translator: baumkuchen editor: ellabells
The freshly made osmanthus cake tasted delicious, and was soft and chewy in one’s mouth. Because the osmanthus was also fresh, their fragrance was especially strong, even if one just put it off to the side, they would be able to smell a light fragrance. Even though the tea was just normal tea, it was enough to wash away the sweet, greasy aftertaste, adding some freshness.
Lu Qingjiu told Yin Xun to not eat too much, they would still be having dinner later.
Autumn was the season for eating stewed foods to maintain good health. Lu Qingjiu made stewed pig trotters with kelp that night. The trotters were pork from the village, and the kelp was bought that day. The way they ate pig trotters here was a little different from in other places. Usually, it would be paired with a spicy sauce. After the fatty pig trotters were stewed until they were soft, they were covered in sour and spicy seasoning, so there would by no greasy taste at all, making it incredibly appetising. The pig trotter soup was also especially delicious. Only after drinking several bowls was Lu Qingjiu satisfied.
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Yin Xun, who had eaten too much that afternoon finally tasted the fruits of his own bad decisions. He wanted to eat, but his stomach was already filled to bursting. In the end, he could only watch balefully as Bai Yuehu finished off the entire pot of soup by himself. Even if he wanted to cry, there was no one to cry to.
Lu Qingjiu could only comfort him by saying he’d make it again in a few days so he wouldn’t be too sad.
A little past 9 that night, Lu Qingjiu received Zhu Miaomiao’s phone call, saying that she was coming over early for the Mid Autumn Festival. She asked if Lu Qingjiu wanted her to bring anything in particular.
Lu Qingjiu didn’t stand on courtesies with her, telling her to send crabs over again, and while she was at it, help him buy the soft fruit candies he couldn’t buy over here. Zhu Miaomiao agreed easily, patting her chest and saying that there was no problem.
The Mid Autumn Festival was a day for family reunions, but unfortunately Lu Qingjiu was already alone in the world. But thankfully, in this modest home, there was Bai Yuehu and Yin Xun to keep him company.
The day Zhu Miaomiao had said she was coming over, Lu Qingjiu began making mooncakes. This was his first time doing this, he wasn’t very practiced, but fortunately, it wasn’t very difficult to make, just that the flavour of the filling needed a bit of effort. As Lu Qingjiu wrapped the salted egg yolk he’d bought into the lotus seed paste, he planned to marinate some duck eggs this year.
Next to him, Yin Xun helped Lu Qingjiu out by pressing the finished mooncakes in the mould and then taking it out.
Lu Qingjiu also made some savoury mooncakes. Savoury mooncakes were unlike the sweet ones, generally crispy and best eaten straight out of the oven.
Just as he was about to put the mooncakes into the oven, Zhu Miaomiao called, saying she would be reaching the train station in thirty minutes.
Lu Qingjiu left the job of watching the mooncakes bake to Yin Xun, getting him to watch them closely for him while he drove the pickup truck to pick up Zhu Miaomiao.
Zhu Miaomiao came from the city, her arms filled with bags. When Lu Qingjiu asked why she brought so much luggage, she patted her suitcase and laughed, “What do you mean luggage? This is all food. I was afraid that there were some things that you wouldn’t be able to buy in town, so I bought them all for you.”
Hearing this, Lu Qingjiu smiled. He said, “You’ve worked hard.”
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When the two got home, the mooncakes had just gotten out of the oven, still steaming hot. Zhu Miaomiao was a little hungry after riding the train for so long. She grabbed a lotus paste egg yolk mooncake and started eating. As she ate, she praised Lu Qingjiu’s cooking skills. With homemade mooncakes, one was naturally more willing to put in ingredients. Lu Qingjiu had stuffed two egg yolks in every mooncake. The egg yolks, wrapped in a thin layer of lotus paste, when bitten into, it was incredibly soft, and the sweet and salty taste filled one’s mouth.
“Delicious!” Zhu Miaomiao praised.
Lu Qingjiu smiled and said, “If it tastes good, then eat more.” He brought the mooncakes to Bai Yuehu sitting in the courtyard, then set aside a portion to send to his neighbours he was close with in the village.
The savoury mooncakes also tasted very good. They were a little like meat pies, but the skin was a little more crispy than that of meat pies, very suited to Bai Yuehu, this carnivore.
As Zhu Miaomiao ate mooncakes, she told Lu Qingjiu her intentions in coming back this time.
“Jiu-er ah, have you ever thought of other ways to make money?” Zhu Miaomiao said vaguely, “I don’t think you can make much money farming like this, and you still have two more mouths to feed in your family…”
Lu Qingjiu, “…” Hearing Zhu Miaomiao’s words, he felt the slight urge to laugh. In the end, he pretended to be worried, saying, “Yeah, this half-grown kids are really eating this elder out of house and home.”
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Zhu Miaomiao, “Right, right, that shuaige really can eat. I’ve never seen you have any leftovers whenever I visit.”
Upon saying this, she and Lu Qingjiu met gazes. The two of them couldn’t help but laugh.
“Alright, I’m just joking,” Zhu Miaomiao said, “Have you thought about what I suggested last time?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “Oh, your plan isn’t bad, but I don’t know if the well water will have any use.”
Zhu Miaomiao said, “You know if you try it out, there are so many people waiting for it in our company.”
Lu QIngjiu said, “Then let’s try it.”
Before, Zhu Miaomiao had brought this up over the phone, saying that she wanted to get Lu Qingjiu to send over water from the well in his inner courtyard and make a contribution to the hair loss cause. If the well water from his inner courtyard was effective, Zhu Miaomiao could help Lu Qingjiu open up an online store to sell hair-growth solution.
Lu Qingjiu of course hadn’t forgotten to ask Bai Yuehu if the well water would have any aftereffects. Bai Yuehu said there wouldn’t be any, that well being able to grow people’s hair was the woman’s lingering wish, lingering wishes wouldn’t have any negative effects on the human body, and was even beneficial to a certain extent. Of course, this was in the premise was that the well water really did help with hair growth.
Since Lu Qingjiu had resigned and went home, Zhu Miaomiao had constantly been worried about her friend not doing well in the village. She wasn’t like Lu Qingjiu, having lived in the city since she was young, where would she have seen this kind of little remote village where even going to town took two hours? Hence, she would often imagine Lu Qingjiu’s hard life in the countryside, with what having to fetch water from miles away to water the fields, what weeding and harvesting crops under the harsh sun, and so on. What she didn’t know was that all the heavy lifting in this home was done by that person with a big appetite who she called a shuaige. The most heavy lifting Lu Qingjiu had to do was weeding the courtyard, and preparing his family’s two little piggies’ feed.
“Right, Qingjiu, do you have any surplus crops, you can sell them all online.” During dinner, Zhu Miaomiao was still thinking up plans for Lu Qingjiu. “Didn’t you have a lot of grapes you couldn’t finish before?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “It’s all been sold off.” Chao Qianyu was watching his home’s fields everyday. As long as there were crops they wouldn’t be able to finish eating, he would make sure to call a month before they ripen to secure them in advance.
“Sold off?” Zhu Miaomiao asked in surprise, “Who bought them?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “A restaurant owner.”
Zhu Miaomiao said, “What kind of prices are they offering?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “They’re alright, about the same as the prices in the city. I did think about selling them online before, but Shuifu village is too remote, transporting them would be too difficult. Fruits and vegetables don’t last a long time, it’d be hard for me to guarantee their quality after transport.”
His words were rather reasonable. Zhu Miaomiao stroked her chin. “Then you can consider developing other side businesses, like… these mooncakes are delicious.” She felt Lu Qingjiu’s cooking would definitely be well received.
Lu Qingjiu smiled and said, “Let’s talk about this later.” These things were, after all, homemade, producing food still required one having to go through procedures like licensing and quarantining, it was more difficult than one would think.
After chatting for a while, the two eventually decided that Zhu Miaomiao would first test out whether the well water would be able to grow hair after it was brought out of Shuifu village. If it could, then they would consider a Taobao store.
It was the Mid-Autumn Festival in two days. Lu Qingjiu planned on making a big feast on the day of the Mid-Autumn festival, so everyone could have a good, full meal. Because Zhu Miaomiao had come over, Lu Qingjiu wanted her to have a taste of wenyao. He asked Bai Yuehu if he could catch another few fish back, just in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Bai Yuehu agreed easily. The next day, he brought fresh wenyao back for Lu Qingjiu, as well as a lamb that had been skinned and had the unnecessary parts cut off.
Of course, Bai Yuehu said this was lamb, but Lu Qingjiu felt like there was something a little wrong with it. This lamb didn’t have a hint of the gaminess one would expect meat to have, rather, it had a slight, fresh fragrance. The quality of the meat was extremely good. Lu Qingjiu sliced off a piece of meat and saw that the marble pattern was like a beautiful snowflake, looking incredibly tempting.
Lu Qingjiu used a portion of the meat to make stew, and the other to make stir-fried lamb. The stir-fried meat was extremely delicious, with the perfect proportion of fatty and lean meat. It was neither greasy nor too lean, making people unable to stop eating.
One of the reasons why Zhu Miaomiao liked coming to Shuifu village so much, was in big part because the food here was truly too good. No matter what she ate here, it was all better than what she could find anywhere else. She liked fish, so when she tried the fish with pickled vegetables Lu Qingjiu had made with the wenyao, she felt like it tasted so good that she almost swallowed her tongue down with it.
“Wuwuwu so, so delicious!” Zhu Miaomiao hadn’t stopped eating even once. Even after eating until her stomach was full to bursting, she still managed to drink a few more mouthfuls of soup.
Lu Qingjiu said, “Don’t eat until you’re too full, you might get a stomach ache.”
Zhu Miaomiao shook her head. She said, “I’ve never eaten such a delicious fish in my life. What kind of fish is it?”
Lu Qingjiu replied vaguely, “It’s just a common grass carp.”
“I definitely have to come here to live after I retire,” Zhu Miaomiao swore, “Definitely—”
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Lu Qingjiu laughed. “Mail doesn’t deliver here.” To receive mail, he would always have to go to the collection point in town to get it, transportation was really incredibly inconvenient here.
Zhu Miaomiao shook her head. “Not being able to receive mail is worth getting to eat fish like this everyday.” She had truly eaten until she was too full. She wanted to stand up to walk around for a while, but felt like her stomach wouldn’t be able to stand up to such movement, so after trying for a while, she sat back down, helpless.
“Yi? What’s that?” Zhu Miaomiao, sitting down and resting, turned, noticing a ball of white fur hiding by the door. “Qingjiu, you got a dog?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “No, it’s a fox.” The little fox was very timid, and a little shy around strangers. The moment Zhu Miaomiao had arrived, it had hid in the bedroom. It was probably hungry now, so it had fought its timidity and carefully peeked its head out to check out Zhu Miaomiao, seeming to be assessing whether the woman was safe. Seeing its cute appearance, Lu Qingjiu waved it over. Only then did it slowly walk over to Lu Qingjiu’s side, sticking out its tongue and licking Lu Qingjiu’s palm.
“Fox?” Zhu Miaomiao looked at the suspicious shape of the fox before her and felt very doubtful. “Why is this little fox’s fur cut like that of a poodle?”
Upon hearing Zhu Miaomiao’s question, the guilty party, Lu Qingjiu, looked away guiltily and threw the pot to someone else with a stiff cough, “Oh, Yin Xun did it. It was his first time, he doesn’t have any experience.”
Zhu Miaomiao replied thoughtfully, “Oh, so it’s like that. If you hadn’t said that, I might even have thought that you were the one who did it.”
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Lu Qingjiu laughed dryly, “Ha ha ha ha, how could I?”
Yin Xun, washing the dishes in the kitchen, inexplicably sneezed suddenly. He rubbed his nose and mumbled, “Who’s saying bad things about me…”