dirt from her body, and then righteously shouted, “Xiaocao, you came at the right time!! Did you give us the wrong recipe on purpose because you didn’t want us to steal your business? They’re all saying that there’s something wrong with the braised food and want to return it!”
Xiaocao glanced briefly at the faces behind Madam Zhang and had a basic understanding of what might have happened. She walked towards Old Hao. looked at the oiled paper pouch in his hand ,and said, “Uncle Old Hao, can I take a look at the braised food in your hand?”
Old Hao handed over the pouch that he had previously owned and complained, “Xiaocao, smell this. Is this something that humans are supposed to eat?”
The smell that came out of the pouch assaulted Xiaocao’s nose, and she couldn't help but frown. She inspected the pig head meat carefully and then turned to speak to Madam Zhang, “Grandmother, before you braise the pig head meat, you need to make sure you remove all of the fur and hair from the pig head. You also need to scrape and clean out all of the junk in its ears, and it’s important to use a lot of force when scrubbing. Afterwards, you need to split the head open and take out its brains, then let it soak in some clean water and let the blood all come out. Then you need to let it soak in hot water for about half an hour. This is the only way to remove any odd odors from the pig head. Look at this pig head meat, there’s still hair and fur on it. It’s obvious that whoever was washing the pig head was skimping on the work.”
 Pixiu (貔貅) - a mythical creature, which is depicted as a winged animal with the head of a dragon and body of a lion, that brings luck (usually wealth) and wards off evil; it is believed that the pixiu doesn't have an anus which signifies that wealth/luck will flow in and not leavePrevious Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: Not going to lie, I felt like I was going to vomit when I read how Madam Li ‘cleaned’ and ‘cooked’ the food.