Originally, Madam Mao had heard from a relative, who worked at Zhenxiu Restaurant, that the recipe for the blazingly popular roasted chicken in town was created by a little girl from Dongshan Village, whose surname was Yu. She didn’t quite believe the story at the time. How could an eight to nine year old girl, who had been sick and weak for many years, know how to cook food?
However, when the Yu Family recommended the Zhou Family’s chickens to Zhenxiu Restaurant, their chickens, which had previously sold poorly, not only completely sold out but they also caught a bunch of chicks in the spring. They said that they wanted to expand their chicken raising activities!
If her family’s ducks still couldn’t be sold, due to the poor circumstances of the year, they would likely become a deficit for her family. Madam Mao decided to take her chances, despite only half-believing the stories, and come over to ask for help. She didn’t expect that the Yu Family’s youngest daughter truly had a gift for cooking. Within a few days, the little girl created ‘osmanthus duck’, which was a novel dish that sold very well.
It was said that this osmanthus duck not only had a tantalizing flavor but it could also nourish the body in many ways. It was rumored that if you ate it consistently it could alleviate fevers, expel toxins, nourish Yin, repair the lungs, moisturize dry areas, and beautify the skin!
Madam Mao knew that her husband didn’t have a natural gift at doing business like the Zhou Family’s brothers. Other than raising ducks, he wasn’t good at much else. Her eldest son had tuition fees and all of the other expenditures at home depended on them selling ducks to pay for them. In the past, she could only sell one duck for every two chickens in town. With that, they could barely make ends meet. This was also the reason why she had to haggle over every ounce or copper.
Now it was different. With this new dish and her relationship with the Yu Family, even if her family raised even more ducks, they wouldn’t have to worry about selling them! Madam Mao felt immensely grateful within her heart towards the Yu Family for their benevolence and care. This basket of duck eggs was her way of sincerely thanking them.
After she saw off Madam Mao, Madam Liu fretted about the basket of duck eggs. Duck eggs did not taste as good as chicken eggs. No matter how you prepared them, they would always have a slight fishy taste. Apparently, they could only just use some coarse salt to preserve them. When the peak farming season came along, they could add another dish to their table then!
“Mother, give these duck eggs to me, and I’ll prepare them!” On the other hand, Yu Xiaocao wasn’t the tiniest bit worried over the eggs. In her past life, century eggs and lean meat congee and century eggs stir fried tofu were both her favorite foods to eat. The best salted and preserved duck eggs also had rosy red yolks, delectable golden yolk oil, and a delicate flavor…’ah, can’t think about it anymore, going to start drooling soon.’
Xiaocao always did what she promised! The next day, she took some Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese cinnamon, fennel, fresh ginger, fine salt and added it to some cold water and let it all boil for around twenty minutes. Afterwards, she poured the mixture into an earthenware jar and placed the duck eggs, which were washed clean, into the mixture and sealed the jar shut.
When Madam Liu saw her doing this, she said that she was only making regular salted duck eggs. Using spices like this would be a waste, so she shouldn’t do it. Traditionally, when preserving duck eggs, people usually used some red soil and mixed it with water until it became viscous and gooey. Some coarse salt was then added and the whole mixture was used to coat the eggs and marinate them.
Xiaocao laughed, “Mother, I’m making five spice seasoned salted duck eggs. This type of duck egg has a rich fragrance and a savory flavor. I guarantee it will be better than all of the other salted duck eggs you’ve tried, just wait and see!”
“Don’t we have a whole basket of duck eggs? Why did you only marinate half of the basket?” Madam Liu asked as she helped her daughter.
Xiaocao thought for a bit and replied with a different question, “Mother, are we able to get some quicklime around here? And huangdan powder…”
“Huangdan powder? Isn’t that used by Taoist priests to concoct pills for immortality? Don’t tell me that you plan on using the rest of the duck eggs to make immortality pills? That doesn’t seem right, I’ve never heard of immortality pills needing duck eggs...” Madam Liu was quite puzzled by her question.
When she heard Madam Liu’s words, Xiaocao felt relieved. It looked like quicklime and huangdan powder were all obtainable.
Surely enough, Madam Liu continued, “Quicklime is not hard to get ahold of! A lot of townspeople in town use lime to paint their walls when they build a new house. Your youngest maternal uncle knows how to lay bricks, so we can send a letter to him to get you some. As for huangdan powder, you should probably be able to buy some at a pharmacy.”
Quicklime was used to build houses ah! Wasn’t Third Young Master Zhou at the docks overseeing the factory construction? Finding him would be perfect! The docks also seemed to have a small pharmacy too, but she wasn’t sure if they had any huangdan powder for sale. Yu Xiaocao was burning with anxiety and started to prepare to go to the docks.
After she finished breakfast, Xiaocao drove the donkey cart along with Xiaolian onto the road to the docks. Just as they left the village entrance, they saw the fat figure of Yu Heizi appear.
Previously, Yu Heizi was considered a hooligan in Dongshan Village who caused trouble all day long. Using his large and fat figure to his advantage, he bullied all of the other children in the village. After being scared witless by the little divine stone, he unexpectedly did a 180 and dropped all of his bad habits.
“Brother Heizi, are you going to the docks? Come up, we have room for you!” Yu Xiaocao didn’t have any ill will towards the reformed Yu Heizi. After all, they were family. She couldn’t pretend not to see him just because she disliked his mother!
Yu Heizi avoided Xiaocao’s eyes and chuckled sheepishly, “Ahhhh, I’m going to the docks to see if there’s any work for me to do...it’s okay, I should lose some of this fat on my body, so walking there is better!”
Yu Xiaocao giggled, “Losing weight doesn’t happen all at once. Our donkey cart moves fast, and the earlier you get there, the more opportunities you’ll have! Stop dawdling, quickly come up ah!”
Yu Heizi didn’t try to decline her offer again and clumsily climbed onto the donkey cart. Little Gray was still quite calm and didn’t decrease its speed despite having a fat Heizi added to its load. Heizi praised the donkey sincerely, “Xiaocao, your donkey was raised very well! When you first bought it, it was so skinny that it looked like a bag of bones. It was also so sick that it was at death’s door. Everyone said that you guys were wasting money. I didn’t expect this donkey to be so sturdy and healthy after being raised by you.”
“Little Gray actually wasn’t that sick, it’s just that there isn’t a good vet in town. You also know that I learned some medicine from Doctor You for a few days. I can definitely treat animals without a problem!” Xiaocao replied mildly.
Xiaolian glanced at Heizi’s figure briefly and asked curiously, “Brother Heizi, what made you want to go to the docks to find work? Did Grandmother tell you to go?”
Heizi scratched his face out of embarrassment and said, “No! I’m already fourteen years old this spring. My mother said...in two more years I could probably talk about marriage. Heh heh...we’re not able to make much at home from fishing and my mother said that all of the money at home is for Younger Uncle’s studies. In the future, Grandmother likely won’t give me much for a betrothal gift. So, I thought about it for a bit, and decided that since I’m perfectly healthy, I can go out and earn my own money!”
“You have spirit! Brother Heizi, I believe in you!” Yu Xiaocao nodded her head in admiration. In this time period, it was very common for people to find matches for fifteen to sixteen year olds. To Madam Zhang, other than her youngest son, who she treasured, everyone else was as important as grass. She really could see that old woman not giving any money for Heizi’s betrothal gift!
Heizi smiled foolishly at her, “Actually, it was you, Xiaocao, who encouraged me! You’re younger than me by five to six years but you know how to sell braised food at the docks to earn money. I’m almost at the age where I can marry a wife, so it’s not good if I only stay at home waiting for other people to get food and drink for me! If I continued to idle about at home, then I might have trouble marrying a wife in the future…”
Xiaolian gently made fun of him, “Hee hee hee... Brother Heizi, I didn’t know you wanted to marry a wife! Do you have anyone in mind?” Her teasing laugh sounded like little silver bells chiming in the air.
A bright red flush appeared on Heizi’s swarthy face, and he stammered, “That is...I heard the elders at the village entrance mention that the bum in the neighboring village does nothing all day and is unable to marry a wife even at the age of forty, so that’s why...why...don’t spread rumors about me!”
Xiaocao helped him out of this awkward hole, “Brother Heizi is right! As long as you are hardworking, do you have to worry about marrying a wife? Older Brother Heizi, what are you plans?”
“No...nothing in particular! Just want to go to the docks and see if they need any dock workers. I heard, during busy times, a dock worker can earn around fifty to sixty copper coins a day!” A yearning expression flickered across Heizi’s face.
Yu Xiaocao looked over the rolls of fat on his body with a bit of concern, “Working as a docker requires a lot of strength and endurance! Do you think you can move something that weighs around fifty kilograms?”
Heizi fell silent for a bit before he replied, “Even if I can’t at first, I still have to try. I can tell them to pay me a bit less...once I toughen up, then it’ll be fine!”
The three of them chattered during the whole journey, and, before long, they reached the docks. At this moment, there weren’t a lot of ships in the area, so Foreman Sun and his workers were all idling about.
When he saw the pair of pretty sisters, Foreman Sun walked over and greeted them, “Xiaocao, it’s been a while since I last saw you at the docks, how come you have time today?”
“Uncle Sun, I was at the docks yesterday! You’re mistaking me for someone else, I’m Xiaolian. Xiaocao is next to me!” Xiaolian grinned happily as she walked over to Grandpa Liu’s noodle stall and set up next to it. She ignited a small clay stove and put the braised food on top to heat it up.
Foreman Sun looked at Xiaolian and then looked at Xiaocao. He laughed somewhat awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his head, “You two sisters really look too alike. It’s not easy to distinguish between you two quickly. Old Liu, give me a bowl of mixed grain noodles. Xiaolian, give me a portion of pig head meat, I want the more fatty bits!”
Xiaocao was perplexed by his order and asked, “Uncle Sun, how come you’re eating mixed grain noodles? Are you tired of eating wheat noodles?”
Foreman Sun grimaced bitterly and shook his head, “Xiaocao ah, don’t make fun of your Uncle Sun. I almost can’t afford to eat this bowl of mixed grain noodles, let alone wheat flour noodles!”
“What happened? Business is not going well?” Xiaocao asked somewhat pensively as she glanced at a large ship that was docked. There was a whole group of dock workers energetically working in full swing on the boat.
Foreman Sun slapped the table fiercely and loudly exclaimed, “That bastard Liuzi is really not someone who’s easy to deal with! He pretty much monopolized all of the work on the docks! All of the strong and vigorous men also went to him. He’s not leaving me any way to make a living anymore ah!”
“That can’t be true, right? Brother Liuzi doesn’t seem like someone who would monopolize everything, right?” Xiaocao frowned and looked at the tall and brawny figure near the shore.
Foreman Sun laughed bitterly for a moment and then said, “It’s my fault too! In the past, I threw my weight around and made things difficult for Liuzi. There was a time, when business was good, that I became complacent from my success. I promoted someone to an assistant and didn’t bother managing things much myself. Who knew that I was blind and that assistant changed everyone’s daily pay to monthly pay. After a month passed, he embezzled everyone’s salary and fled! Liuzi seized the opportunity then to entice everyone over to him. In addition, he also has someone helping from above, so it’ll be very difficult for me to make a comeback. Ay...now, being able to eat my fill is considered quite good for me ah!”
Yu Xiaocao noticed someone in the distance, not too far from the docks, measuring something on the land. She soothed him, “Uncle Sun, it’ll only be hard for a short period of time. Once the docks finish construction and we have a large harbor, there will naturally be a need for a lot more workers. When that time comes, you’ll have another opportunity! However, I feel like competing bitterly with someone is not as profitable as working together…”
“Hmm? Why is it more profitable to work together? Let me hear your thoughts, ok?” From behind her, a loud and clear voice suddenly interjected.
Yu Xiaocao swiveled her head around and looked. She didn’t know when Brother Six had arrived behind her. He had a tall and heavily muscled body with skin that was colored a healthy bronze. The scar on his face didn’t diminish his manly looks one bit. He truly was the epitome of a manly man bursting with hormones!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: Why do I feel like the author has a secret crush on Brother Six? Always talking about manly hormones with him...Also, go go Heizi! Work hard! Get yourself a nice wifey!