Seeing Yu Xiaocao nodding lightly, Little Fatty danced excitedly, “Second Sister is the best! We’re so lucky to be able to eat delicious food! I have long wanted to try Zhenxiu Restaurant’s new dish, but I couldn’t get a table!”
Little Shitou couldn’t bear to look at him and reminded, “Who’s your second sister? Sun Runze, don’t forget that you’re two months older than my sister!”
Sun Runze’s thick face had been well trained. He grinned and said, “We have such a close friendship, so isn’t your second sister also my second sister? I’m just following you ah! Alright, alright! This isn’t important. Go, let’s go study in your room. We need to work hard so that we don’t let down our second sister who’s working so hard to cook for us…”
Yu Xiaocao, who was cutting potatoes in the kitchen, saw the three half-grown children dressed in scholarly gowns going into her younger brother’s room with their arms around each other. Shortly afterwards, she could hear the sound of them reading aloud. She lightly shook her head and smiled. The potatoes in her hands were cut into thin shreds, and then soaked in clear water.
She added a piece of firewood into the stove and poured some oil into the cauldron. After she stir-fried the onion, ginger, minced garlic, and chili pepper to get the flavor, she put in the shredded potatoes that were soaked in water and continued to stir-fry them. She added matured vinegar to enhance the fragrance, and then also added some salt. At the end, before plating the dish, she poured in MSG made from the Zhou Family’s seasoning factory. The sautéed shredded potatoes glistened under the light. With a delicious sour and spicy taste, it whetted one’s appetite and made one want to eat more rice. Little Fatty could finish half a plate by himself. Yu Xiaocao didn’t even eat one mouthful and it was completely devoured by the three little fellows.
For another dish, she used the marbled meat of wild boar and homegrown bean sprouts, which were braised with vermicelli, and made into a home-cooked dish. The wild boar meat was stewed until it was soft and mushy, and melted in one’s mouth. The vermicelli had absorbed the fats from the streaky meat, so it was very flavorful when eaten. The bean sprouts also added a refreshing taste to it. This ‘pork and bean sprouts braised with vermicelli’ received unanimous praise from all three kids.
Liu Jinye really liked the spinach and eggs soup. Although his family was quite well-off, he seldom saw leafy greens for the entire winter. It really aroused one’s appetite when seeing the green and yellow colors of the ‘spinach and eggs soup’.
These were usually very simple dishes, but they were rare delicacies during a disaster year. Liu Jinye and Little Fatty ate until their bellies were bloated and they couldn’t even bend down. After eating, Little Shitou very naturally cleaned up and went to wash the dishes. Upon seeing this, the two little guys also followed him into the kitchen and helped wash the dishes. Yu Fan’s second sister had worked hard to cook the meal, so they had to help out with the chores. Otherwise, how would they have the face to come over to eat in the future?
When washing the dishes, Liu Jinye quietly said to the simple-minded Little Fatty, “If we want to eat these dishes that Yu Fan’s second sister made for this meal outside, it will cost at least ten taels. The potato and spinach were especially rare ingredients. The snow hasn’t melted yet, so I don’t even know where Yu Fan’s family got the leafy greens. Vegetables are so expensive right now, so us giving ten taels a month, seems too little…”
Little Fatty nonchalantly said, “If ten taels isn’t enough, then let’s pay twenty taels! Just say that we need more nutrition before the exam. I’m sure our families won’t be against that. I know your family well. There’s no way that your family can’t afford twenty taels, right?”
Liu Jinye nodded and decided to ask his family to send him more money tomorrow. Even with twenty taels, Yu Fan’s family would be the ones suffering losses if they ate like this for every meal.
The next day, Liu Jinye and Sun Runze had someone send a letter back to their respective homes. They told their families that in order to not affect next month’s exam and to be able to get better food, they were going to eat at their classmate’s house. They asked their families to send some more money over.
When their families read the letters, they felt slightly alarmed in their hearts. What kind of meals was it that even ten taels a month wasn’t enough? Their sons were too young and naïve, so could it be that they were being deceived?
During the first month, the silk and satin shop had average business. Thus, Liu Jinye’s father decisively packed his bags, brought along some of his son’s favorite snacks, and went to Tanggu Town. Sun Runze’s father also asked the prefectural magistrate for a few days off to check on the people who his son was eating meals with.
The two had already met since their sons were classmates. When they met on the road, they decided to travel together. Setting out early in the morning, they rushed over and finally reached Tanggu Town in the evening. When they arrived at the entrance of Rongxuan Academy, the students had just gotten out of class. The two fathers waited at the entrance for a while and soon saw their sons coming out with a young student, who looked fair and beautiful.
“Xiaoze!” Sun Runze’s father called out first. Hearing this, Little Fatty looked up and saw his father. Then he ran over happily.
Liu Jinye also saw his father. He usually acted in a very stable manner, but he also hastened his pace and asked, “Father, why did you personally come? Isn’t it busy in the shop?”
Liu Jinggui looked at his son and saw that his son had a ruddy and healthy complexion. He also seemed to have gained some weight, so his heart finally relaxed, “When you first sent a letter back saying that you’re eating salted vegetables every day at school, your mother was already very worried. Several days ago, we received news about you eating meals with other people, so your mother told me to come see if you’re eating well. Now that I have seen you today, I can finally feel relieved.”
“Uncle Liu, we’re eating very well every day!! If we don’t have enough time in the morning, then Yu Fan will bring the food over for us. For lunch, there is meat and vegetables. We have a very sumptuous meal in the evening. Yu Fan’s second sister has excellent cooking skills, and the dishes are different every day!” Little Fatty, Sun Runze, cuddled with his father for a moment. When he heard Liu Jingui’s words, he hastily explained.
Sun Runze’s father, Sun Jiaqi, and Liu Jingui looked at each other, and clearly saw ‘disbelief’ within each other’s eyes. If his son said this in the past, he would definitely believe him. However, with the current situation, it was already considered very good if they would eat vegetables, let alone eating different vegetables every day!
Sun Runze also apparently saw the disbelief within his father’s eyes. He said indignantly, “Father, you don’t believe your son’s words? If you don’t believe me, then come to Yu Fan’s house with us and you will know if I’m telling the truth or not.”
Sun Jiaqi patted his son’s head. He didn’t know who his son got his hot temper from. He looked at Yu Fan, who stood there with a slight smile, and then asked with a smile, “Xiaoze, is this the Yu Fan who you told me about?”
Yu Fan stepped forward and politely bowed with his hands clasped in front of him, “This fellow is Yu Fan. It’s nice to meet Uncle Sun and Uncle Liu.”
“Don’t stand on ceremony! My family’s Jinye has troubled you!” Liu Jingui had an affable smile on his face and said a few polite words.
Yu Fan politely said, “I dare not say that. Brother Jinye and Brother Runze usually helps me a lot. We’re close like brothers, so uncles don’t need to be so courteous. It’s getting late. Uncles haven’t eaten dinner yet, right? May this fellow have the honor to invite the two of you for a casual meal?”
“No need. You’re being too courteous…”
Sun Jiaqi was about to decline the offer, but he was interrupted by his son, “Father, didn’t you not believe what I said? Won’t you know the truth if you come with us? Second Sister said she will cook poached chicken for us tonight. Father, do you know what poached chicken is? Have you tried it before? Is it tasty?”
Poached chicken originated in the Qing Dynasty, and was a typical southern dish. It would be strange if Sun Jiaqi had eaten it before! But, chicken was quite expensive recently. At the beginning of the disaster year, in order to be frugal with food, the people who raised chickens had slaughtered all their chickens. When winter arrived, there were barely anyone selling chicken in the market. Occasionally, there would be one or two places that sold chicken, but it would be extremely expensive.
He took another look at the fair-looking and well-behaved Yu Fan, and felt very astonished in his heart. Didn’t his son say that Yu Fan came from a farmer’s family? Perhaps it was raised by his own family? But that wasn’t right ah. From his understanding, all the villagers around the prefectural city barely had enough food to eat. Where would they have the grain to feed chickens?
Liu Jingui also had the same doubts. With a half-believing mindset, he followed his son to the Yu Family’s house, which was five hundred meters away from the academy.
“Second Sister, we’re back!” As soon as Yu Fan entered the house, he habitually called his second sister.
Yu Xiaocao’s voice sounded from the kitchen, “You guys came back ten minutes late today ah! Put your schoolbags down and wash your hands. We will be able to eat soon!”
Yu Fan put his schoolbag back in his room and scooped a basin of water in the kitchen. He hesitated for a moment, and then reminded her, “Second Sister, you should prepare two more dishes because Sun Runze and Brother Jinye’s fathers came.”
While the chicken was being cooked on low heat, Yu Xiaocao washed her hands and followed her younger brother out. She exchanged greetings with the two fathers. Sun Jiaqi waited for a while and didn’t see any adults come out, so he asked, “Are you siblings the only ones at home?”
Yu Xiaocao smiled and said, “There are both young and old in the family, so my parents couldn’t leave the house. I was afraid that my younger brother wouldn’t be able to eat well at the academy, so I volunteered to come cook for him. Please sit down for a while. The food will be ready soon. Shitou, prepare some tea for the uncles.”
With two more adults, the food that she prepared wouldn’t be enough. Fortunately, they had readily available ingredients at home. She got some lettuce from the west room, two potatoes from the cellar, and cut some pork. She prepared to make ‘stir-fried lettuce with oyster sauce’ and ‘sliced potatoes pot’. In addition, there was also the ‘poached chicken’ and ‘stir-fried chives with eggs’. It should be enough for everyone to eat.
When these dishes were brought out, Liu Jingui and Sun Jiaqi were stunned. Who exactly was this Yu Family? They were actually capable of getting fresh chives and lettuce in this season. And, what was this dish? They were also experienced and knowledgeable people, yet they actually couldn’t recognize the ingredient that was sautéed with pork in this dish.
Sun Runze proudly showed off to his father, “Father, you never tried this dish before, right? The ingredient inside is called potato. Last year, Royal Prince Yang brought seed back from the western hemisphere. Even the aristocrats in the capital might not be able to eat it!!”
“Potato?” As the assistant of the prefectural magistrate, Sun Jiaqi naturally knew about potatoes. However, he had heard that Royal Prince Yang had successfully grown several thousand catties of potatoes. The imperial court attached great importance to this matter and prepared to use them all as seeds. The emperor had asked the imperial chefs to try cooking with them and used them to entertain the meritorious officials. The Yu Family were merely farmers in Tanggu Town, so how were they able to get potatoes? Could they be lying?
As if she could read their minds, Yu Xiaocao said with an indifferent expression on her face, “Uncle Sun lives in the prefectural city, so you must know that the corn and potatoes that Royal Prince Yang brought back to the capital were transported from Tanggu Town, right?”
“You mean…” Sun Jiaqi’s eyes widened abruptly, and he looked at her with surprise.Previous Chapter Next Chapter