Yu Xiaocao handed a peeler to him. With a potato in her left hand and a scraper in her right hand, she demonstrated to him and then said with a smile, “Just scrape the potato skin like this. We’re depending on you for the potato feast at noon ah!”
Madam Liu, who came to see if they needed help, cried out in surprise, “This child, how can you let His Highness the Royal Prince work?”
What shocked Head Steward Liu the most was that his master didn’t say a word and swiftly peeled a big potato with the peeler in his hands, making it clean and smooth. He even showed it to Miss Yu with a proud expression, “Look! This prince scraped it faster than you! Would your clumsy little hands be capable with a knife? You’re probably just good with a cooking ladle!”
Head Steward Liu covered his face, ‘My dear lord ah, what is there to show off with a potato peeler?’ However, he was very pleased and happy that his master was able to show his child-like side. With her innocence and sincerity, Miss Yu allowed his master to wholeheartedly relax, and even his temperament became much more easy-going.
Imperial Prince Jing, who had also noticed this, had specially called him to his study and asked if something special happened to his master in Dongshan Village. When Prince Jing found out that Master’s change was due to a little peasant girl, who was only ten, he didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry as he shook his head, “It’s fate ah! Perhaps it’s because Yang’er is the youngest in the family and doesn’t have any younger siblings, so he treated the little girl as someone who was weak and needed protection, right?”
When Head Steward Liu came out of the study, he heard Imperial Prince Jing whispering to himself, “Mhm… Meijuan’s (Prince Jing’s pet name for Princess Consort Jing) body has gotten much better. Is it time to give Yang’er a younger brother or sister?”
Head Steward Liu nearly tripped over his own feet. Did his master change only because Miss Yu was younger than him and needed protection? Among the young girls accompanying the noble madams in the capital, there were many who were younger than his master, but why didn’t he see his master even look at them? Last time, the young ten year old daughter of the senior official of the Supreme Court wanted to get closer to his master, but she ended up crying after being scared by his gaze. How come he didn’t see his master treating her more tenderly?
Compared with the girls in the capital who boasted about being noble young ladies, always put on airs, and had fake smiles on their faces, Miss Yu possessed the innocence, naturality, sincerity, and kindness that they lacked! Perhaps the thing that his master wanted to get close to were these qualities that Miss Yu had?
Head Steward Liu put away his thoughts. He wanted to take the potato from his master’s hands, but Zhu Junyang evaded him.
Zhu Junyang had become more adept at peeling potatoes. He pointed at the large basin of potatoes that Yu Xiaocao brought over and told Head Steward Liu, “Don’t steal from this prince. If you want to practice, there’s more than enough over there!”
Two rows of tears immediately flowed down Head Steward Liu’s cheeks, ‘My dear prince ah! This old servant wants to help you get out of the laborious task of peeling potatoes. I didn’t expect you to be ungrateful and drag this old servant into it too!’
He accepted his fate and picked up a potato. Since his master was able to do this, as a servant, what could he say? Head Steward Liu worked hard to peel the potatoes. If he peeled more, then his master would have less work to do.
Yu Xiaocao poked her head out of the kitchen and looked at the imperial bodyguards who were standing in a row at the entrance, like pillars. She boldly hollered at the young royal prince, “Young Royal Prince, your subordinates have nothing to do so they might as well sit down and help us rub the kernels off the corn cobs! Look, not only in this courtyard, but there are also corn being dried in the adjacent courtyard. Since the weather is good these days, let’s rub off all the kernels and dry them thoroughly, so that we can put them into bags as soon as possible.”
Zhu Junyang glared at Yu Xiaocao, who was being insatiable, and then waved his hands at the guards at the entrance. The leader of the imperial bodyguards, Wu Deshun, marched over and waited for his master’s orders.
“Tell your brothers to come over and learn how to rub the kernels off the cob. It was difficult to get these corn back, so don’t make any mistakes. Hurry up!” Zhu Junyang ordered expressionlessly.
Wu Deshun secretly glanced at the potato that his master was peeling in his hands and thought, ‘Even Master was ordered to do work, so there was no way that we, the subordinates, can stay idle. There’s no need to say anything. I need to quickly rub off the kernels.’
When Yu Xiaocao poked her head out of the kitchen again, a dozen or so imperial guards were sitting in the courtyard. They had strong hands, so when they rubbed the corncobs, only the sound of kernels falling down could be heard. Yu Xiaocao smiled so much that only her teeth could be seen. She shouted out towards that yard, “Imperial bodyguard older brothers, thank you for the hard work! I’ll add more food for your lunch ah! Little Shitou, go buy five catties of pork belly and ten catties of spareribs from the neighboring village’s Uncle Li. Little Fangping, go to Auntie Zhou’s house and buy five cockerels, and then ask your older brother to help slaughter them!”
After receiving their tasks, the two little fellows put down the corn in their hands. Little Shitou ran into the room to get the money, gave his younger cousin a silver bit, and then they split up to accomplish their tasks.
Among the imperial bodyguards, Wu Deshun and two other guards had been to Dongshan Village before. They knew that the little girl from the Yu Family was an excellent cook, and her cooking was much better than many of the famous restaurants in the capital. Thus, he smiled and said to his fellow brothers, “Brothers, work hard! There will be a delicious meal at noon!”
The other bodyguards didn’t think too much of it. Wasn’t it just pork belly, spareribs, and chicken? They frequently ate these at home. Even if the meals from peasant families were tasty, how special would it be?
When a tantalizing fragrance drifted out of the kitchen, the imperial bodyguards couldn’t stay calm anymore. They kept rubbing the corn in their hands, but their heads all looked towards the direction of the kitchen. Their eyes were all fixed in that direction, and they swallowed their saliva from time to time.
Looking at his hopeless subordinates, Wu Deshun shook his head with a smile and freed a hand to rub his own tummy. So fragrant ah! It was so appetizing that the ‘gluttonous bug’ in his stomach was rebelling!
As if there was someone dragging its tail, time slowly passed by. After waiting and yearning, it was finally time for lunch. The Yu Family took out stools and wooden boards and set up a simple dining table under the shed built for rubbing kernels. They also borrowed some chairs and stools from their neighbors. With a dozen or so imperial bodyguards and over ten members of the Yu Family together, the scene was quite spectacular, as if they were holding an all-day banquet.
The imperial bodyguards sat in rows, and they all looked eagerly towards the kitchen. It was time to serve the dishes!
It was indeed a potato feast! Braised potatoes, pan-fried potato bites, cumin baked potatoes, sliced potatoes sautéed with green pepper and tomato, sautéed spareribs with potatoes, braised pork with potatoes, sliced pork stir-fried with potatoes, sour and spicy shredded potatoes, sliced potatoes pot, shredded potatoes stir-fried with eggs… There were also French fries, potato chips, and mashed potatoes, which were the children’s favorites, as well as their homemade ketchup. Even the staple food were made of potatoes, such as pan-fried potato pancake, shredded potato egg pancakes, and the delicious-smelling crispy potato pancakes——such a sumptuous potato feast ah!
They were all homemade dishes, but after all, potato was a new type of food and it was also very tasty. The guards relaxed their cheeks and ate until their mouths were covered with grease. They couldn’t stop eating!
Her grandfather and oldest aunt’s family, who sat at the same table as the young royal prince, didn’t even know what to do with their arms and legs, let alone eat. Thus, Yu Xiaocao considerately set up a table for them in the West Courtyard and brought the dishes over.
The Yu Family members were already used to eating at the same table as the royal prince. Although the royal prince didn’t really smile a lot, he was quite a good person. He didn’t put on airs, and he also didn’t require them to follow formalities.
“Young Royal Prince, you should try my second sister’s French fries. Dipping them in the ketchup, there is a sweet and sour taste. It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It’s very delicious!” Little Shitou held the French fries that his second sister specially placed in front of him and suggested Royal Prince Yang to try it.
Zhu Junyang readily picked one up and dripped it into the ketchup. He put it into his mouth and carefully tasted it, and then slowly nodded to Little Shitou, who was looking at him expectantly, saying, “Mhm, delicious!”
Suddenly, as if he had found an ally, Little Shitou beamed with delight and said, “If it’s tasty, then you should eat more! With my second sister’s cooking skills, she can make something different out of anything!”
Zhu Junyang took a bite of the ‘pan-fried potato bites’. The freshly fried potatoes were crispy on the outside and glutinous on the inside, and retained the purest flavors of potatoes. It had a delicious smell, and with a bite, the tangy taste melted within one’s mouth. It was indeed a simple and good taste that people couldn’t easily give up on.
“Little Shitou, you can’t just eat French fries and potato chips. These can only be considered snacks. If you want to grow as tall as the imperial bodyguard older brothers, you need to eat more proper meals!” Seeing that her younger brother was eating the French fries with relish, Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but remind him.
Little Shitou obediently nodded and said, “I’ll eat one more… Second Sister, when school starts, can you fry some French fries and potato chips for me to bring back? Little Fatty, Brother Jinye, and Situ definitely haven’t eaten them before. I want to let them try it!”
Yu Xiaocao looked at the young royal prince and said to Little Shitou, “Of course! But, you have to explain to your friends the potatoes that our family eats were the ones that got damaged when being harvested. The potatoes can’t be used as seeds!”
Zhu Junyang looked at her and said, “No need to be so careful! With around a thousand catties of potatoes, this prince can still make the decision to give you some! In principle, these potatoes and corn are grown by your family, and thus belong to your family. When I gave the seeds to you, I made it clear that the imperial court will buy them according to the price you set after they are grown. Have you guys decided on the price?”
The Yu Family were very genuine and honest people. Zhu Junyang wasn’t concerned that they would set a high price at all. ‘Mhm! These potatoes taste quite good and the cooking methods are also very simple. If they are popularized, the common people can learn them too!’
Zhu Junyang kept eating, but he also didn’t forget to say to Yu Xiaocao, “You should organize the cooking methods for potatoes, and it will be best if you write it down in a book. This prince will take it back when I go back to the capital next time!”
Yu Xiaocao grumbled, “Young Royal Prince, you want to take my recipes with just a few words? You’re not going to give me some benefits in return? Back then, when the emperor emeritus traveled incognito, he had spent three hundred taels to buy my recipes for pig head meat and braised food! My family is also continuously receiving money for the roasted chicken and roasted duck recipes that I sold to Zhenxiu Restaurant… Aiya, Mother, why did you hit me?”
Madam Liu looked at the young royal prince’s expression and pretended to hit her younger daughter again as she said, “This child, is money the only thing you think about? The royal prince and the emperor got these high-yielding potatoes and corn so that the common people can fill their stomachs. You, on the other hand, had only done a small favor but still wants some benefit. Aren’t you ashamed!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter