Chapter 213 - Iced Water

The starch jelly business at the pier kept Xiaocao busy for a bit. For the past few days, she got up at the crack of dawn, staggered out the door with the pot of starch jelly Madam Liu had made, and drove the donkey cart with Xiaolian. On the way over, she took a nap on the donkey cart. Once they got to the pier, they simmered chili oil, prepared the condiments, kneaded the dough, rolled the dough, cooked noodles, and then greeted their first group of customers for the day.

For the other food vendors at the docks, the summer was their off-season. However, the business at the Yu Family’s sisters starch jelly stall grew with the summer heat. Other people did try to find out how to make starch jelly. Although starch jelly was easy to make. the ingredients were hard to come by.

As a result, Xiaocao and her sister made sure to tightly cover the baskets that held seaweed. They also separated part of the noodles stall into a storage space. People could come to the stall to eat starch jelly, but they couldn’t go to someone's storage space! Furthermore, the pot that cooked the seaweed was covered with a thick covering, which not only prevented someone from secretly opening it but also sped up the boiling process. 

This summer, for some reason, seaweed poured onto the shore after the tide went out. Xiaocao couldn't help but think that an earthquake had occurred at the bottom of the ocean causing the seaweed that grew at the bottom of the ocean to break off and float to shore with the changing tides. Those who wanted to find out the recipe of the starch jelly would have never thought that the seaweed floating all over the sea was the key ingredient. 

After a few days, business finally settled down. However, this business required cooking, prepping ingredients, and taking care of the customers. Xiaocao couldn't do this alone, and Xiaocao's godfather had asked her more than once in private to find spare time to take care of her godmother.

The doctor confirmed that Lady Fang was pregnant the last time they went into town. Fang Zizhen treated her as if she was a phoenix egg, catering to her every whim. He wished that he could be beside her the entire day in order to protect her from any falls or stumbles. Recently, some important people were going to come for an inspection. He couldn't avoid it, so he asked his goddaughter for help. His goddaughter's good medical skills were good and she was skilled in recognizing beneficial medicines for a healthy diet. He would only feel relieved if his goddaughter was watching over his wife. 

Thus, Xiaocao entrusted her Eldest Maternal Uncle, who was working at the docks, to send a message to her Eldest Maternal Aunt. Her aunt was currently idle at home and Xiaocao wanted to have her and Xiaolian work together to run this business. Although the starch jelly and cold noodles stall was a small business, after subtracting the costs of ingredients, the profits were decent. The two families could split the earnings and get one tael each, which added up to thirty taels a month. There were very few people at the pier who could surpass their business.

Eldest Maternal Aunt came with her younger daughter the next day. Her eldest daughter, Liu Feifeng, was almost seventeen years old and had been engaged for two years. She was going to get married at the end of the year, so she had to stay at home preparing for her wedding! Madam Han was planning on using the fifty taels she would earn from helping Xiaocao manage the stall on her eldest daughter’s dowry. After all, her eldest daughter had worked hard. 

Liu Feiying, the second daughter, was fourteen years old and recently just got engaged. Madam Han, upon hearing from Xiaocao that marrying early may not necessarily be a good thing, told her future in-law’s to wait until their daughter was sixteen or seventeen years old to marry over.

The-in-laws agreed; they couldn't disagree. The Liu brothers had made a lot of money with their brother in-law selling watermelons. Everyone in Xishan Village knew about this. The oldest son of the Liu Family didn't have a son. so he took the money he earned and bought a shop for each of his daughters in the newly built harbor as their dowry. His eldest daughter also had an additional fifty taels of silver for her dowry. This was a generous sum of money. Let alone people in Xishan Village, no one else within the dozen or so other nearby villages was willing to give such a large dowry to their daughters. Therefore, the Liu Family’s door sills had almost been flattened by the number the matchmakers coming to their door.

After picking and choosing, Madam Han chose a family living in the suburb of the town for her second daughter. If this family was in Xishan Village, they would also be considered an uncommonly rich family. This family had thirty-some mu of fertile land, and they had relatively simple relations. The older couple was known for their good tempers. The elder brother was already married and had children. When the younger brother married, the older couple planned on separating the family and living with the elder brother. The land and family property will be split equally between the brothers, and the younger brother will only have to give rice to the old couple to support them every month. This was why Madam Han chose this family for her second daughter, even though the family wasn’t the richest out of the people who came to propose marriage. 

The Liu Family's net worth kept rising. Madam Han’s second daughter wasn’t the only one who got many marriage proposals, even her youngest twelve year old daughter also had people coming over to inquire. However, Madam Han felt that her younger daughter was too young and wanted her to live joyfully for an additional two years. Furthermore, she believed that as long as her family continued to work with her younger sister in-law for the next couple of years, they would continue to prosper. By the time she needed to find a husband for her youngest daughter, there would likely be more choices. 

The Liu Family's eldest son and his wife, Madam Han, were people who didn’t like to stay idle. Right after the watermelon season was over, Liu Pei went to the docks to do manual labor. Brother Six had found him and asked if he wanted to become an official employee. Liu Pei, who was planning to sell watermelons at the end of spring every year, tactfully declined this offer. Temporary workers on the pier weren’t always able to get some work every day. However, due to Brother Six’s relationship with Xiaocao, he assigned Liu Pei work every day and even paid him the salary that regular workers received. 

Madam Han stayed at home for a few days, thinking about what business to do on the side to make some money. Before she could make a decision, her husband came home with good news.

"Xiaocao, your Eldest Uncle said you came out with a new food? He said you two sisters are too busy and can't manage the business on your own. Let me come help you guys. If there is anything you need me to do, just tell me!" Madam Han never doubted her little niece's cooking skills.

Madam Han was used to cooking at home, so it wasn’t hard for her to knead the dough and make noodles. Thus, Xiaocao gave her the recipe to make cold noodles. As for her cousin, Liu Feiyan, she was nimble and quick like her mother. As such, Xiaocao had her bring the cold noodles and starch jelly to the guests. This way, Xiaolian only needed to take care of making starch jelly and seasoning the cold noodles and starch jelly!

Madam Han and Liu Feiyan were both good workers. After the initial rush, they soon got a handle of their tasks.

"Heh! How is it? Did the two of you manage to help out?" Liu Pei and his eldest nephew, Liu Zhiwei, wiped the sweat off of themselves as they came over with great strides after loading the cargo. Liu Zhiwei was also an official employee of Brother Six now.

Madam Han took the noodles that were ready and placed them in ice water, not forgetting to roll her eyes at him. She smiled, “Did you think that the two of us eat for free? Making noodles is nothing to us.”

Liu Feiyan poured two bowls of iced water for her dad and cousin, smiled mysteriously at them and said, “Dad, drink some water to quench your thirst!”

Liu Pei had been thirsty for a long time, so he drank the water with a big gulp. A wave of coolness went through his body, which was more enjoyable than drinking cold water from the well on a summer day.

After finishing the iced water in one breath, Liu Pei let out a long sigh and exclaimed brightly, “Yan’er, bring dad another bowl! Xiaocao, where did get such cool well water?”

Liu Feiyan brought over another bowl of water and said, “Dad, younger cousin is really impressive. On such a hot summer day, she can make ice cubes. This iced water is cooled by those ice cubes!”

“Such a hot day, where would you get ice? Are you saying that our Xiaocao is an immortal in disguise, with the ability to change water into ice?” Old Hao sat down under the awning, with the summer heat hanging onto him. Grabbing a fan in the shop, he vigorously fanned himself with it. Upon hearing their conversation, he jokingly inserted a sentence.

Xiaocao also poured him a bowl of ice water. There were even two ice cubes floating on the top. The big clay jar in the noodles stall had become her ice manufacturing tool. The starch jelly and cold noodles were all chilled with ice water that was cooled with ice cubes, making them more refreshing.

Old Hao opened his eyes wide and stared at the ice cube that was the size of a pigeon egg. He picked it up with his hands and clicked his tongue as he looked at it a while longer before putting it in his mouth. He chewed it and it made a satisfying crunching nose!

The other people coming in to eat lunch also wanted a bowl of ice water after seeing this. Xiaolian said with a smile while seasoning the cold noodles, “We only have this one jar of ice, if we give it to you guys then we won’t be able to chill the cold noodles and starch jelly. Do you guys want to eat warm starch jelly and noodles?” 

Upon hearing this, the honest dock workers all laughed and gave up on this idea. One of the men, who was more witty, loudly said, “Xiaolian, we know that this iced water isn’t easy to come by and we wouldn’t be drinking it for nothing. One bowl of ice water for one copper coin, what do you think?”

Since someone was bringing money directly to their doorstep, they naturally couldn’t leave them hanging. Xiaocao, who was making ice inside, came out upon hearing this and hurriedly said, “Since uncles have brought it to this point, if we continue declining then it will become unpleasant! Alright, in the future, we will add one more thing to the menu——iced water!”

Xiaolian worriedly asked, “Little sister, making ice isn’t easy. We don’t have that many people, will we be able to handle the work?” What Xiaolian was trying to hint at was that they only had one jar of ice. Was that enough ice to sell?

Xiaocao smiled and loudly said, “If we can make it convenient for people, then it's fine if we are a bit busier! Don't worry, it’s just making more ice every day!”

Xiaocao’s meaning was to let her father expand the stall and build a formal storage room and put two large tanks inside. As long as the saltpeter and water were well proportioned and the water placed in an iron bucket, then there wouldn’t be any inconvenience.

However, in the future, their consumption of water will dramatically increase, and the water would have to be brought from the nearby villages, making it inconvenient. Nevertheless, if you had money, then you can even make ghosts do work for you. They could hire people to help them transport the water! A few copper coins for a cart full of water, there were still people willing to do this type of work!

After adding the service of selling iced water, the Yu sisters’ business became even more prosperous. Everyone was sweaty all over on such a hot day. Upon drinking a bowl of cooled iced water, it quenched their thirst and relieved them of the summer heat. With the relief from the summer heat, their appetite naturally grew. With a bowl of cold noodles and starch jelly to eat, a person felt very comfortable!

With Eldest Maternal Aunt and her older cousin helping, Xiaocao could finally find some time to take care of her pregnant godmother. There were many trees on the mountains and the environment around the residence was cooler. Lady Fang didn’t have the discomforts of a pregnant woman either. Every day, once in the morning and once in the evening, she would stroll around, like usual, enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Lady Fang’s pregnancy was stable. Every day, Xiaocao took her pulse. In addition, Xiaocao believed that Lady Fang shouldn’t do any hard labor in the first three months of pregnancy, yet proper exercise is still necessary. In terms of nutrition, Xiaocao made different tasty dishes for her godmother every day. Faced with the beautiful environment of the West Mountains and her filial goddaughter’s company, there wasn’t anything wrong with the lady’s appetite apart from not being able to stand the smell of seafood.

Xiaocao mischievously said, “Little brother must be clever and filial. He knows that being pregnant is hard on godmother, so he doesn’t want to cause you suffering.”

Lady Fang used her index finger to poke at Xiaocao’s forehead. She cradled her growing pregnant belly and revealed the brilliance of a mother’s love.

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Myst's Thoughts

Translator: Elaine