Chapter 1 – Beggar’s Chicken

 

Translated by Prosperous.com

 

Rehosted by Gumihou at kitchennovel.com

 

 

 

“Boom!” Another loud explosion occurred from the Song family kitchen!

 

A teenager that was covered with soot and dust rushed out of the kitchen that was billowing black smog.

 

While the teenager was running, he was coughing at the same time. He looked very poor – his clothes were in tatters and his hair was dishevelled. If you do not know who this teenager is, you could mistake him for refugee.

 

“Cough, Cough, Cough! How could I fail? It is impossible! I have followed the recipe to the letter!

 

I could not think of the reason for this failure. I stood outside the smoking kitchen and examined the cookbook in more details.

 

A middle age woman grabbed a broom and rushed towards me, as if she wants to eat me up!

 

“Song Xiran, did you just explode the kitchen again? Did you want our house to be burned to the ground? Did you want to sleep in the streets? What are you doing here? Why are you not in school?”

 

I rubbed my eyes – oh, this woman is none other than my mother. Her eyes were flaming, and from the speed of her rushing over, if you give her a big round ring and two wheels under her feet, she could become Nezha [1] in an instant.

 

I saw that the situation is unfavourable for me, immediately grabbed the schoolbag nearby, and quickly made my escape.

 

“Mother, do not be angry, I am leaving now~”

 

Her roar comes loud and furious, “Little rabbit, you better study hard….” Before she could finish, I have disappeared without a trace.

 

In the school, everyone was nodding their heads as they studied.

 

Poetry:

 

青青子衿,

悠悠我心。

但为君故,

沉吟至今

 

The scholars who was dressed in a green collar [2],

lingers in my heart and filled my mind.

 

As a king of an empire,

I have sunk into this pit, unable to get out.[3].

 

 

 

“Urgh…. These are damn boring! It is more interesting to cook. Mother is so domineering, and every day forced me to study. These books are really boring and irritating!”

 

I sat in my usual seat and took out the book from my school bag. I swayed my head with my classmates and continued to grumble.

 

“Song Xiran!Song Xiran!”

 

The teacher saw that I was not focusing on my studies and called my name a few times.

 

I was unaware of this, and continued to grumble silently in my heart.

 

Xiran, what are you doing? The teacher is calling you!” A good friend of mine pulled my sleeve, and I was pulled back from my daydreams into reality.

 

Looking at the strict expression on the teacher’s face, I know I am in trouble. I immediately stood up.

 

“Song Xiran, what are you doing?”

 

At this moment, I suddenly discovered that the classroom was deadly quiet, and all the students in the class were looking at me.

 

I stammered, “Teacher, I am reading.”

 

“Really? Then, please tell me, where did I stop?” The teacher did not let me off that easily.

 

“You read until…. “

 

I frowned and looked Wei Qi, who sat beside me. I used my eyes to beg him for help.

 

Wei Qi used his book to cover his face as he whispered, “

 

(Poem)

 

呦呦鹿鸣,

食野之苹。[4]

The deer cried out in joy,

as it eats the grass in the fields. “

 

“Oh, teacher, I suddenly recall. You were talking about:

 

(Poem)

 

是呦呦鹿鸣,

荷叶浮萍 [5]

 

The deer cried out in joy,

as it eats the lotus leaf and duckweed.

 

 

 

I was very confident when I called out this answer. To my surprise and amazement, everyone broke out in laughter.

 

The teacher was very angry as he chided, “Lotus Leaf and Duckweed? You wanted to eat Lotus roots, right? Do you want a bowl of Tremella Soup to cool your head? Are you really studying? Why didn’t you pay attention in classes? You did not even finish your homework. Every day you just play around, thinking of all kinds of rubbish! I think that your heart is not in your studies. All my efforts into teaching you had come to nought!”

 

“My heart is really not in my studies.” I softly muttered.

 

“You, you….. you…. what did you say! You are a rascal! A good for nothing! A block of wood cannot be used to carve a jade. You better go back and tell your mum that your teacher is powerless to guide you, and could not teach you. Please find another teacher. You need not come back again tomorrow.”

 

The teacher was so annoyed that he could not say another word for the rest of the day. He just stroked his beard and panted hard. Then he dismissed the class and left the classroom.

 

“Not needing to come back is good! You think that I really want to come here? You idiotic old man~!”

 

I quickly packed my stuff, and informed my best friend, Wei Qi, as I walked out of the school.

 

On the way, I breathe in the fresh air, and strolled around while window shopping. Sometimes I watched the candy seller, and sometimes I touched the cloth that the vendors sell.

 

 

 

Wei Qi looked very worried as he accompanied me, “Xiran, you were expelled from the school. What are you going to tell your mum? Are you not worried that you will be beaten up?”

 

I just shrugged, “No choice. If she wants to beat me, then I have to bear and grit it. You know that I do not like studying.”

 

Wei Qi’s house is next door to mine. From young, our two households are very close to one another. He is my ‘brother’ who grew up with me. My mother loves him a lot, and often invited him to my house for dinner.

 

From young, he had clear eyes and wide forehead, and is a gentleman. He is gentle and refined, and does not resemble a commoner’s kid. Rather, he resembles a rich man’s son and is the scholarly type.

 

Our relationships were very close. He knows almost everything about me – except the fact that I am a woman.

 

While walking on the street, I felt hungry, and grinned at Wei Qi with a mischievous smile on my face.

 

“Wei Qi, are you hungry? Shall I take you to eat something good?”

 

Wei Qi is indeed my buddy and knows me well!

 

As soon as he saw my mischievous smile, he immediately said he is not hungry and immediately retreated. Fast as he was, I was faster still and grabbed him.

 

Want to run? No freaking way!

 

“Do not run away! As brothers, we go through thick and thin together. If we have difficulties, we will face it together. Right now, I got something good.”

 

Then I dragged him from the street into a broken down, vacant temple.

 

“Xiran, what are we doing here?”

 

He looked at me suspiciously. I saw that he is simple and easy to frighten, and thought that it would be a piece of cake to bluff him.

 

“Wei Qi, did you see the wild chickens over there? Catch one for me, I will cook something tasty for you.”

 

I pointed at the wild chickens just outside this temple.

 

“Wild chickens? Where? Aren’t these house kept chickens?”

 

Looks like I had underestimated his intelligence. It is time to pull the wool over his eyes.

 

“See, there is no one keeping the chickens. The chickens are roaming over there and looking for worms to eat. Chicken lays eggs, and eggs become chickens. That is how there is such a big chicken family. We are here to ensure the survival of the fittest. We helped to eliminate the weakest one. Also, we fill our belly. Isn’t this killing two birds with one stone?” I immediately looked at his eyes when I reasoned it out. After all, when it comes to talking rubbish I am the number 1  in the world.

 

“But isn’t this stealing.” Looking at the way he hesitated, I was really angry. Since the ‘easy’ way does not work, I had to retort to the ‘hard’ way.

 

I used a hand and grabbed his neck as I said,

 

“Damn the ‘buts’. Just say if you will go or not? You are a man! Stop being so wishy-washy! You are too timid. I know that you want to ask me why didn’t I go. But I am the commander and the brains, I need to hold the fort and cook the dinner. Quick, go and come back quickly. I believe in you~”

 

Under my threats and confounded logic, he had no choice but to catch a chicken, and quickly, he let out the blood, removed the feathers and degut the chicken.

 

I looked at the chicken and was quite satisfied. Now is my turn to shine.

 

I decide to cook a dish called Beggar’s Chicken. Luckily when I was experimenting with the new dish this morning, I had already prepared the seasonings and placed it in my bag. It is to be used for emergencies such as these. Now my efforts had paid off.

 

I placed the pepper, salt and other seasonings that I had prepared onto the chicken. At the same time, I assigned Wei Qi the task of finding some wild fruits. Then I stuffed these fruits into the chicken.

 

Accordingly to my dad’s recipe, the roast chicken will taste more tender and will be infused with the aroma of the fruits.

 

Then I found a broken jar and used it to dig some soil. After adding a bit of water, it becomes muddy.

 

I used the mud to encapsulated the chicken, and turned it into a ball.

 

Then I dig a hole in the soft soil and placed the ball into it.

 

Finally, I place a fire on top of it. While watching the fire, I begin to chat with Wei Qi.

 

When the fire finally died out, I dig out the ball of hardened clay, and used a stone to shatter it.

 

The clay broke apart with ease.

 

In just an hour, the beggar’s chicken is ready.

 

We did not have any large leaves, nor did we prepare a lot of things. Therefore, we improvised on the fly. Never did we expect that this experiment is a success, and the chicken ready smells good.

 

After I had taken the chicken out, I used some fruit juice to marinate it and roast it for a short while.

 

That’s is why it is golden in colour and the chicken is tender and juicy. The tastes of the sweet fruits were infused into the meat and give off a unique aroma that blends the chicken with the fruits. The chicken is tender and not greasy.

 

This is something that I had never tried before.

 

Our stomachs were growling with hunger.

 

Looking at Wei Qi’s eyes, I first cut a drumstick for him.

 

Then I cut a piece of chicken meat and place it into my mouth. Oh, it is super yummy~~

 

It took us over 1.5 hours to cook it, but 1.5 minutes for Wei Qi and I to finish the chicken.

 

After eating, I wipe my mouth and rub my belly. This is happiness. Even if I were to go home and got beaten by my mum, it would be worth it.

 

Seeing that it is quite late, we destroyed all evidence of chicken feathers and bones and intends to return home.

 

Shortly after, I reached the door of my house. Wei Qi was advised to go home first. I just stood there at the entrance and did not dare to enter.

 

Although I said I am not worried, and that it is worth it after eating the chicken, I still feel a sense of dread about going home.

 

The good news were never shared, but bad news spread like wildfire.

 

I am sure that my mother had heard the news. I do not know how she would react. When she nags, she could irritate someone to death. And when she is angry, even a tiger will be frightened away.

 

“Xiran, what are standing outside the door for? You come home so late! Quick, come in.” My mother called my name.

 

“Damn it, I am doomed!” I carefully entered the house and closed the door. Then I tiptoed to my room.

 

“I heard that you made the teacher angry again? And was expelled?” Mother’s face had the characters ‘Not happy’ written on it.

 

Oh, so it is about me being expelled. I thought it is because I had stolen the chicken and was caught.

 

I was saying, how could they discover it so quickly? I wiped away the beads of perspiration from my head, and heave a sigh of relief.

 

“Tell me, what happens if you goes on like this. Could you face your dead father? It is not easy for me to single-handedly bring you up, did you know that? To ensure that you could read and write, when you are young, I disguised you as a boy so that you could enter a school. In this way, you could bring pride to our ancestors and not follow the path that your dad took. But you …. Every few days, you would come up with new ways to cook, and did not put in effort into your studies. How are you going to survive in the future?”

 

My mother nagged at me using the same old words. I had heard these words so many times that my ears could hear the worms.

 

“Mother!” I interrupted her.

 

“There is no point in studying! I do not want to study. I want to be like father, and become an Imperial chef, and create the finest cuisines that this world had never tasted before.”

 

“Shut up! I will not permit you to become an imperial chef!”

 

“But I ….”

 

“You… what? You better study hard. Did you forget that your father….” Saying this, Mother choked and cried.

 

My father’s death had always weight on my mother’s mind.

 

I heard that my father is one of the most famous imperial chefs in the royal kitchen, but was framed and killed.

 

My mother carried me by herself and escaped to this place, and single-handedly brought me up.

 

That is why she opposes my being an imperial chef. But never in her wildest dreams did she expected that I am not good in my studies, and is more interested in cooking.

 

From young, my dream had always been the same  – that is to become an imperial chef like my dad.

 

But this dream of mine always gives my mother a big headache.

 

She had sent me to several schools, but I have a talent for being getting into trouble and being expelled frequently for one reason or another.

 

“Song Xiran, why are you so like that? You angered me to death. You go to the study and reflect on your actions. If you do not reflect on it and regret it you are not allowed to leave the house! And no dinner for you!” My mother eyes were bloodshot as anger swelled within her.

 

Looks that I had really angered my mother this time. Usually, she just nags non-stop. But today, she actually burst out with anger.

 

But I will not be cowed. If I am not allowed to eat, then I will not eat! But I still want to be an imperial chef!

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for reading this chapter at Prosperous Food Translations.

 

[Notes] [1] Nezha is a Chinese protection deity. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nezha

 

[2] Scholars with green collars are people who have passed the examinations – (a clothing for a Bachelor’s degree in Zhou Dynasty)

 

[3] This poem comes from Cao Cao, a warlord. It is an expression of this desire for scholars in his empire. The entire poem describe how tormented he is by the lack of scholars and thinks of them day and night.

 

[4] This poem is a famous poem from Xiaoya Luming, one of the poems in the book of poetry. The entire poem could be read here.

[5] https://zh.wikisource.org/zh-hans/%E8%A9%A9%E7%B6%93/%E9%B9%BF%E9%B3%B4 It is in Chinese, and beyond me to translate here.

 

[6] Another poem, from the classical novel [Dreams of the red chamber]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Red_Chamber

 

It is uttered by a servant who tried to show of his learning but failed spectacularly.

 

 

 

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Translated by Prosperousfood.com

Rehosted by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

 

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