“Eldest Maternal Uncle, Second Maternal Uncle, Eldest Maternal Aunt! Third Uncle? Why are you guys here?” Yu Xiaocao unlocked the latch, opened the door, and saw several people standing in front of the door. She couldn’t help but cry out in surprise.
Xiaocao’s third uncle, Yu Jiang, looked inside the courtyard and smiled, “I heard from Second Brother that you’re alone at home picking vegetables today. There must be a lot of work, right? Your eldest granduncle told me to come over to help you.”
“I can manage. Auntie Zhou and two older sisters came over to help. There’s also Auntie Qian!” Xiaocao quickly guided them into the yard.
Eldest Maternal Uncle Liu Pei’s hair was dripping wet from either the morning dew, or the sweat from hastily running over. With a smile on his simple and honest face, he loudly asked, “Xiaocao, did your father go to the fields? Let’s quickly go over to help them then!”
Seeing that they didn’t need his help at home, Yu Jiang turned to Xiaocao’s two maternal uncles and said, “Do the two older brothers know the way to the fields? I came over to help too. Since there’s not much to help out with at home, I’ll go help turn up the soil! Come, I’ll take you guys over!”
Xiaocao finally understood the reason for her uncles’ visit. She was moved by their intention and said, “Eldest Uncle, Second Uncle, you guys have much more land to work on at home. Everyone is busy with spring plowing right now. If you guys came over here, would Grandfather and the rest of the family be able to handle all the work?”
Eldest Maternal Aunt caressed Xiaocao’s fair, delicate face and wiped off the dirt on her chin. She smiled and said, “Your maternal grandfather is worried about your family’s spring plowing work. He said that your father’s leg isn’t very nimble and Xiaosha is injured. So, since your family has less land, we should help plow and sow your family’s fields first!”
Yu Jiang also smiled and said, “Our family also thought that way. Many hands make light work! With us here to help, it would take less than half a day to plow your family’s three plots of land.”
“Oh! Why is it so lively today?” Qian Xiaoduo drove the carriage and trotted over. From afar, he had seen a number of people standing in front of the Yu Family’s old residence. He was afraid that something had happened, so he accelerated the speed of the horse carriage and rushed over quickly.
“Older Brother Xiaoduo, you came pretty early today. We haven’t even finished gathering the vegetables. You can sit in the yard, take a sip of water, and rest for a bit.” Yu Xiaocao had noticed that he usually came with the Yao Family’s Xiaosi, so she looked behind him. Sure enough, the Yao Family’s horse carriage was coming over.”
Qian Xiaoduo laughed bitterly and said, “Miss Yu, our young boss treats you as his younger sister. So how can this lowly one let you call me ‘older brother’? Please just call me Xiaoduo!”
“You are you and he is he! Our relationships don’t interfere with one another!” Yu Xiaocao smiled sincerely.
Liu Pei looked at the sky, and then told his wife, “You don’t have to go to the fields. Stay here to help gather the vegetables and with the cooking. Xiaocao, we’ll go to the fields first.”
“Eldest Uncle, Second Uncle, you guys have rushed over from so far away. Have a drink of water and rest for a bit!” Her maternal grandmother’s family lived in Xishan Village. When coming over, they needed to travel across a big mountain. Seeing that her uncles’ trouser legs were wet from the morning dew, she knew that they had set out before dawn.
“No need! We’ll go plow the fields first!” Second Maternal Uncle Liu Han had a more quiet temperament and didn’t talk much.
Seeing that she couldn’t get them to stay, Xiaocao got water bags from the kitchen and filled them with diluted mystic-stone water. Then, she had her uncles take the water bags with them. Not only would drinking the mystic-stone water quench their thirst, but it could also eliminate fatigue.
Under Yu Jiang’s lead, her maternal uncles set out to the fields. Xiaosi’s carriage has also arrived at the entrance and began unloading the bamboo baskets. The bamboo baskets used to pack the vegetables were all made by Yu Hai. They needed a large quantity of baskets every day, so when he was free at night, he would chop some bamboo and weave baskets.
“Miss Xiaocao! Starting today, we need double the amount of vegetables. Our old master’s friend had a meal at our estate and said that our vegetables tasted better than the ones that they bought! The two families live close by, so they wanted me to help them buy some vegetables.”
The vegetables that the Yao Estate bought were mostly for the master and stewards to eat. They didn’t need a lot every day, so half a carriage was enough. Thus, he was still able to transport the vegetables even after doubling the amount needed.
Qian Xiaoduo drank all the water that Xiaocao gave him in one breath. After finishing, he wiped his mouth with his sleeve and smiled, “Mountain spring water is surely different. There a sweet taste to it. My whole body is full of strength after drinking it. Xiaosi, drink quickly and start working!”
Every time Qian Xiaoduo came, he would drink a bowl of the Yu Family’s water. Although it was just plain water, it was more refreshing than the best tea.
Xiaosi also swiftly finished drinking his bowl of water. He waved his arm and laughed, “Go! Let’s go gather vegetables!” These two would help with some work every time they came, as if it was their own home.
With the addition of three labor forces, the vegetable picking speed was naturally much faster. A few moments later, the empty baskets were filled with fresh and juicy greens.
Xiaocao washed a few cucumbers and gave one to each person, “They’re homegrown, so don’t act so courteous. Try and see how it tastes!”
Madam Fang refused and shook her head repeatedly, “Your family’s vegetables aren’t sold at a cheap price. These cucumbers probably weigh a few catties, which can be sold for several hundred copper coins. Don’t waste them. Quickly put them in the basket!”
The little glutton Zhou Shanhu had already opened her mouth wide, and just hadn’t put the cucumber into her own mouth yet. She pouted her lips when she heard her mother’s words, but she conscientiously put the cucumber into the bamboo basket.
Xiaocao quickly stuffed the cucumber back into her hands and said, “You guys have been helping for nearly two hours. What’s the big deal with eating a cucumber? Do you think that our family are misers?”
“This child!” Eldest Aunt Madam Han glared at her, and then smiled at the people who had helped out, “Although the child’s words sound rude, she is honest and sincere. So just eat! Just eat!”
Seeing that they were still hesitating to eat, Yu Xiaocao broke the cucumbers one by one and showed it to them. She smiled and said, “They’re broken, so they can’t be sold!”
“This kid!” Madam Fang didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. She picked up the broken cucumber and took a bite. The crisp and juicy mouthfeel, and the light and sweet taste, immediately conquered her taste buds.
“Wow! Xiaocao, even your family’s cucumbers taste better than others!” Zhou Shanhu exclaimed as she ate.
Of course! Cucumbers watered with the mystic-stone water were not only big but also delicious. Xiaocao naturally couldn’t directly tell them these things, so she just smiled and said, “You just think it’s delicious because it’s the first time you’re eating cucumbers in half a year. Later, when your family’s cucumbers are ripened and you eat too much of them, you won’t think it’s tasty anymore.”
Qian Xiaoduo gnawed on the cucumber in big mouthfuls and grinned, “This cucumber is really good! Miss Xiaocao, what kind of fertilizers do your family use on the fields? The crops grow so well and fast. Yesterday, the cucumbers weren’t even ready to be harvested, but we gathered two baskets today!”
“Eh… the weather has warmed up now, so it’s natural that the vegetables grew slightly faster.” Xiaocao made a random excuse. Fortunately, Qian Xiaoduo’s family weren’t farmers and he had just casually asked without the intention to dig deeper into the topic.
After the vegetables were weighed and the money was paid, Qian Xiaoduo and Xiaosi hurried back. Zhenxiu Restaurant was still waiting for the vegetables since they needed to use them to serve customers.
Madam Mao and Madam Fang had already left while they were weighing the vegetables. Her eldest maternal aunt, Madam Han, was stunned as she looked at the fifty taels in Yu Xiaocao’s hands and spoke incessantly, “I didn’t expect vegetables in this season to be so expensive! A catty of cucumbers cost thirty copper coins? Isn’t that almost the same price as pork?”
Yu Xiaocao smiled at her, gave her a red tomato, and said, “At this time, crops like cucumbers and string beans haven’t ripened yet! The rich people in town want to eat fresh greens and they don’t lack the money to buy them! A plate of smashed cucumber salad at Zhenxiu Restaurant costs one tael! This price is considered rather trivial for them!”
A plate of smashed cucumber salad could be made with just one of Xiaocao’s family’s cucumbers, so Zhenxiu Restaurant’s expense was no more than a few dozen copper coins. A plate of cucumber could earn them hundredfold in return. Tsk tsk, who else would be able to do this!
Madam Han noticed that it was still quite early and wanted to go help out in the fields. Xiaocao hastily stopped her and said, “Our family doesn’t have much land, so my parents and uncles are enough for the job. Eldest Aunt should sit down for a rest and eat a tomato. Help me clean the ducks later.”
“Tomato? I thought it was a persimmon! I was just wondering where you got this persimmon from during this time of the year.” Madam Han curiously examined the red tomato in her hands.
“This is a tomato. We eat it less at this little place of ours. It is said that people in the capital and some of the bigger cities in the south eat it more often. Tomatoes can be prepared as a cold dish with just some sugar. It can also be stir-fried with eggs, stew soup…” Yu Xiaocao motioned her eldest maternal aunt to try it.
Madam Han noticed that not many tomatoes were harvested, only four or five. So she smiled and said, “I’m not eating it. Let’s cook it later so everyone can eat it together!”
Xiaocao wanted to say something else, but Madam Han had already stood up and walked to the entrance of the kitchen. She picked up the ducks, which had their legs tied up, and was about to walk to the well.
“Wait a moment, Eldest Maternal Aunt! I’ll go get a large basin to hold the duck blood!” Speaking of duck blood, Xiaocao couldn’t help but think of delicious food such as ‘duck blood stewed with tofu’ and ‘duck blood soup with vermicelli’.
Madam Han thought about it and smiled, “It turns out that not only chicken blood, but you can also make delicious food with duck blood ah! So duck giblets can also be eaten then!”
Xiaocao nodded her head and said, “Later, I’ll braise the duck gizzard, duck liver, and duck intestines. We will have another dish for lunch! It’s too bad we don’t have vermicelli for the duck blood. Let’s just make duck blood stewed with tofu then!”
Madam Han skillfully slit the duck’s neck and dripped the blood into the basin. She asked, “Vermicelli? What’s that? Is it tasty?”
“Eldest Aunt hasn’t heard of vermicelli before?” Could it be that vermicelli didn’t exist during this era? When did vermicelli appear in history? Xiaocao, who hadn’t graduated from middle school, couldn’t help but be somewhat confused.
Madam Han shook her head, threw the dead duck on the ground, and picked up the other duck. She asked, “I’ve never heard of vermicelli. Is it delicious when stewed with duck blood?”
“Vermicelli can be made with sweet potato flour or mung bean flour. It has a smooth, slippery texture and is very chewy!” Xiaocao’s eyes lit up as a new money-making method brewed within her mind.
After boiling the water and scalding the ducks, there was also the great task of plucking the duck feathers. Xiaocao was responsible for cleaning the duck giblets, as well as braising the offals.
She prepared to make salted ducks with the two ducks. But, due to time constraints, the curing period for one of the ducks had to be slightly shortened. With her culinary skills, it shouldn’t affect the taste too much.Previous Chapter Next Chapter