The popularity of the roasted chicken also led to the increase of people raising chickens in the villages around Tanggu Town . An example would be Xiaocao’s family’s neighbor, the Zhou Family, who had raised one to two hundred chickens in their home . They didn’t sell very well during the New Year, and thus caused Madam Fang to be so worried that she didn’t even eat or sleep well .
No one would have expected that after Zhenxiu Restaurant came out with the hot-selling dish, roasted chicken, it would also cause the demand for chickens to increase day by day . The price of chickens was also nearly 1/3 higher than usual . As a result, Madam Fang didn’t have to worry about not being able to sell her family’s chickens at all . They had over a hundred chicks hatched at the beginning of spring, and they were still going around to buy more chicks . She had heard from Shanhu that their family was planning on raising four to five hundred chickens this year, which would all be supplied to Zhenxiu Restaurant!
As for the connection between the Zhou Family and Zhenxiu Restaurant, it was all thanks to the Yu Family! Like the Yao Family, Zhenxiu Restaurant also sent a carriage to transport the vegetables that they bought from the Yu Family every day . Zhenxiu Restaurant would purchase a large quantity of vegetables and the Yu Family was too busy, so Madam Fang would bring her two daughters over to help out .
Zhenxiu Restaurant’s purchasing staff, Qian Xiaoduo, mentioned that the restaurant’s roasted chicken was selling very well . The other staff, who was responsible for buying the chickens, had been running around all the surrounding villages so much that his legs had slimmed down .
Yu Xiaocao took this opportunity and mentioned the Zhou Family, “Auntie Zhou’s family raises hundreds of chickens! Older Brother Xiaoduo, when you come to buy vegetables in the future, you can also get the chickens and bring them back with you!”
Did it really matter where they bought the chickens from? With the current hot demand for Zhenxiu Restaurant’s roasted chicken, one or two hundreds of chickens could be sold in just a few days! Qian Xiaoduo was certainly willing to do this favor for Xiaocao and immediately agreed . The next day, he brought some people over to bring back most of the Zhou Family’s chickens!
The Yu Family’s other neighbor, Madam Mao, was green with envy . It was unknown how she found out that Xiaocao was the one who came up with the recipe for Zhenxiu Restaurant’s roasted chicken, but one evening, she came to their house with two plump ducks and a basket of duck eggs .
“Oh! Brother Dahai, you know how to make this too?!” As soon as Madam Mao entered the courtyard, she saw Yu Hai weaving a bamboo basket under the faint light of a lantern .
Yu Hai skillfully braided the bamboo strips together in a crisscross pattern . He looked up upon hearing the sound and saw Madam Mao . He stopped what he was doing and greeted her with a smile, “Oh, it’s Older Sister-in-law Qian . Quickly come inside and sit down . Muyun, Older Sister-in-law Qian is here…”
“Brother Dahai, is Xiaocao home?” Madam Mao looked into the main room and only saw Madam Liu, who came out after putting down the clothes she was sewing, and thus she asked .
Yu Hai nodded and said, “Yes! She’s in the east room . Older Sister-in-law Qian, do you need Xiaocao for something? I’ll go get her for you . ”
“No need, no need! I’ll go find her in the east room… Our family raised these two ducks ourselves . Here, take them to eat . ” Madam Mao looked around, and then simply took the ducks and duck eggs into the Yu Family’s kitchen .
Yu Hai raised his eyebrows in surprise, ‘This Madam Mao has always been someone who would haggle over every penny, and no one should even think about getting a single penny out of her hands . But of course, she also rarely took advantage of others . Although she spoke rudely at times, she wasn’t someone difficult to get along with . Why was she suddenly so generous today, to send gifts to my family?’
Madam Liu quickly went forward and declined, “Older Sister-in-law Qian, it’s not easy for you to raise these ducks at home . We can’t accept them!”
“Our family’s ducks don’t cost much money . You see, when your family moved in, our family was busy and didn’t come over for the housewarming . We live close by and close neighbors are better than distant relatives . So, we’ll be interacting and helping each other more in the future . Moreover, your family’s Shitou and our family’s Qian Wen goes to the same school . They’re as close as brothers . So, what’s wrong with giving a few ducks to the children to eat?” Sure enough, Madam Mao was an excellent speaker, who spoke without even pausing as if she was pouring beans .
Madam Liu picked up the ducks that Madam Mao put down, and then stuffed it back into her hands as she said, “Older Sister-in-law! Your family isn’t well-off either . You should keep these ducks and duck eggs to sell!”
With the mention of selling ducks, Madam Mao’s face was covered with a cloud of sorrows . She sighed heavily and said, “I’ll speak honestly with Younger Sister-in-law . The heavy snowstorm at the beginning of winter has also negatively affected the sales of our ducks . Raising ducks for nearly a year, not only cost efforts, but it also requires a lot of food . If we can’t sell them, we will be losing a lot of money and time . We still owe half a year of Wen’er’s tuition… Also, these duck eggs, the townsfolk think that the eggs taste fishy and don’t like to eat them . So I can only helplessly watch as they go bad . ”
Every family had their own problems . Madam Liu listened with deep sympathy, but she could only console Madam Mao with feeble words .
“Younger Sister-in-law, I heard that Zhenxiu Restaurant got the recipe for the roasted chicken from your family . The head chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant had personally come to your house to learn it . Furthermore, you guys were the ones who recommended Zhou Family’s chickens to Zhenxiu Restaurant . Is that true?” Madam Mao stared fixedly at Madam Liu, full of anticipation .
Madam Liu glanced hesitantly at her husband . She didn’t know what Madam Mao, who wouldn’t do anything without benefits, meant by asking this question .
Yu Hai walked over slowly and lowered his voice to say, “I won’t hide it from Older Sister-in-law! The recipe for the roasted chicken really did come from our family’s Cao’er . But no matter how you found out this news, please don’t spread it out to others . ”
With an expression that showed she understood, Madam Mao also spoke with a lowered voice, “Brother Dahai, rest assured . I, this Older Sister-in-law, isn’t a blabbermouth! But there’s something I don’t quite understand . With such a good recipe, why didn’t you guys set up your own roasted chicken business, but instead benefitted Zhenxiu Restaurant?”
Yu Hai thought about it and said, “We have been doing business with Zhenxiu Restaurant for some time now . Zhenxiu Restaurant’s Third Young Master Zhou usually takes good of us . As for the roasted chicken business, we are short on manpower and also afraid of bringing trouble to our family . Thus, it’s better to sell the recipe!”
The Yu Family were only ordinary people, who had no power or status . Based on the current popularity and excessive demand for the roasted chicken, had it been the Yu Family selling the dish, it would had definitely attracted devious people who would want to obtain their recipe . At that time, not only would they not be able to keep the recipe, their entire family might be ruined if they encountered someone ruthless .
Madam Mao had also straightened out her thoughts . She nodded thoughtfully, but a moment later, she couldn’t resist asking, “Did you guys sell the recipe to Zhenxiu Restaurant for a good price? Don’t be deceived by others!”
Of course, Yu Hai wouldn’t be so foolish as to reveal his family’s financial situation to others . He answered vaguely, “The young boss of Zhenxiu Restaurant is an honest person, so he offered us a reasonable price…”
Madam Mao also realized that it was inappropriate to ask him this question, so she hastily apologized, “Just look at this mouth of mine . Why am I being so nosy? Oh right, Xiaocao isn’t asleep yet, is she? I need her help with something . ”
“Nope! Shitou came home for break, so the siblings are learning how to read from him!” His youngest daughter said that if their business got bigger in the future, they would need to replenish their stocks, do bookkeeping, and sign contracts . So, it was absolutely out of the question for them to not be able to read and write . Everyone in the family, including him and his wife, had to learn how to read and write .
As Madam Mao followed Yu Hai and his wife and headed to the east room, she said, “Your children really love learning . Our family’s Qian Wu would throw a tantrum whenever we tell him to study . I understand now that he’s not suitable for studying . In the future, he won’t even be able to enter an ordinary school in town, let alone Rongxuan Academy!”
“Wuzi is still young, so he hasn’t matured yet! It will be better later!!” Madam Liu pushed open the door of the east room as she comforted her . The children were currently using water to write on the table with their hands under the light of the oil lamp .
Madam Liu chided them upon seeing this, “Didn’t we buy paper and brushes for you guys to practice writing with? Why aren’t you using them?”
Xiaolian lifted her head and smiled at her, “Don’t we have to use money to buy the paper and brushes? We want to wait until we’re better at writing before practicing on paper! Mother, when you gave birth to Xiaocao, were you biased and gave all the good qualities to her? She was born to hurt our ego!”
“What’s wrong? Cao’er, did you bully your older sister?” With a bright smile on her face, Madam Liu glared at Xiaocao and asked .
Yu Xiaocao pouted and had an aggrieved expression on her face, “I didn’t! Mother, you’re falsely accusing me!”
Yu Hang was able to sit up now . He was holding a book and working hard to read the characters on it . Seeing this scene, he smiled and said, “Mother, Xiaolian is blaming you for giving birth to such a smart younger sister, who simply remembers everything with one look . It makes us seem really stupid in comparison . ”
“Is it my fault that I’m smart?” Yu Xiaocao felt that she was being excluded . She blinked her big eyes and stared at her mother pitifully, requesting for comfort .
“Younger Sister-in-law, your children have such a good relationship! Unlike my three children . The eldest is slightly better since he has matured after going to school . But Wuzi and his younger sister fight every day . It seriously gives me a headache!” Madam Mao wanted to ask them for a favor, so she was very generous with her compliments . She was desperately giving out praises as if they were freebies .
“Why did Auntie come over?”
“Auntie, quickly come sit on the kang bed . ”
The kids all greeted her at the same time .
“You don’t have to get up . Xiaosha, it seems like your injury has gotten a lot better . Auntie brought over two ducks and a basket of duck eggs . They’re good for nourishing your body . ” Madam Mao was quite skilled in conducting herself .
With a warm smile on his face, Yu Hang replied in a well-behaved manner, “Thank you Auntie! I have troubled you . ”
Yu Hai turned to tell Xiaocao, “Cao’er, your Auntie Qian is looking for you…”
“Auntie, what’s the matter?” Yu Xiaocao was somewhat puzzled . Did the sun rise from the west today? Madam Mao had actually sent their family a present . Moreover, it wasn’t just some small gift . It was two ducks and a basket of duck eggs . She had really gone all out . So it turned out that ‘no one ever visits a temple without a reason’ ah!
Madam Mao looked at the other people in the room and seemed a little embarrassed to speak . Xiaocao considerately got off the kang bed and took her to the courtyard . She whispered, “Auntie, if there’s something I can help you, you can tell me directly!”
Madam Mao told her about the poor sales of her ducks and how they didn’t have enough money to pay for her eldest son’s tuition after the New Year . After that, she stammered, “Look, can you come up with a good dish that uses duck as the main ingredient?! If not… using duck eggs would be fine too! It’s best… it’s best if it’s a dish that Zhenxiu Restaurant will be interested in…”
In the darkness, Madam Mao’s face was burning hot . She really didn’t ask for favors very often, especially when the other party was a child who hadn’t even reached the age of ten .
Immediately, a series of dishes, such as salted duck, osmanthus duck, pipa duck, duck seasoned with soy sauce, and roasted duck, emerged with Yu Xiaocao’s mind . It was easy to handle duck eggs too . They could be used to make delicacies like century eggs, tofu with century eggs, and congee with lean pork and century eggs .
But she didn’t immediately agree to her request . She only promised to try it out and made it clear that it may not necessarily succeed .