Chapter 220 - Completion

Yu Hai carried a load of mud and walked over to the brick wall. He turned his head and said with a smile, "Father, don't worry! It's all ready and hanging in the well in the backyard! Xiaocao has been preparing the osmanthus duck since yesterday. It should be ready by this afternoon."

Liu Shuanzhu licked his lips and made a gluttonous look, saying, "We are in luck! Osmanthus duck is a famous delicacy in Zhenxiu Restaurant. Even if you get in line to buy it, you might not even be able to get it. It's very expensive too! In our village, how many people can afford to spend more than ten taels on a duck? With Xiaocao's blessing, we can also enjoy the treatment of the rich. Xiaocao's cooking skill is as good as the chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant."

At this time, Xiaocao carried over a bowl of sweet mung bean soup. Upon hearing their conversation, she smiled sweetly and said, "Uncle Shuanzhu, thank you for your praise. Niece is very happy to hear it! However, we have to be humble to avoid being seen as arrogant by outsiders if they heard us. For the sake of your praise, I must show off my skills tomorrow so that Uncle Shuanzhu will anticipate the next meal after finishing the first meal."

Liu Shuanzhu smiled brightly and said, "No, that won't do! If you support my appetite like that, I won't have any excuse to come over to your house for dinner once your house is built. At that time, it'll be so hard to eat your auntie's pig food ah!"

Shuanzhu’s wife, who had come over to see if she could help, heard her husband’s words. She immediately put on a posture of a teapot, pointed at Liu Shuanzhu, and spluttered, “Liu Shuanzhu, are you saying my cooking is like pig’s food? Then don’t eat it in the future!”

Liu Shuanzhu shrunk his neck, approached his wife, and meekly asked in a low voice, “Wife, why are you here?”

"Why can't I come here? If I didn't come, how would I have known you are insulting me behind my back?" Shuanzhu's wife glanced sideways at her husband. Seeing that he was acting flatteringly and apologizing in a decent manner, she said, "Recently, our father’s appetite hasn’t been very good because of the summer heat, and he wants to eat century eggs. Is it true Xiaocao's family have the century eggs and biandan sent from the Zhou Family’s factories? I want to buy some for our father and improve his appetite."

Shuanzhu's wife was talking about Liu Shuanzhu's father, who had gotten ill several days ago. He just got a bit better, but it was still hard for him to eat. It was rare for him to crave for something, and the family’s living conditions were better now, so Shuanzhu's wife came with the money.

"Dear, you are so nice! It is the blessing of three lifetimes for me, Liu Shuanzhu, to be able to marry you!" Liu Shuanzhu's wife was a very good person. She treated her in-laws as if they were her biological parents, so Liu Shuanzhu's parents praised their daughter-in-law's filial piety wherever they went.

When Shuanzhu’s wife heard this, she smiled and said, “My parents passed away early, so I couldn’t treat them well. Father-in-law and Mother-in-law treat me as if I were their biological daughter, so if I didn’t treat them as my parents, then am I still human?”

Although the ancient people attach great importance to filial piety, there were still cases of the mistreatments of parents-in-law by their daughters-in-law. There weren’t many daughters-in-law like the Liu Family’s, who got along so well with their parents-in-law.

Shuanzhu’s wife bought ten century eggs from Xiaocao at the market price. Xiaocao didn’t plan on taking her money, but Shuanzhu’s wife insisted, and said that if Xiaocao didn’t take the money then she wouldn’t take the eggs!

Speaking of the Zhou Family’s century eggs, the demand for them definitely exceeded the supply. The shop that sold the century eggs in town had a long queue every day, and they also had to limit the purchase quantity. Although century eggs factories were also opened in the prefectural city and the capital, the supply still wasn’t enough for the capital and the prefectural city. In the entire Dongshan Village, Xiaocao’s family was the only ones who didn’t lack century eggs. Other people either didn’t have the time to line up or were unwilling to buy it; after all, century eggs were much more expensive than duck or chicken eggs.

Thanks to Yu Hai’s popularity and the fact that the two meals served each day were dishes that even the rich couldn’t buy at Zhenxiu Restaurant, there was an endless stream of people coming by to help. Naturally, the progress of the house construction was much faster than expected!

“With beams on the roof, there will be food in the house. If the roof doesn’t have beams, then even the domestic animals won’t prosper.” When building a house, installing the beams was just as grand as the ceremonies for marriage. On this day, almost all of the villagers of Dongshan Village had come to celebrate.

Choosing the main beams for the roof was a very important matter. First, when choosing the wood, it had to be hard and durable. It was also important that the trees chosen had the same thickness from top to bottom, and that they were perfectly straight. Even if the tree was just slightly bent, it wouldn’t be usable at all. Ever since Yu Hai decided to build a house, he began to walk around the dense forests of West Mountains and chose a lot of trees for making beams.

The highly respected village chief presided over the beam installation ceremony. First, Yu Hai and his family put up offerings, lit incense, and prayed that the beam installation would be done safely and smoothly. On the main beams, there were auspicious sayings such as ‘May the household thrive and prosper’. The Eight Diagrams was also drawn on some of the beams to pray for the family’s prosperity and safety.

Yu Jiang led a group of youngsters and lit a string of firecrackers, which crackled loudly and created a festive atmosphere. With a cry of ‘prosperity with the beam installation’, the beam was lifted up. The strong youths of the village carried the beams for the roof and used ropes to pull them up. When pulling, they had to pull with equal strength. Otherwise, the beam would be uneven, which would be very unlucky. 

Beam installation was a very important event. The friends and relatives who came to congratulate them all received gifts such as steamed buns, meat buns, and pastries. After putting up the beams, the steamed buns and meat buns would be thrown by the people standing on the roof, which was called ‘Scattering Flowers on the Beam’. The villagers present would then rush to get these buns. While grabbing the buns, someone commented, “Only the Yu Family would be willing to use white flour steamed buns and meat stuffed buns for their beam installation ceremony.”

Yu Hai happily laughed at the lively scene before him, because it meant the more people there were, the more money they would earn.

The relatives of the Yu Family and Liu Family were busy greeting the guests who came to celebrate. The women went into the kitchen to help cook. The Yu Family had prepared more than a dozen tables for the all-day banquet. Everyone who came today could sit at the table, whether they were old or young, male or female, and even if they didn’t bring a gift. The beam installation ceremony was originally meant to be a lively and auspiciousness event, to express a yearning for a better life. 

Many years later, the villagers of Dongshan Village still talked delightedly about the Yu Family’s all-day banquet. Even the Yu Family hadn’t expected that the main chef of the Zhenxiu Restaurant, Head Chef Wang, who was one of the best cooks in the Great Ming Dynasty, would come by and offer to personally cook for them.

The head of the Zhou Family’s second branch, the fifteen year old Third Young Master Zhou, not only did he personally come to give his congratulations, but he also brought over two carts full of food. Among them were fifty roasted chickens, fifty osmanthus ducks, and countless century eggs. 

When the people who came to give their congratulations smelled the delicious fragrance, they couldn’t help but swallow their saliva a few times. Several youngsters were so impatient that they kept scratching their ears and cheeks, and ran through the crowd like monkeys. They only quieted down when the adults in their family kicked them on their bottoms and threatened to send them home to eat leftover steamed buns if they didn’t behave.

There wasn’t another all-day banquet more sumptuous and delicious in Dongshan Village. In the decades that followed, the Yu Family’s all-day banquet almost became a legend and was widely known by later generations.

Do you know how much a table of dishes cost at Zhenxiu Restaurant? With roasted chicken and osmanthus duck, a table cost at least one hundred taels. Fifty tables at the banquet meant at least five thousand taels!! The villagers of Dongshan Village sat on mats and looked dizzily at the delicacies. They felt as if they were in a dream and didn’t move their chopsticks for a long time. 

Old Yu sat at the main table next to the village head, who was nervous because Zhou Zixu, the future head of the Zhou Family, was also present! Also present were Yu Hai’s in-laws——Xiaocao’s maternal grandfather and maternal uncles. Yu Hai and Fang Zizhen also sat at the table as the hosts. From time to time, they went to the other tables to toast the guest and make sure they were eating well. Fang Zizhen provided the wine, which were all procured from the prefectural city. The villagers of Dongshan Village would be happy to drink a sip of bad wine, so when faced with good wine worth several dozens of taels, they were drunk before even taking a sip of the wine.

The villagers of Dongshan Village had never eaten such a delicious meal before. How they wish they could chew all the bones of the roasted duck and swallow them. Even the stir-fried vegetables are better than meat. As expected of a famous chef! The sumptuous meals were all swept clean, and even the onions and ginger in the dishes were picked and eaten. It wasn’t that not enough food was prepared, but that everyone was holding their bloated stomachs and crying. It was very difficult to eat such delicious food a second time in this lifetime. If they didn’t make room in their stomach to eat, they would regret it later!!

There were ten tables set up for the all-day banquet. A total of five rounds of meals were served, from noon to sunset.

After installing the beams, the house would be finished soon. For the sake of the house's beauty, Xiaocao asked the craftsman specially to make upturned cornice. The craftsman was specially requested from Imperial Prince Jing's mountain manor, but she didn't get them for free. Lady Fang sent Princess Consort Jing a pot of Eighteen Scholar camellia.

Lady Fang's maidservant, Linglong, has some knowledge of flowers. Xiaocao took her to their secret base and transplanted many valuable flowers and plants back. With just the orchids that Lady Fang loved, there were already three or four kinds that she had only heard but not seen before. However, they were all famous species that were difficult to find!

As soon as Lady Fang was in a good mood, her appetite got better and her portion size increased. While Xiaocao was happy for her godmother, she didn’t forget to tell her to not overdo it, to avoid difficulties where the child would be too big! Lady Fang was thirty-five years old. In this era, she was an old woman with a pearl in her stomach! If the child was too big, it will be difficult to give birth. In this era, with the level of medical care and no cesarean section, encountering difficult deliveries would be a close shave with death! Fang Zizhen listened to what his goddaughter said, and became nervous. He strictly controlled his wife’s portion size, and often personally paid attention to it. Ay, it was so worrying! He would be worried if his wife didn’t have an appetite, but he also had to worry about her overeating! 

The days passed by quietly. With the help of the heavens, there wasn’t much rain this summer. Just before the autumn harvest, the Yu Family’s five-room brick and tiled-roof house was finally completed!

The high walls were built with stone and was absolutely solid, so there was no fear of the wild animals on the mountain coming down. The Yu Family’s old residence was too close to the West Mountains. Old Yu said that when he was little, wild animals often came down the mountain. A hungry wolf had jumped into their home and bit his sleeping Second Uncle to death. The entire family was awakened by pained screams. When he came out with a club, his second uncle was already bitten into an unrecognizable state and died soon after. When they first split from the main family, Yu Hai was worried about the safety of his family! Looking at the high stone walls, those wild animals wouldn’t be able to jump into their house unless they had wings!

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Myst's Thoughts

Yay! It's finally completed!

Translation: Elaine