At this moment, Xiaocao only had a few individual packets of braised dishes left in her basket, and she had previously promised Foreman Sun that she was going to leave one pack for him. Thus, she only had a portion of pig ear ribbons, a portion of pig lips, and two portions of pig intestines.
“Okay! That will be four copper coins!” Xiaocao swiftly used a piece of oiled paper and packaged all of the braised foods together. Little Shitou stretched out his hand to receive the money.
Shopkeeper Jin was stunned for a moment. Four copper coins? He had invited Great Scholar Yuan to eat food that cost four copper coins? Wasn’t that a little too shameful? This was not showing the proper respect to Great Scholar Yuan! What should he do? Teacher Yuan was still waiting for him over there. Ah, why did he take this upon himself and volunteer to run an errand like this?
“Excuse me, do you still want these braised dishes?” Xiaocao had noticed that when the man was reaching for the money from his purse, he had acted as if someone had paralyzed him and froze. She had inquired quietly as she was a bit confused and perplexed by this change in demeanor.
Little Shitou made an ‘I understand everything’ expression, and he stated sympathetically, “Older sister, do you think this fat older uncle had gotten his money stolen? I heard that the docks have pickpockets around…Second Sister, he’s quite pitiful, how about we give him a portion of braised food free of charge for him to try…”
A few dock workers in their surroundings who had arrived late and hadn’t bought any braised food repeatedly asked the man, “Sir, do you still want it? Xiaocao, if he doesn’t want any, then sell me a portion——here’s the money.”
Shopkeeper Jin clenched his jaw and stamped his foot, “Who said I didn’t want it? Don’t you still have some left in the basket? Give me all that’s left!”
Xiaocao hastily replied, “Please don’t take offense, these couple of portions have already been reserved by other people. I really only do have four portions left, so I’m really sorry about this. I’ll be coming over every day to sell my braised food. The price of one copper coin per portion is my family’s specialty. If you enjoy eating it, sir, then please come back again.”
Shopkeeper Jin was afraid that Teacher Yuan would lose his patience from waiting too long, so he took the packet of braised food and threw a silver piece that was worth about a hundred copper coins to them. He turned and bolted away, as if something had scorched his butt. Xiaocao held the silver piece and pondered what to do since they likely didn’t have enough money from selling food today to give the man his change. When she saw that the fat, glittering man had left, she swiftly called out, “Hey, hey! I haven’t given you your change yet!
“No need to give me change, take the rest as a reward for you!” This type of silver piece was usually used by Shopkeeper Jin to reward lower ranked servants in his residence. In his eyes, this piece was of no more value than a copper coin was in ordinary people’s eyes.
Yuan Sinian and his young grandson had already sat down at a nearby noodle stand that was run by the Wang Family. They had ordered two bowls of plain noodles and were slouching as they waited for Shopkeeper Jin to come over.
“What’s taking him so long? What if it got sold out? You brat, you know how much I, your grandfather, love to eat, yet you didn’t even bother to buy a portion to let me have a taste, hmph! If I’m unable to try this ‘braised food’, then just you wait!”
At this point, Yuan Sinian had completely shed his scholarly persona and was starting to resemble a stubborn old urchin more and more. Yuan Yunxi managed to resist the urge to roll his eyes at his grandfather and silently sighed inwardly…however, he felt like the little girl who was selling braised food sounded somewhat familiar…
“It’s here! It’s here!!” Yuan Sinian immediately sat up straight and changed his posture. Once again, he resumed the outward demeanor of an elegant and mysterious scholar. The corners of Yuan Yunxi’s mouth twitched as he looked down.
Shopkeeper Jin had a bright smile on his face as he borrowed a bowl from the noodle stall and politely placed the braised food one by one into it. He then asked, “Sir, would you happen to have any sesame oil? Adding a little bit of sesame oil should help make the flavor even better…”
Xiaocao, who had chased after the man to give him the change, overheard their conversation and smiled, “That’s a good idea, if you add a little bit of sesame oil and then put a couple pieces of garlic on top, it will definitely be more delicious! Sir, I have your ninety-six copper coins as change right here…”
Teacher Yuan lightly glanced at the copper coins in her hand and said, “He already said that you can keep the change, so just keep it for yourselves. In any case, this man is so wealthy that even a larger bit of money wouldn’t be of a concern to him.”
Shopkeeper Jin inwardly quivered in fear! How did he manage to offend this imposing old man again? Was there something wrong with having a lot of money? If Teacher Yuan was willing to accept his son again into the academy, he would gladly disperse his family’s wealth and live a poor and impoverished life…
“Ah…Teacher Yuan, they don’t have any sesame oil here, let me go somewhere else to find some…” Shopkeeper Jin took ahold of this opportunity to escape from this awkward situation. He managed to find a stall that sold stir-fries and threw them another silver piece to take the rest of the sesame oil that the stall had left, which was about half a small bottle’s worth.
When Xiaocao noticed that both the brightly clothed fatty and the elegant old scholar were people who lived lives where they didn’t have to do much on their own, she naturally started to crush the garlic heads with a practiced air and seasoned the braised foods with sesame oil. Then she said, “Please eat!”
“Okay!” Yuan Sinian used his entire willpower to restrain his hungry desire and unhurriedly stretched out his chopsticks and picked up a piece of sliced pig ear. He then slowly placed the piece of food into his mouth.
Yuan Yunxi, who was next to the old man, once again stopped himself from rolling his eyes. No one understood his grandfather as well as he did. Had there not been other people present, which made the old man aware of his status, he would have long started wolfing down the food in front of him…however, for some reason, this little girl seemed a bit familiar to him!
Before Yuan Yunxi had finished his silent sarcastic soliloquy, he saw that his disappointing grandfather had already thrown away his dignified, reserved air. There were tears in the old man’s eyes, and his mouth never stopped moving. The chopsticks in his grandfather’s hands picked up food as if it was a machine driven by an electric motor, and it delivered the braised food into his mouth at lightning speed, as if he was afraid someone would start fighting him for it.
“Old grandpa, you should slow down a little! You need to carefully chew the slices of pig ear in order to really taste the food!” The kindhearted and adorable Little Shitou felt sympathy rise in his heart when he saw the Great Scholar stuffing his mouth full with the braised food. ‘This old grandpa must not have had the taste of meat in a long time, right? He looks so hungry and gluttonous.’ Great Scholar Yuan, with the help of Little Shitou’s kind reminder, realized that there were people around him! However, in his eyes, his outward appearance and reputation were not nearly as important as fully enjoying delicious food. But, he was also aware that throwing away appearances altogether may not be a very wise decision in the end.
Gradually, he slowed down his eating speed, and he began to chew each bite thoroughly before he swallowed. As he continued to eat, he slapped the table in praise and said, “Little girl, is this called ‘pig ear ribbons seasoned in chili oil’? So fantastic! Bright red color, soft and bouncy texture, savory spiciness, dense flavor…hm, what about this one, what is it called?”
“That is called braised pig intestines!” Xiaocao’s voice sounded exceptionally clear and bright as she replied.
Yuan Sinian picked up a piece of the pig intestines and delivered it into his mouth. He slowly tasted the food and continuously nodded his head, “Rich and flavorful taste, chewy and soft texture, fatty without being greasy, this is something a person can eat every day without getting sick of it…very good, very good! Braised pig intestines, eh? So you used animal offal to make it then?”
“Esteemed gentleman is wise, I used the intestines from a pig and many different types of seasoning to braise it into this. It has a savory taste and luxurious flavor, and it’s a type of dish that goes very well with alcohol. Braised pig intestines are very versatile, you can eat it cold with seasonings, you can also stir-fry it at high heat, and it can even be used to simmer soup. Every single way has its own unique taste and flavor!” When Xiaocao noticed that the man didn’t seem to reject the concept of eating offal, she excitedly introduced the ingredient with its myriad cooking methods.
Shopkeeper Jin was originally going along with the gentleman’s judgement and continuously moved his head. However, when he heard what it was, he suddenly froze and his chin almost fell to the floor. Pig intestines? He had actually invited Great Scholar Yuan to eat the intestines of a pig, he was finished, he was finished! His son’s chance at regaining admission to the academy was definitely lost now.
—Argh! How could his son have such a fool of a father? Shopkeeper Jin wished he could just slam his head on the table and die at this very moment!
“Good! Good! This old man had previously heard the emperor emeritus reminiscing about the food from his hometown. His favorite dish was ‘spicy pig intestines’. When I heard how he deliciously described the food, how soft and delicate, how much the mouth filled with its incredible flavor…listening to it made me want to drool, oh—it almost just dripped straight out…”
“Ahem, ahem!” When the young and accomplished Yuan Yunxi saw how his grandfather forgot his decorum when he waxed continuously about food, he coughed a few times in an effort to remind the old man of his status.
Yuan Sinian eyes widened into round circles, and he resentfully complained, “Why are you coughing right now? Food is the God of the people. In fact, the emperor emeritus himself had once said, ‘one cannot function on an empty stomach, missing a meal will make one anxious’. What’s wrong with talking about food? Is it shameful to like eating good food? You brat, get away from me, so I don’t have to see your face—hmph, what a spoil sport!”
“Eh? You wouldn’t be that person…that person…” When Yu Xiaocao got a better look at the pretty young man’s face, she instantly recognized who he was. However, she couldn’t quite remember his name. “You must be the friend of Third Young Master Zhou, right? Did you just disembark from the ship?”
Yuan Yunxi could finally recall where he had seen that little girl. He smiled faintly and said, “Miss Yu…”
“Good grandson, you know this young lady? How come I’ve never heard you talk about having a friend who can cook so well?” Yuan Sinian gave his grandson a pointed look and then turned to face Yu Xiaocao with an unexpectedly friendly smile, “Young lady, your braised pig intestines are quite good, where’s your ancestral hometown? Are you also from the same hometown as the emperor emeritus? Do you know how to make the delicious and flavorful pig head meat too?”
Yuan Yunxi’s delicate eyebrows came together in a frown and his whole face had a helpless expression on it.
Yu Xiaocao had been greatly amused at the interaction between this old rascal of a grandfather and his elementary school aged grandson. She had been watching the two squabble with delight when this unexpected question sent a chill down her spine. Her smile froze for a split second, and she immediately shook her head, “My ancestors for generations and generations have all lived in a nearby small fishing village. They all relied on fishing to make a living. My family is a bit poor, so I had to figure out how to make food from things that other people won’t eat. This is how I came up with the pig ear ribbons and pig intestine dishes. I’m a nobody really, so how could I be from the same hometown as the honorable emperor emeritus…”
She was already certain that the emperor emeritus was a transmigrator like her. Only a transmigrator would change history and establish a Great Ming Dynasty that was completely different from the one she remembered in her past life. Ah what a joke, she had long planned on making a fortune quietly and had no desire to make herself a target. She did not want to get entangled with that well-known transmigrator from her own world.
On the other hand, Little Shitou, who was next to her, replied proudly, “My second sister’s braised food is the best. Old gentleman, we had already sold out of the braised pig head meat you were talking about. However, these pig lips are also pretty good. They’re fatty without being greasy and are full of savory flavor. If you don’t believe me, please try some!”
“Haha! Good, good! Little fellow, you have quite the silver tongue. How old are you? Have you started to learn how to read?” Yuan Sinian lifted some of the vegetables and noodles out of the bowl and pushed some of the pig lips into the bowl. He mixed them together and started to eat the noodles and braised food in large bites.
Little Shitou grinned, “I’m six years old, and my second sister told me that after she makes some money from selling her braised food, she’ll send me to school in town to study. Our village is too poor and there isn’t a school there to attend. However, our next door neighbor, Brother Xiaowen, often comes back for vacation and teaches me and Brother Xiaowu how to recognize words. I already know how to write my own name and I can read about a hundred and fifty-six characters!”
“Oh? Sounds like you know quite a few characters and can write your own name, that’s good, that’s good! Can you write your name and let this old man take a look at it?” Great Scholar Yuan apparently was interested in this young child. It had been almost two years since his academy had started having beginner classes for the purpose of instructing clever and bright children in the area.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s thoughts: I giggled when Little Shitou called Shopkeeper Jin ‘fat older uncle’. So savage!