The village head, who had already queued up till the side of the door, extended his head to peer inside the grain shop, only to see that the grains inside had been piled to the height of half a wall. How could they say there was no grain?
At this moment, the shop assistant of the grain shop took up the door plank, ready to close up shop. The village head panicked and was about to debate with the shopkeeper when Yu Hai walked over, lightly waving at him and whispered, “Village Head, it’s no use even if you argue with the shopkeeper. You’ve also seen the man who had come just now—it was only because of something he said to the shopkeeper that made him announce that there was no more grain left. Even the shopkeeper cannot defy the wishes of his superiors.”
The shopkeeper of the grain shop, hearing bits and pieces of their conversation, nodded his head at Yu Hai. He thought that this man looked somewhat familiar, and only realized a few moments later that this seemed to be Yu Hai of Dongshan Village. Any servant of any importance in the employ of the Zhou Family knew, the Yu Family of Dongshan Village was extremely trusted and respected by the future head of the Zhou Family.
Although the shopkeeper had no idea why the future head of the family would hold a mere farmer in such high regard, but as a servant of the Zhou Family, being able to judge and act according to the master’s wishes was the way to attain the master’s favor. The servant, who told him to shut their doors and raise the prices by half the next day just now, was currently the favorite of the eldest young master from the first branch. Even though Eldest Young Master was in charge of the Zhou Family’s grain shops, but in the end, it was still Third Young Master from the second branch who was going to be the future head of the family. Naturally, the shopkeeper of the grain shop would have his own considerations in his heart.
The shopkeeper of the grain shop walked over with a smile and said to Yu Hai, “Is this Brother Yu Hai?”
Seeing Yu Hai nod, he continued, “May we speak elsewhere?”
At this time, the doors of the Zhou Family’s grain shop had already been closed shut. The queue in front of the door made some ruckus for a while, but they had all slowly scattered in time. The ten or so villagers from Dongshan Village, who had come to buy grain, were the only ones left. They looked helplessly at the village head, waiting for his word.
The shopkeeper of the grain shop called Yu Hai to the side and asked with a smile, “Brother Yu Hai came to buy grain?”
What else could he have come for? Could he have been queueing in front of a grain shop to buy meat? Yu Hai nodded his head and said, “Yes, the village is suffering from a locust plague, so there is no harvest. We want to stock up on some grain and see if we can last through this famine.”
The shopkeeper of the grain shop thought for a moment, and then said, “Brother Yu Hai, how much grain are you planning to buy? As you can see, our eldest young master had given out orders to close the shop and raise the price. But if it’s Brother Yu Hai who wants to buy, I’ll sell it to you at today’s price—take it as making a new friend!”
Eldest Young Master didn’t know how much grain the shop sold today anyways, so he could do a favor for Yu Hai today and make plans for his future. The shopkeeper of the grain shop had capabilities, but he lacked opportunities. If he could get a chance to appear in front of the future head of the family due to Yu Hai, with his capabilities, he definitely wouldn’t be a mere shopkeeper of a small grain shop in the future.
Yu Hai appeared conflicted upon hearing this. He shook his head slowly and said, “There are thirty or so families in my village who are all waiting for grain to survive! As fellow villagers, I will not be selfish and care only for my own, disregarding the survival of others!”
The shopkeeper of the grain shop hesitated for a while before giving Yu Hai a thumbs up, saying, “Brother Yu Hai is indeed an affectionate and righteous man. How much grain does your village need? If it is within one thousand catties, your brother, I, can still make the decision!”
Yu Hai was elated, and he eagerly exclaimed, “Really? That’s excellent! I’ll go and ask the village head how much grain we need!”
Yu Hai ran over and pulled the village head to the side, quietly telling him that the shopkeeper agreed to sell Dongshan Village one thousand catties of grain in private. The villagers who came to buy grain this time were mostly the ones who didn’t have much grain in their store and also had no harvest. There was a total of thirteen families.
Coarse grains usually cost about five copper coins per catty, but the Zhou Family grain shop was currently selling them for five times the usual price, which was twenty-five copper coins per catty. These ten or so families had all saved a small fortune from selling spoon worms and oysters, so even though they were quite distressed about spending the money, all of them were still capable of buying grain. Once they heard that the shop was raising its prices, they wanted to buy more grain back. However, the shopkeeper only supplied them a thousand catties of grain for them to distribute among themselves. What should they do?
In the end, the village head made the decision for everyone to distribute according to the headcount in each family. The families with more family members would get a little bit more, while smaller households would get less grain. On average, each family would obtain at least seventy to eighty catties of grain. If they wanted to buy more at this price, it would be impossible! Tomorrow? The price of grains would increase considerably.
A thousand catties of grain were all loaded onto the horse and donkey carts from Dongshan Village. Yu Hai also symbolically bought about a hundred catties of fine grain, totaling up to a cost of nearly five taels. Yu Hai silently thought that the grain shops was really a profitable business. When he came to purchase two days ago, a hundred catties of fine grain only cost about one tael, and now he had gratuitously spent five times the original price!
When he reached home, everyone in the family were busy with work. The hot weather made it unsuitable for the locusts to be left out for too long, so the adults and children worked together to preserve the locusts that they managed to catch.
With Madam Liu and Oldest Aunt’s help, Yu Xiaocao made grasshopper sauce. Locusts were more commonly known as grasshoppers and had a delectable texture—delicious like prawns. It also contained protein and all kinds of amino acids that would be beneficial towards the human body if eaten.
In her past life, she had tried making grasshopper sauce according to a recipe she found on the internet. It was delicious and went well with meals. She let her mother and oldest aunt put the locusts into water to drown them before cleaning. After that, they plucked off the wings because the wings could not be chopped into smaller pieces and would affect the overall texture.
Then, using the ratio of one catty of locusts against one and a half ounce of salt, they pickled the locusts, letting them ferment naturally. In about twenty days, the sauce would be ready for consumption. Another type of sauce would be fresh fried grasshopper sauce, which was made by stir-frying crushed deep-fried grasshoppers with minced meat, spring onions and chili together. When it was ready, it would be even more fragrant than fried shrimp.
However, anyone would be able to consume fermented grasshopper sauce, but if it was fresh fried grasshopper sauce, it was easy to get an allergic reaction to grasshoppers. So, Yu Xiaocao cleaned eight earthen jars, which could hold ten catties each, and made a lot of fermented grasshopper sauce.
At noontime, none of them had the mood to cook anything else, so Yu Xiaocao made cold grasshopper sauce. After deep-frying the locusts until they were cooked, she diced them and added some crushed, fried peanuts and parsley. After that, she drizzled hot oil on top and mixed it well with salt, sugar and chili oil.
She also made stir-fried grasshopper sauce. First, she cut fatty meat into small pieces and diced the cleaned and dried grasshoppers into small pieces. She continued to mince them together until the mixture had a mashed texture. She placed the wok over a big fire and heated the cooking oil. Pouring in the minced grasshopper, she stir-fried it until it was fragrant, slightly dry, and had oil seeping out of the fatty meat. Then, she mixed it thoroughly with the minced grasshopper. After throwing in some spring onions, she stir-fried until evenly mixed, and added salt and MSG, along with some chili flakes. The dish was done after a few more light tosses.
The fragrant smell of the grasshopper sauce was carried by the wind to the Zhou Family not so far away. Zhou Shanhu, who could not hold her composure, rushed towards them and asked, “Xiaocao, what tasty food are you making now? It’s so fragrant that I’m almost drooling!”
Yu Xiaocao told her the recipe for making grasshopper sauce. Once Zhou Shanhu heard that this fragrance was actually made from locusts, she immediately became excited, “Wait for a moment, Xiaocao, I’ll call my mother over. You have to tell her!”
Zhou Shanhu was older than Yu Xiaocao by a year and didn’t have much talent in cooking, and thus belonged in the ‘able to cook edible rice’ category. If she were to learn how to make grasshopper sauce, she would probably not be able to produce even one plate of grasshopper sauce by the next day.
After teaching Auntie Zhou the method of making grasshopper sauce, Yu Xiaocao carried on with making a lot of pancakes using mixed grain, so lunch was pancake wrapped grasshopper sauce.
Fortunately, no one in the Yu Family was allergic to locusts. The fried grasshopper was extremely crispy and exceptionally delicious when eaten. Combined with the distinct fragrance of grains in the pancakes, the entire family enjoyed the meal thoroughly. Little Shitou who came back from town, ate four big pancakes in one go and still wasn’t sated, “Fangping, let’s go to the foot of the West Mountains later and catch more locusts back. That way, we’ll be able to eat grasshopper sauce all year long!”
Liu Yaner glanced at him and said, “With such hot weather, the locusts can hardly last for more than a few days. Even if we made all of them into grasshopper sauce, we also don’t have so many earthen jars.”
Little Fangping spoke childishly, “It’s alright. We can make grilled locusts, deep-fried locusts, stir-fried locusts, stewed locusts… We can have a locust feast every day! Older Cousin’s cooking skills are so good that whatever she makes will definitely taste good!”
Everyone pictured the sight of the table filled with locusts, which had turned into an insect feast, and they couldn’t help but shudder. However, Little Shitou smiled mysteriously and said, “Don’t forget that we have the skills to make ice. We can make an icehouse at home to freeze the locusts. This way, even when the locust plague has passed, we can just take them out from the icehouse and make grasshopper sauce whenever we want to eat it. Isn’t that great?”
“Icehouse? That’s something only a wealthy master can afford!” Liu Hu mumbled to himself.
At these times, wealthy folk were mostly collected ice from the river during winter and then stored them in their cellars. It was apparent how much manpower and material resources was needed for that. Nevertheless, Yu Xiaocao knew the technique to crafting ice, so even if the weather was hot, she could still produce ice.
No sooner said than done! In the afternoon, Yu Xiaocao specially took charge of making the ice, and Yu Hai led the entire family to carve out the cellar. By nighttime, the first batch of ice had already been made successfully. Quite a lot of ice was made in this batch, and it managed to fill up one third of the cellar. The people who were in charge of collecting the locusts in the afternoon also sent their first batch of locusts into the icehouse.
Yu Caifeng worriedly looked at the ice inside the cellar, “The ice won’t all melt in just one night, right?”
Yu Xiaocao was full of confidence as she replied, “Don’t worry, Oldest Aunt! There’s a lot of ice in store, so the temperature of the icehouse will be low—they won’t melt too fast. Besides, our cellar was dug quite deep underground, and the heat insulation was done nicely; there’s definitely no problem in transforming it into an icehouse! Even if a portion of it melted today, we’ll just make more to replenish it tomorrow. The icehouse of wealthy masters could be used from winter till summer, so how could ours not last for even one night?”
With the existence of an icehouse, they started worrying that the locusts that had been caught would rot. All throughout the night, under Yu Caifeng and Madam Liu’s lead, they started tidying up the locusts that had been caught, and only after storing them into the icehouse did they feel relieved. All members of the Yu Family had gone through difficult times before, and especially as this was a year of disasters, they were extremely zealous towards food.
After working hard for the entire night, everyone except the few children, who didn’t stay up for the night shift, were tired and dazed. They returned to their own rooms to make up for some sleep after having breakfast. Little Shitou excitedly took bags and baskets and brought Liu Fangping to catch grasshoppers.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
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