Chapter 81 - Secret Recipe

Right after Madam Li threw the pig head away in a panic, she suddenly felt a long thing fall on her shoulders. Her head and chest had also been hit by something soft. Immediately a horrendous stench arose, like the smell of a pig sty that hadn’t been cleaned up, and the scent assaulted her nostrils. 

When she could finally clearly see what was on her, she acted as if she had stepped on a bunch of hot coals. She jumped in fright and screamed as if she was a pig at slaughter. Words just blabbered out of her mouth in an unending stream, and she felt like something had exploded near her ears as she continuously retreated.

“You need to die, need to die! I am your eldest paternal aunt, yet you dare to pelt me with such disgusting things! Do you no longer believe in the young respecting the old? If you can treat me this way, then the next time you will treat your grandmother this way!! I want the entire village to know how Madam Liu has taught her kids!!”

Madam Li lowered her head to look at her clothes that were made dirty. The acrid smell of pig feces on her body repeatedly assaulted her nose and made her stomach roll in nausea. She almost fainted at this moment.

Xiaocao smiled sweetly at her, “Eldest Aunt, how did I not show you proper respect? You said you wanted to see what was in our basket, and I was afraid that your eyes weren’t so good due to your age, so I especially ‘delivered’ the things in front of you to let you see them more clearly. Now that you see what they are, are you still going to say that Grandfather is secretly giving us money on the sly?” 

Without waiting for Madam Li to reply, Xiaocao continued after increasing the volume of her voice, “Eldest Aunt! There was one thing you said correctly, our family really doesn’t have much at home! Today I brought my younger brother to the docks because I wanted to see the markets over there. I wanted to find out if I could pick up any vegetables on the ground that other people didn’t want or other food like that. Uncle Wang, who’s the butcher in town, saw that we were pitiful and gave a pig head to us. As for the pig tripe and pig intestines, Little Shitou and I picked them up from the ground to see if we can eat them after washing them clean. As long as we don’t die from eating them, does it matter if it smells a little? It’s still better than starving to death. Our family is already at this point in our lives, so why would Eldest Aunt claim that our grandfather is subsidizing us? Do you really want our whole family to die? If my whole family dies of starvation or from freezing to death, will that make you happy?”

After tasting the steamed stuffed buns that Xiaocao had sent her family earlier, Madam Mao’s opinion of Xiaocao and her whole family was quite good. At the side, she idly commented, “This is the first time that I’ve heard of an older sister-in-law forcing her younger brother-in-law’s entire family to die in the entire Dongshan Village! Madam Li, if you really want to do this, you’ll be famous all around the area! Tsk, tsk, tsk…just look, the children are so hungry that they’re willing to scavenge something so disgusting and smelly to try to eat!”  The expression on Madam Li’s face changed instantly. Her son was only two years away from talking about marriage and finding a wife. If word came out that she had forced her younger brother-in-law’s family to death, who would let their daughter marry her son?

Madam Li’s mouth opened and closed a few times as if she wanted to say something. The usually gentle and easily persuadable Madam Fang glared at her as if she was her worst enemy. Madam Fang tenderly drew Little Shitou into her arms and wiped the tears in her eyes, and said, “Poor children, you guys can’t eat those things. Quickly throw them away. If there’s really nothing at home to eat, then I’ll lend you guys a few catties of grain to eat.” 

Yu Hai felt a pang in his heart and a complicated look crossed his face. He lifted up his head and let the tears in his eyes slowly disappear. He glanced at Madam Li and said, “Eldest Sister-in-law, I can make an oath to the heavens that I have never asked my parents to give me money. Father also has never subsidized us on the sly! When we split our families, I had made it clear, no matter how poor we became or how difficult our lives were, even if we had to beg for food, we would never ask a single thing from the rest of the family! You have seen what is in the basket, if there’s nothing else, please go back home!!” 

Madam Li had made a fuss for nothing, so she flung her handkerchief down on the ground and left the place covered from head to toe in grime. She needed to find the village idiot’s wife to settle the score for giving her bad information. 

There was no such thing as a secret in a small fishing village. Before long, word that Yu Hai and his family were desperate enough to gather food that was as smelly as pig poop travelled throughout Dongshan Village. 

Yu Hai’s eldest uncle, Yu Lichun, went over to the Yu Family’s main residence in a towering rage. He screamed and shouted at Old Yu in fury, “This wife is a stepmother, so does that mean you’ve also become a fake father too? Dahai is your own blood and flesh. Do you guys want Dahai’s whole family to forfeit their lives? If that’s so, then you are no longer my younger brother!!”

With a dark expression on his face, Old Yu called Madam Li over to scold her profusely. He then told his youngest daughter to bring around ten catties of millet and ten catties of sweet potato starch to his second son’s family. 

Naturally, Yu Hai didn’t take any of it. He had already said that he was not going to take even one iota from the Yu Family, and they weren’t desperate without anywhere to go. Thus, in order to avoid anyone calling them hypocrites, even when Old Yu personally came over to discuss the matter, he maintained his current stance on the matter.

After Yu Xiaocao used the pig head and extremely smelly offal to frighten Madam Li into leaving, she immediately started to work on cleaning and preparing the ingredients. It was time to make more braised food.

“Uh…Xiaocao, are you sure that you can use this stuff to make food? Don’t waste your time and seasonings if it’s not going to work!” Madam Fang reminded her warmly. The rest of the members of the Yu family had long gotten used to her ability to turn trash into treasure, so they didn’t say anything. 

Madam Mao had actually brought over a small portion of sweet potato starch and some wild herbs that she had dug up today and said, “Quickly stop trying to prepare those things. Listen to your auntie and throw them away, ok? In the future, if there’s nothing to eat at home, just go to my place and borrow some. Once the sweet potatoes are harvested, you can return what you ate! Who doesn’t have a difficult time now and then? Throw it away, throw it away!”    As she talked, Madam Mao enthusiastically pulled the tripe from Xiaocao’s hands and turned to head out of the room to throw it away.

Xiaocao started sweating in anxiety! This was the money-making method that she had wracked her brains for. If they threw away her ingredients, then how could she sell more of her braised foods for a copper coin a portion tomorrow? She had promised people at the docks! 

Seeing that his second daughter was almost bouncing in anxiety, Yu Hai hastily limped forward and took the pig offal from Madam Mao and smiled, “Neighbor, our family hasn’t gotten to the point where we will starve to death. Thank you for your good intentions. Xiaocao has use for this pig tripe as she heard from someone that there’s a remedy that can be used on my leg with these…”  

Madam Mao glanced at his leg, suddenly realized something, and said, “Ah! So it was supposed to be used for the leg eh…no wonder! If it really could fix your leg, then it doesn’t matter how stinky it is, you just have to endure it! Okay, I’ll bring the sweet potato starch back home, but you guys can keep the wild herbs so you can make a soup tonight. Xiaocao, if you want to gather more wild herbs tomorrow, find me, I know a spot where there’s a lot of shepherd’s purse around!” 

Xiaocao promised the outwardly cold, inwardly warmhearted Madam Mao as she sent her off. Madam Fang still stayed behind to say, “Xiaocao, your mother’s not home right now. Let me help you prepare these things!” 

When Xiaocao saw that there was no way she could persuade the older woman otherwise, she washed out the contents of the offal and cut them into sections. She instructed Madam Fang to turn them inside out and use coarse salt to scrub thoroughly. This helped to remove any lingering odors and excess fat. Madam Fang didn’t act as if she thought it was disgusting and rolled up her sleeves and got busy. 

Yu Xiaocao then taught Xiaolian how to prepare and clean the pig tripe. She herself prepped the pig’s head. The first step was to let the pig head steep in clean water for some time, scrub off any dirt on the outside, and remove hairs until it was completely clean. Next, it had to be boiled in a pot for about fifteen minutes and inspected to see if there was any hair left on the head. At this point, a rough brush was used to energetically scrub the whole surface until it was absolutely clean.  

Yu Hai had actually volunteered to take on the task of scrubbing the pig’s head. Before he had injured his leg, all of the villagers would ask him to help whenever they were slaughtering a pig. The reason was two-fold. On one hand, he was strong and had a lot of strength. On the other hand, he had learned how to slaughter pigs on his own and really knew how to deal with the hair on the animal. When Yu Xiaocao saw that he was as good as she was, she was able to give him the task with relief. 

After making sure the pig head was clean, it was time to cleave it open and take out the innards. This work was naturally also given to Yu Hai. On the side, Xiaocao pointed out where he needed to cut and clean out any junk, such as the ears, the corners of the eyes, the lymph nodes, and nasal polyps. Then, the brain was taken out and placed carefully in a bowl to be used later that night. It could be used to make a stew for the whole family to eat! 

Yu Hai removed the bones from the pig head in a practiced motion and split them into five to six pieces. The bone pieces were then put into cold water and washed carefully to remove any debris and bloodstains. This would prevent any odd tastes from seeping into the braised pig head dish, which could ruin an entire pot.

After that, Yu Xiaocao took over. She took the cleaned pig head and put it into boiling water. After blanching it for about twenty minutes, she took it out again and washed it clean. Then she took the blanched pig meat and placed it into a new pot with clean water along with the bones from the head. The combination was boiled, and she skimmed off any foam that appeared until it was about half cooked. Then, she put the meat in the braising sauce she had simmered yesterday and let it slowly stew until the meat was tender and soft. In addition, the meat was also put into the master sauce to allow it to incorporate some more flavors. 

As the pig head meat slowly stewed, a rich smell of meat gradually spread from the courtyard out into the open. Even the Qian Family home, which was about two hundred meters away, had been enveloped in the savory scent of braised pig heat. Qian Wu was in the courtyard cleaning rods when he deeply inhaled the smell. He managed to swallow down his saliva with difficulty and said, “Smells so good! Mother, did you smell it too? It’s not the New Years, nor is it a holiday, which family is cooking meat right now?” 

Madam Mao had also smelled it and thought about the neighbors in the area. Other than Hunter Zhao’s family at the foot of the mountain, who often ate meat because he was skilled at hunting, there was only Madam Fang’s family, who she didn’t get along with, that could possibly be the source of the smell. Could it be that Madam Fang had a guest come over and they slaughtered a chicken for them? But that seemed wrong. It didn’t smell like the aroma of chicken meat. As for Xiaocao’s family, Madam Mao completely skipped over them. They were so poor that they usually couldn’t eat enough, how could they possibly have any extra money to buy meat?

“You glutton! The next time your older brother comes back for his break, I’ll buy some meat and stew some for you two to eat! Where are you going? Be more obedient and don’t make your mother lose face by going to the Zhou Family!” Hunter Zhao lived a bit farther from them, so it was quite unlikely that the scent of their cooking would waft to here. Thus, there was only one family where the smells could come from.  

Actually, there wasn’t any truly large conflicts between Madam Mao and the Zhou Family. It was simply that one family raised ducks while the other raised chickens, and the Qian Family’s ducks and duck eggs were not as popular as the Zhou Family’s chickens. In addition, the head of the Zhou Family liked to peddle goods during the farming off-season and made a lot of money from that. Madam Mao felt it was a bit unfair, and she never learned how to mince her words. After a few encounters, the relationship between the two families slowly cooled and drifted apart.  

Qian Wu threw down the stick that was in his hand, dashed out of the gate, and said, “I’m not going to Older Brother Wenhua’s home, I want to find Little Shitou to play!”

When Qian Wu arrived at the gates of the Yu Family’s residence, he discovered that the smell of meat was stronger here. Even the red braised pork that his mother made during the New Years didn’t smell as mouth-watering and tantalizing as this. He deeply breathed in the air through his nose and set foot into the courtyard.  

“Little Shitou, can you smell this? It smells so good!!” Qian Wu shouted as soon as he entered the residence. 

Little Shitou bolted out of the kitchen and grinned, “Older brother Xiaowu, you have a good nose! The pig head meat has just finished braising and you ran over. Come here, come here, come here! My second sister will cut a piece of piping hot braised pig head meat and let you satisfy your craving!” 

“Wow! So the smell of meat was actually coming from your family ah!! What's going on today for your family to make meat to eat?” Qian Wu almost let some drool slip out of his mouth and onto his jacket. He used the back of his hand to wipe his mouth but his feet didn’t move at all.

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Translator: Sanguine