Chapter 79 - Pig Head

Xiaocao was now relieved. She nodded and smiled, “I didn’t expect that Steward Uncle is also a big eater! To be honest, my blood tofu is created using a secret method to braise the chicken blood. Although it doesn’t look elegant, the taste is still pretty good.”

“Chicken blood? I didn’t even smell a trace of blood when I ate it. Yet the tofu is still so smooth and tender. Wonderful! Wonderful!” Steward Liu didn’t slow down his eating speed as he talked. He had heard that the people of Jinling used duck blood to make soup but didn’t expect that chicken blood could also be consumed!

When the foreman saw that Steward Liu was happily eating the blood tofu, his heart settled back down with relief. He took out five copper coins and gave it to Xiaocao, “Here, the remaining money is to reward you. In the future, will you still be selling blood tofu at the dock?”

Xiaocao also didn’t act too formally. She smiled as she took the copper coins and said, “In the future, I will still be selling meat dishes for one copper coin with my little brother. However, I might not be selling blood tofu. But foreman, don’t worry. The taste of my meat dishes won’t be worse than my blood tofu!”

“Xiaocao, your Eldest Aunt had told me that you were selling things here, so I came to find you.” Xiaocao’s Eldest Uncle, Liu Pei, walked towards her in large strides. He asked with concern, “Did you eat breakfast yet? Eldest Uncle found work today, so I came to invite you and Shitou to eat white steamed buns.”

“Eldest Uncle, we already had breakfast before we came here. You didn’t eat yet, right? Oh right, I still have half a portion of some braised food. Why don’t you eat that with a flatbread?” Xiaocao knew that whenever Eldest Aunt came here to sell things, she would always bring food for Eldest Uncle. Therefore, she stuffed the remaining free samples of braised chicken into Liu Pei’s hands.

“This is what you’re selling? It smells very fragrant! I can just eat flatbread with pickles. Why don’t you sell the rest of this?” When Liu Pei smelled the fragrant dish, he secretly swallowed his saliva. But he wasn’t willing to take advantage of his niece.

Xiaocao didn’t take back the paper pouch that the braised food was in. She blinked her eyes at her Eldest Uncle, “My business went pretty well today. The braised food that I had brought here has all been sold out. How can I sell half a portion of a dish? It’s not like I can split a copper coin in half. Eldest Uncle go do what you need to do. I will go to the market and have a look.…..”

After she finished speaking, she pulled her little brother’s hand and ran away.

When the foreman saw the scene, he laughed, “Brother Liu, she is your niece! The meat dishes she sells for one copper coin taste good. Even Steward Liu from the capital felt that it tasted good. If you don’t want it, then you can just sell it to me.”

All the braised food that he had bought earlier had entered Steward Liu’s stomach. He only had two bites of blood tofu. Now, he craved it.

“Ah! Foreman Sun, what are you saying? If you like it, you can just take it. Why are you talking about buying or selling?” In order to work at the docks, they must first be inspected by Foreman Sun. If they had a good relationship with Foreman Sun, then it would be easier to find a job in the future.

Foreman Sun was very pleased with Liu Pei taking the high road. He ate the rich and delicious braised food when he suddenly said, “Didn’t your nephew come with you a few days ago? Did he come with you today? The young man looks tall and strong. He seems like he has a lot of strength. Once he has eaten, let him help with unloading too.…..”

The person that foreman is talking about was the son of the second branch of the Liu Family, Liu Zhiwei. Because of his young age, the foreman usually didn’t like to hire him.

It was common knowledge that a worker could earn twenty to thirty copper coins in a day from loading and unloading goods at the dock. When Liu Pei heard what Foreman Sun had said, he was overjoyed. He repeatedly said, “Thank you Foreman Sun! My nephew has also come today! Don’t worry, that kid is used to doing manual labor! He is very honest, and he definitely won’t disappoint you!”

“What are you thanking me for? In the future, make sure your niece leaves a meat dish behind every day. Just eating a little isn’t really satisfying. But don’t worry, I will pay for what it’s worth!” Steward Liu had left after eating and drinking his fill. Foreman Sun was now happily eating and drinking and felt very satisfied with the food.

The Tanggu Docks had a moderately sized market. On every 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 15th of a month, as well as New Years, the people from the nearby villages would come and sell their own products or buy goods that they needed.

Although it was called a market, it felt more like a street than a market. On both sides of the market, there were short houses made of grass. Occasionally there would be an eye-catching brick house. But whether it was a house made of grass or brick, it was only open when the market was open. Usually, their doors would be tightly closed.

Today was February 16th, and it was a market day today. Even though the market was small, there were still quite a bit of people here. On both sides of the street, the houses towards the front had become a simple vegetable market.

Some people carried their frozen radishes and cabbages for sale on their shoulders, while others carried varieties of chicken, duck, and eggs they had raised to sell. There were also street vendors who sold daily necessities. All of these vendors tried their best to attract customers.  The sounds of people selling their products, bargaining, and even the sound of gossipers talking all wove together and made it a lively scene. Xiaocao held her little brother’s hand and walked through the crowd. But, from time to time, they would sway unsteadily from being squeezed by the crowd.

“Xiaocao? Shitou? Did you come here by yourself? Is it because there’s nothing to eat at home?” What a coincidence, before they walked very far, they met another acquaintance again. The person who had just spoken was Xiaocao’s grandfather. Following behind him was her uncle, Yu Dashan, who was carrying a fishing basket.

Although Xiaocao was dissatisfied with her grandfather and her inarticulate uncle, she didn’t harbor any malice towards them. She gave them a faint smile and replied, “No, Shitou and I just came here to take a look.”

Old Yu looked at his grandson and granddaughter who had become somewhat alienated from him. He thought about how his second son had left the house with practically nothing. If it wasn’t  for the relatives who had sent money to his son and the villagers who had aided him, they probably wouldn’t have a house to live in such a cold day. Thinking back to that, he couldn’t help but feel guilty.

After thinking about it, he turned around and took the fish basket from Dashan. He poured the remaining ten small yellow croakers that they couldn't sell into Xiaocao’s basket. Old Yu stroked Little Shitou’s head using his fishy hands and said, “Take these fish home to eat...do you have any money on you? If you don’t, Grandpa can buy you what you want.”  Yu Dashan’s mouth moved as he glanced at his father. But in the end, he didn’t say anything. These days, without the fishing expert, Yu Hai, they had caught fewer and fewer fish. In addition, the varieties of fish they caught had also dwindled. They had lost quite a few regular customers in town. Now, their business was getting worse and worse.

Every time they brought home money, Madam Zhang would complain that it was too little and that it was not enough for the family’s expenses. The money they had earned by selling fish this time, was the lowest amount they had earned. If they also bought things for the children, he was afraid that they’ll never hear the end of it when they returned home.

When he saw Xiaocao sensibly shaking her head and heard her say, “Grandfather, there’s no need. We brought money with us,” he felt relieved. At home, his mother kept harping on about money, and his wife talked too much. All of this made him feel very annoyed.

After saying goodbye to their grandfather, Xiaocao continued walking forward. Suddenly, she was attracted to a pork stall in the distance. She pulled Little Shitou and walked over. The swarthy and plump butcher had a tangled and coarse beard. His eyes were especially big, which made it seem like he was glaring at people whenever he looked at them. He appeared to be quite fierce looking.

However, the people who knew him all knew that Butcher Wang was famous for being a good person. Whenever he sold meat, he never gave the customers less meat or change. He even gave his regular customers some things that are of little value. His reputation was quite good in the nearby villages.

“Little girl, are you buying meat?” Butcher Wang knew that his appearance often scared children and made them cry. So, when he saw the sister and brother pair, he hurriedly showed them what he believed to be a kind smile. He also softened his voice as he called out to them. But he didn’t know that this kind of expression made him look even more fierce.

Little Shitou was scared by the butcher and hid behind his second sister. But after thinking about it, he stepped forward and walked in front of his sister. At home, he had boasted that he would protect his sister well. However from his clenched fist, trembling body, and reddening face, it was obvious that he was about to cry. Everyone could sense his fear and nervousness.

When Butcher Wang saw that his smile produced the opposite of his desired result, he awkwardly scratched the back of his head. But he didn’t forget to praise Little Shitou, “Little guy, you are very brave. You know how to protect your sister. You really are a young man!”

From his manner and tone, Xiaocao determined that this man was a blockhead who had a mean-looking face but a heart of gold. She held her brother’s shoulders and ruffled his head, smiling as she said, “Uncle is praising you, aren’t you going to quickly thank him?”

Little Shitou bashfully lowered his head. In a small voice, he replied, “Thank you for your praise…”

“Good child, what a good child…what do you want to buy? Uncle will give you a discount!” Butcher Wang laughed out loud, his voice was loud and clear like the rumbling of thunder.

 Yu Xiaocao looked at the meat in the stall. She saw that what was remaining was less than two catties of a moderately sized, not too fat and not too thin leg meat. There was also some fatty oil, a few pig bones, and a large pig head.

Her line of sight was instantly attracted by the pig head. She proceeded to ask, “Uncle, how is this pig head sold? Do you also sell pig liver, pig heart, pig stomach, and the large intestines of pigs?”

During this time period, almost all the pig heads were used as a sacrifice to the gods. Very few families in the villages would eat them. The main reason that people didn’t eat pig heads was that they disliked the distinct flavor of the pig heads. If the flavor isn’t properly taken care of, then the oil, salt, firewood, and the grains they used would be wasted on the pig’s head.

But since both the twelfth lunar month and the first month of the lunar year had passed, no one had been interested in the pig head. After hearing her questions, Butcher Wang asked her with good intentions, “Little girl, why does your family want a pig head? What are they planning to do with it? Pig heads don’t taste good. Why don’t you buy some pig bones and make a stew with it? I can sell you the pig bones for a cheaper price. As for the pig liver and pig hearts, it has been all sold out. The filthy and smelly pig stomach and pig intestines have either been thrown out or fed to the dogs. Is your family raising a dog?”

Just as she had expected...the people from this time period didn’t have a method to cleanse the dirty and smelly internal organs of animals. Because they didn’t have a method to cleanse it, they didn’t dare to eat them. However, the pig stomach and pig intestines tasted delicious after being braised. In addition, the braised pig head dish was one of the most popular braised foods her shop had sold in her previous life!

 “Uncle, I also don’t know what they’re going to do with those items. It was my father who had told me to buy those items. How much does the pig head cost per catty? Also, please give me all of the pig stomach and pig intestines……” Xiaocao pointed at the pig head with a smile, confidently asking him to sell her those items.

Butcher Wang nodded his head and said, “There’s no need to weigh the pig head. Pig heads are usually sold after the buyer and seller comes to an agreement. A pig head usually costs eight copper coins. But since it’s off-season right now, I’ll sell it to you for six copper coins. The pork stomach and intestines haven’t been thrown away today. I’ll give them to you for free if you want it.”

Wow! A pig head usually weighed around seven to eight catties, but it was only sold for six copper coins! It was so cheap that it was almost ridiculous. What’s more, the pig stomach and intestines were offered to her for free! Yu Xiaocao felt that she had gotten a huge deal for this trip!

Thinking about her long-term business, she suddenly asked, “Uncle, seeing that there aren’t many things left in your stall, your business must be doing good. How frequently does your family to kill a pig?”

Butcher Wang laughed out loud and proudly replied, “Thanks to the blessings from the villagers, my meat stall business has been doing well. Almost every time the market opens, we kill one pig. At other times, we are busy catching pigs in the village!”

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Translator: Vi