The ‘Husband and Wife’ Plan
Yu Qingze returned to the courtyard in the evening, carrying a large bag. He immediately called out to Chang Le, who was pounding rice, “Brother Le, no need to cook dinner tonight. I’ll make noodles.”
After conducting observations for four or five days and considering the current summer weather and the situation in the county town, Yu Qingze decided to start his first street food stall selling “liangpi” (cold skin noodles) and “liangmian” (cold noodles). With his available capital, he thought it would be a good choice.
Tonight, he wanted to give it a try and see the feedback from Chang Le’s family after they tasted it.
Upon hearing Yu Qingze’s voice, Chang Hao, who was writing on a wooden tray, immediately ran over. “Brother Yu, you’re back so early today! What did you buy? Why is the bag so big?”
Yu Qingze usually returned late in the evening, so Chang Hao was delighted to see him back at this hour. It meant they could enjoy a meal prepared by Yu Qingze.
In the past few days, Yu Qingze had been returning late, and it was Chang Le who cooked the meals. Chang Le was eager to try his hand at cooking new dishes, but even though he had learned from Yu Qingze for a few days, cooking skills couldn’t be acquired overnight. It required continuous practice and experimentation.
As a result, they often ended up eating experimental dishes these days. Chang Hao didn’t want to reminisce about those flavors. In the end, they relied on pickled cucumbers and vegetables, thanks to the loving Grandpa and younger brother, who reassured Chang Le that the food was tasty. Otherwise, he would have been criticized and doubted his journey as a chef!
Seeing Yu Qingze return so early now, how could Chang Hao not be excited? He was moved to tears!
“There are flour and some seasonings in here, which we’ll need to make noodles tonight,” Yu Qingze said, carrying the large bag into the kitchen and placing it on the table. To gather all these seasonings, he had visited many places, and some of the ingredients were obtained from the herbal medicine store.
Chang Le also entered the kitchen, curious about the things on the table, as some of them were not typically used for cooking.
After washing his hands, Yu Qingze first cleaned a small piece of ginger, some star anise, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns. Then, he started kneading the dough.
He poured an appropriate amount of flour into a bowl, added some salt, and poured in water. Using chopsticks, he stirred it until it became a loose mixture, and then he kneaded it into a smooth dough. He covered it with a damp cloth and let it rest.
Next, Yu Qingze asked Chang Le to start a fire and began making chili oil.
He heated a wok, poured in vegetable oil, and waited for it to heat up to about 70-80%. Then, he added ginger slices and various spices. Once the ginger turned yellow, he removed it from the wok and simmered the other spices over low heat until fragrant. Afterward, he took the wok off the heat to cool down. When the oil’s surface became calm, he added chili powder, white sesame seeds, and a small amount of peanuts to the wok, stirring them evenly. Finally, he put the wok back on low heat, added a bit of salt, and simmered the chili oil until it turned a bright red color.
Once the chili oil was ready, he let it cool and poured it into a bowl for later use. Then, Yu Qingze minced ginger and garlic, placed them in another bowl, added soy sauce, vinegar, and a little pepper to create a dipping sauce. They were lacking many condiments, so they had to make do with what they had.
At this point, the dough had finished resting.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
Yu Qingze continued to knead the dough while instructing Chang Le to start boiling water.
Once the water boiled, Yu Qingze began pulling the noodles. After cooking the noodles, he rinsed them with cold water, scooped them into a large bowl, and added cucumber strips, pickled green beans, and chopped scallions. He drizzled the noodles with chili oil and the prepared sauce, stirred everything together, and the cold noodles were ready.
Four large bowls of cold noodles were placed on the table, and Yu Qingze said, “These are cold tossed noodles. Give them a try and let me know how they taste.”
Chang Hao was the first one to dig in.
The hand-pulled noodles were fragrant, tender, and had a satisfying chewiness. The sauce had a perfect balance of saltiness and tanginess, while the chili oil added aroma, color, and a stimulating spiciness. Amidst the bold flavors, the pickled green beans and cucumbers provided a refreshing crunch, balancing out the richness and stimulating the appetite.
In this hot summer, eating a bowl of tangy, appetizing, and refreshing cold noodles couldn’t be more suitable.
“Delicious!” Chang Hao took a bite, only uttering two words before he fell silent, completely engrossed in eating.
Grandpa Chang and Chang Le also expressed their satisfaction, stating that the noodles were delicious and appetizing, unlike eating hot noodles that would make them sweat profusely.
The four of them finished every last bit of the generous serving of cold noodles.
Then, Yu Qingze shared his money-making plan.
“Grandpa, I’m planning to open a small snack stall, starting with cold noodles. Oh, and there’s another dish called ‘liangpi’ that I’ll make for you to try tomorrow and see how it tastes.”
“That’s a good idea. The weather is hot, and people don’t have much of an appetite. These cold noodles are very appetizing, and we don’t have them around here. They will definitely sell well!” Grandpa Chang expressed his agreement upon hearing this.
Chang Le and Chang Hao enthusiastically nodded, thinking it was an excellent plan.
Having observed for several days, Yu Qingze naturally believed that this could be a profitable venture.
“I’ve already placed an order for a stove and charcoal briquettes in the town. I’ll also have a small cart and two small tables custom-made at the village chief’s house. Additionally, I’ll buy a pot, utensils, a water bucket, a basin, and some other small items. With these, we’ll be ready to open for business.” Then, Yu Qingze turned to Chang Le and said, “Brother Le, I definitely can’t handle everything alone. I would like to ask for your help. Can you join me?”
Chang Le was surprised and couldn’t believe it. He pointed at himself and asked, “Me?”
“Yes,” Yu Qingze nodded. “At the beginning, I’ll pay you fifty wen a day. If business goes well, I’ll increase your wages.”
Chang Le was hardworking, strong, and had a good character. Asking him for help was the right choice.
Because Yu Qingze had some indescribable feelings for Chang Le, he planned to wait for some time and then officially partner with him, turning the snack stall into a “husband-husband stall”!
A partnership sounded more intimate than an employer-employee relationship, and it would be easier to remove the quotation marks around the “husband-wife stall” and make it a genuine one!
Moreover, this family had been very good to him and even saved his life. Even if he couldn’t be with Chang Le, he wanted to earn some money for this family and help them live a better life.
Originally, he wanted to directly propose the partnership to Chang Le. However, he knew how difficult it was for a rural family to earn money. Chang Le had a more conservative nature, and unless they could see the potential for profit, they wouldn’t make decisions lightly. Additionally, most of the money Chang Le earned from selling vegetables had to be saved. Grandpa Chang’s health was not good, and he often needed medicine, so they couldn’t easily touch those savings.
He needed to show them the prospects of making money to gain their trust and convince them to join him.
Fifty wen a day? That was more than what one could earn in a day working in the county town! There was a guy from the neighboring village who worked in the city and earned only eight hundred wen a month!
Chang Le quickly waved his hands, making gestures. Chang Hao translated for him.
Chang Le expressed his willingness to help, but he couldn’t speak. For this kind of snack stall business, being able to communicate and interact with customers was important. He also felt that fifty wen a day was too much, considering he didn’t think he deserved that price.
Yu Qingze shook his head and said, “Brother Le, it’s not too much at all. Trust me, your labor is worth this price. Besides, the work is quite demanding. You’ll have to serve dishes, clean plates, fetch water, handle transactions, and even help make noodles when it gets busy. You’ll need to do a bit of everything. I’m afraid I might be asking too much of you.”
Chang Hao had his own indescribable secret thoughts, but he knew his brother well. If they approached him directly, he would probably hesitate. So he persuaded Chang Le, saying, “Brother, it sounds quite tough. Maybe you shouldn’t do it.”
This worried Yu Qingze. He said, “Brother Le, I don’t know anyone else around here, and I can’t easily trust others. I can only trust you.”
Chang Le wasn’t afraid of hard work. He was concerned that he might not be able to contribute much and yet receive so much money, which troubled him. Earning money was certainly good. If he could truly make fifty wen a day, he would be able to send his younger brother to school! And by winter, he could even cover his Grandpa’s medical expenses!
Chang Le glanced at his Grandpa, and Grandpa Chang said, “It’s your decision.” He smiled and looked at Chang Le with squinted eyes.
With both his younger brother and Yu Qingze encouraging him, Chang Le thought for a moment and nodded.
Chang Hao lowered his head and stifled a laugh. Although his brother appeared gentle and amiable on the surface, he was actually quite competitive. Sometimes, you had to approach things in reverse.
With the matter settled, Yu Qingze felt relieved.
He drew up the blueprints and went to the village chief’s house to ask for help in making a small cart and two sets of tables and stools.
The village chief’s family was currently busy with rice field work, but they gave priority to Yu Qingze’s order.
The tables that Yu Qingze wanted were folding tables. When Da Jian, the village chief’s son, saw the blueprints, he became immediately interested and engaged in a lively discussion with Yu Qingze. Yu Qingze explained the principles behind them, and Da Jian enthusiastically went to study how to make them.
It took the village chief’s family three to four days to complete the work. During this time, Yu Qingze also made some preparations.
The next morning, Yu Qingze and the young Chang Hao stood in the courtyard, assuming a horse-riding stance.
Previously, Yu Qingze had promised to teach Chang Hao some self-defense techniques, but due to his busy schedule of investigating, he only had time in the evenings. However, evenings were also limited as Chang Hao had to spend an hour practicing calligraphy first. After that, Yu Qingze would let him assume the horse-riding stance to stabilize his lower body.
The ten-year-old boy held a dream in his heart and was very interested in learning martial arts. He approached the training with great dedication. The horse-riding stance was indeed a tedious and demanding exercise, but he found it fascinating.
Chang Hao crouched, with his feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, fists clenched by his sides, and his eyes focused straight ahead. Following Yu Qingze’s instructions, he tried to maintain a long and steady breath.
On the first day, he could only endure for the duration of a joss stick, needing to take breaks. Now, he could endure for almost half an hour!
While teaching Chang Hao the horse-riding stance, Yu Qingze noticed several gers peeking into their courtyard. However, as soon as he looked their way, they swiftly vanished.
Yu Qingze: …
When Yu Qingze once again caught a glimpse of a young ger outside the fence, he furrowed his brows and asked Chang Hao, “Xiao Hao, are those gers coming to see you but feeling too embarrassed to come in when they see me here?”
Chang Hao glanced outside and replied, “They’ve been doing this for several days now. They come to see you. Every day, they come to take a look. In the past few days, when you left early in the morning, they didn’t get a chance to see you, but several of them found different ways to inquire.”
Yu Qingze was completely puzzled. “See me? See me for what?” Could it be that they find me handsome?
The young boy chuckled and said, “You don’t know? You’re quite famous in the village now. Everyone was busy with their own affairs before, so they didn’t pay attention. But now that things have settled down, they have time to gossip. Now, everyone knows that you’re 28 years old and still unmarried. They all want to come and see if there’s some undisclosed reason behind it.”
“…An undisclosed reason?” Yu Qingze’s eyebrows twitched, and he had a sense that the answer he was about to hear wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
The young boy couldn’t stop laughing and said, “How would I know what it is? They didn’t tell me. They just keep asking. If you want to know, go ask them yourself.”
“…No need. I don’t want to know at all.” It shouldn’t be what he had in mind, right?
“Oh, and someone asked if you want to find a wife,” Chang Hao added cautiously, stealing a glance at Yu Qingze’s expression.
Yu Qingze had actually thought about it and had a good candidate in mind, but he shook his head and said, “Not now. I can’t even feed myself properly yet. Should I find a wife and make them suffer with me?”
Yu Qingze found it both laughable and exasperating. In the countryside, where there wasn’t much entertainment, people gathered together for a chat when they had nothing else to do. He had considered this situation, but he never expected that one day he would become the subject of gossip and idle chatter among them.
Upon hearing his words, Chang Hao nodded in satisfaction. As long as Brother Yu didn’t have any interest in others, there was hope for his brother!
As they spent more and more time together, Brother Yu would gradually see the goodness in his brother! Isn’t there a saying that goes, “Familiarity breeds affection”? With him by Brother Yu’s side, his brother would definitely become brother Yu’s wife!
Yu Qingze had no idea that he already had a secret helper in his pursuit of a wife. He was still thinking about earning money, getting a household registeration, and building a house. Once his life was stable, then he could propose!
In the morning, Yu Qingze made liangpi.
The process for making liangpi was a bit more complicated, and the texture was different from cold noodles. It had a refreshing and cool sensation, and it received high praise from Chang Le and the others.
While waiting for the small cart and tables to be completed, Yu Qingze spent these days making cold noodles and liangpi, drying them for later use.
During this time, people passing by Chang Le’s house saw bamboo poles filled with cold noodles and liangpi being sun-dried in the yard. Some people wanted to buy them, but Yu Qingze turned them down.
He also borrowed the village chief’s ox cart to go to the city and buy the necessary seasonings such as oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. He brought back the prepared stove and coal balls.
Cucumbers, pickled green beans, and scallions were bought directly from Chang Le’s house, while water buckets and wooden basins were purchased from the village chief’s house.
He even bought a signboard and asked scholar Yu to write “Yu’s Delicious Delights” on it. This would serve as the sign for his food stall.
After buying all these things, Yu Qingze had only a small amount of silver left, around 27 taels.
Three days later, the village chief’s family finished making the small cart and tables.
With everything prepared, the food stall was finally ready to open!
READERS’ OPINION REQUESTED
Hello lovely people, I wanna ask you guys about the pronouns in this novel. There were few times the author uses the female terms such as wife, but many more times they used the term husband. Which one do you prefer for me to continue using from now on? Use all male terms (husband, uncle, man, father, etc.) or incorporate some female terms (wife, mother, aunt, etc.)? Please let me know. ☺️