“Wait!” Seeing that Zhenxiu Restaurant’s staff wanted to take the basket, Steward Yao panicked and loudly shouted, “You should follow the rule of first come, first served! I have already placed my order on these vegetables! Little girl, take this money. If it not enough, come find me!”
Steward Yao shoved a purse into Xiaocao’s hands for fear that she wouldn’t accept it. Xiaocao didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry as she weighed the pouch with her hands. There were at least twenty or thirty taels inside. For example, the romaine lettuce, which was the most expensive, cost twenty-five copper coins per catty. With twenty or thirty taels, he could buy over a thousand catties of lettuce. There were at most four to five hundred catties of vegetables within their baskets. So how would it cost that much money?
For the sake of their restaurant, Qian Xiaoduo definitely couldn’t give up on this opportunity. He didn’t back down and said, “Steward Yao, our Tanggu Town has clear law and order and prohibits buying and selling by force! Miss Yu didn’t say that she wanted to sell them to you, so it’s useless even if you give her the money!”
Steward Yao was so angry that his beard was about to curl up. He pointed at Qian Xiaoduo and shouted, “Who’s forcibly buying and selling things? The little girl is selling vegetables, while I want to buy vegetables. This is a fair deal! Even if we take it to the county magistrate, I will still be in the right!! Don’t think that just because you have the backing of Zhenxiu Restaurant and the Zhou Family that you can turn white into black with a few words!”
“You’re willing to buy, but are they willing to sell? You’re stuffing the money into their hands, if that’s not buying by force then what is it…”
The two of them continued to quarrel, and they each had their own reasons. From ancient times to present, there was never a lack of curious onlooker wherever there was a dispute. In a short moment, the four of them were surrounded by a tightly packed crowd of people.
Yu Xiaocao and her father looked at each other helplessly They couldn’t let the two of them continue arguing as if they were in a cockfight.
Xiaocao quickly went forward and pulled Qian Xiaoduo back a couple steps, and then said to Steward Yao, “Steward Yao, right? Can your master finish all these vegetables in a day? If they can’t finish it, then it won’t be fresh anymore!”
Steward Yao was so anxious that his forehead was sweating, “Little girl, I’ll tell you honestly! Our old master’s birthday banquet is tomorrow. Everything else is already prepared, but we just urgently need these greens for the banquet!”
How respectable would it be if they were able to bring out fresh vegetables for the banquet during this season? Steward Yao thought that if he could accomplish this task, his master certainly wouldn’t treat him too badly. The head steward was already getting old and it was about time for him to retire. Maybe he could take this opportunity to make further progress towards a promotion!
With that thought, Steward Yao’s tone became even more urgent, “Little girl, being sincere and honest is very important in business. Let’s be honest, didn’t I come first and said that I wanted to buy these vegetables?”
Qian Xiaoduo was also anxious. County Magistrate Wu’s son personally reserved a table at Zhenxiu Restaurant and said that they were entertaining a distinguished guest from the capital. He asked the kitchen to be extremely alert and be sure to prepare an impressive meal for the guest.
The manager said that, with County Magistrate Wu’s background, the identity of the guest must be incredible to be addressed as a ‘distinguished guest’. Zhenxiu Restaurant was famous for its oyster sauce dishes. But oyster sauce was usually used for vegetable dishes. Where would they find leafy greens at this time? He also came with the mentality of trying, but he didn’t expect that he would actually find them.
However, someone else already claimed the vegetables that he had been worried about before him! Fortunately, the vegetable vendor was an old acquaintance of Zhenxiu Restaurant and had a good relationship with their young boss. Thus, he summoned his courage and brazenly fought over the greens with the other person.
Seeing Yu Xiaocao’s gaze, he could only tell her the truth, “My little lady ah! We also have an urgent need for them!! The honored guest of County Magistrate Wu will be at the restaurant soon!!”
As soon as Steward Yao heard that Zhenxiu Restaurant was buying the vegetables to serve the honored guest of County Magistrate Wu, he was also at a loss of what to do. He could only look at Yu Xiaocao and her father in hope that they would make a fair judgment.
Yu Xiaocao bit her lower lip and thought for a moment, and then said, “Steward Yao, your old master’s birthday banquet is tomorrow, so let’s do this! Let’s give these vegetables to Zhenxiu Restaurant first since they need them for the feast at noon. Steward Yao leave us your address. We’ll go back and pick up a batch of vegetables, and then send them to you. Is this alright?”
Steward Yao understood the principle of ‘a commoner shouldn’t fight with an official’. He had already lost all hope when the staff of Zhenxiu Restaurant revealed their use for the vegetables. However, when Yu Xiaocao said that her family still had vegetables at home, the spark of hope rekindled again.
He thought about it and said, “Miss Yu, I won’t bother you to deliver them to us. Why don’t you just wait a moment and let me go get a horse carriage? I’ll go back with you.”
‘Leave an address? If you don’t deliver them to us, where would we go to find you guys?’ Since there were still more of the vegetables, they could do a favor for Zhenxiu Restaurant.
“Alright! Steward Yao, we’ll wait for you at the back entrance of Zhenxiu Restaurant!” It was quite a far distance from Dongshan Village to town, so of course Yu Xiaocao was happy that she didn’t need to make an extra trip.
Steward Yao nodded and quickly left. He had to act swiftly in case they got annoyed from waiting and leave first. If that happened, he wouldn’t even have any more tears to cry!
Seeing that he had gotten the greens, Qian Xiaoduo was in a very happy mood. At this time, someone asked about the price of the vegetables, so he waved his hand and shouted, “Sorry, our Zhenxiu Restaurant has already bought all the vegetables. Please come earlier tomorrow!”
He didn’t need Xiaocao to say anything and tactfully moved the baskets onto the donkey cart. By the time Yu Xiaocao came back with the little donkey in her left hand and a bag of fodder beans, which came from an unidentified person, in her right hand, the four or five hundred catties of vegetables had been neatly stacked on the donkey cart.
Qian Xiaoduo laughed flatteringly and said, “Miss Yu, you’ve got a good donkey. It probably cost a few taels, right?”
Yu Xiaocao pulled the donkey cart and walked to Zhenxiu Restaurant. From time to time, she would chat with the enthusiastic Qian Xiaoduo. This fellow usually seemed like a quiet person, but as if a switch was turned on today, he had turned into a chatterbox!
Fortunately, Zhenxiu Restaurant wasn’t too far away. It only took a few minutes to get there. When the donkey cart entered the backdoor, the manager, who had heard the news, rushed over with surprise.
“Aiya! Big brother, Miss Yu! You guys are seriously our Zhenxiu Restaurant’s big lucky stars! These vegetables came at just the right timing!! You guys quickly unload the vegetables!” The manager’s overly enthusiastic attitude felt too overwhelming.
The manager smiled like a chrysanthemum flower as he watched the baskets and baskets of vegetables being moved into the kitchen, “Quickly come rest in Third Young Master’s private room! Xiaoduo, make a pot of our restaurant’s best tea to let Brother Yu and Miss Yu quench their thirst.”
Yu Hai felt very uncomfortable with the manager’s keen attitude. He waved his hand and said, “No need, we still have to rush back…”
“It’s almost noon. You can’t go back on an empty stomach! Our third young master went to the dock early in the morning and should be coming back soon. If he found out that I let you and your daughter go home hungry, he will definitely blame me! Go, go! Have a taste of Head Chef Wang’s new dish!” Without letting them refuse, the manager pulled on Yu Hai’s arm and led the father-daughter pair to Third Young Master Zhou’s private room.
They had come out early in the morning and stayed at the food market for half of the day, so Yu Xiaocao was really somewhat thirsty. She blew on the tea, drank it in one gulp, and smacked her lips—the tea’s pretty good and very fragrant!
The manager watched as Yu Hai and his daughter, who were oblivious to the worth of the tea, drank the excellent tea that cost a dozen taels per ounce without any thoughts. However, he didn’t dare show contempt and hastily refilled their cups. When the manager of Zhenxiu Restaurant served the high officials and noble lords, he usually acted neither humble nor arrogant. But at this time, he engaged in small talk with Yu Hai and his daughter in a very approachable manner.
In the middle of their conversation, the door of the private room was pushed open and Third Young Master Zhou came in with an oiled paper bag.
“Fortunately, I came back just in time, or else I would have missed you guys again!” Zhou Zixu handed the oiled paper bag to the manager and continued, “I have been busy with the factory after the new year. I thought that I could meet you at the docks, but it was always your twin sister selling the braised food. Oh right, how’s your older brother’s injuries? It’s a crucial time for the factory right now, so I haven’t had time to visit.”
Yu Xiaocao put down the cup in her hand and looked at the familiar oiled bag in the manager’s hands. She replied, “My older brother can get out of the bed already. Thank you for your concern, Third Young Master!”
“You’re acting as if we’re strangers!” Zhou Zixu noticed that Yu Xiaocao was looking at the oiled paper bag that he brought back, so he smiled and said, “Your family’s braised food is absolutely amazing! I’ve become addicted to it after trying a couple times! My favorites are the pig snout and pig ears. If you don’t tell them, who would have thought that such delicious delicacies are made from ingredients that other people usually don’t want?”
Yu Xiaocao said with a smile, “If Third Young Master likes to eat it, I can bring some for you the next time I come over!”
“Sure, that’s great! You don’t know how hard it was for me to buy the braised food. It took so much effort for me to squeeze in there and grab a few portions. Now that I think about it, it’s really not easy!” Zhou Zixu made a perturbed expression and successfully amused Yu Xiaocao.
Yu Xiaocao laughed and said, “In order to appease your wounded heart, I will be merciful and personally make ‘spicy sliced pork ear’ and ‘pig head meat with mashed garlic’ for you. I guarantee that you will want to eat more after trying them!”
“Sure, I couldn’t ask for more!!” Zhou Zixu followed Yu Xiaocao to the kitchen.
In order to entertain the esteemed guest from the capital, County Magistrate Wu had reserved the entire Zhenxiu Restaurant. Thus, the whole kitchen was busy prepping for the mysterious guest in the most luxurious private room.
When Head Chef Wang, who had been promoted to executive chef, saw Yu Xiaocao coming in, he greeted her with a smile, “Miss Yu, long time no see! I developed a new dish again. Taste it and give me some advice when you’re free!”
“Uncle Wang, you’re a famous chef in Tanggu Town. I don’t dare to show my slight skill in front of an expert!” Yu Xiaocao washed her hands and busied herself in the kitchen unreservedly.
For the two dishes, besides taking a little more time to mix the chili oil, everything else were ready-made. Moreover, she had the help of the kitchen’s staff who all competed to be her assistant. Thus, in a short time, the mouthwatering ‘spicy sliced pork ear’ and ‘pig head meat with mashed garlic’ were completed!
Head Chef Wang, of course, didn’t miss the opportunity to learn. He stopped the work in his hands and inwardly memorized all of Xiaocao’s steps for mixing the chili oil. Not only did he blatantly learn the secret methods, but he also asked questions from time to time, “Can the chili oil used for the pig ears also be used for other cold dishes?”
“Of course! With Head Chef Wang’s intelligence and wisdom, you can definitely make more and more delicious dishes!” After Yu Xiaocao finished making the two cold dishes, she left the kitchen to avoid delaying the kitchen from doing their work.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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