Chapter 12: An Understanding Little Marquis
Translated by Prosperousfood dot com
Edited by Gumihou
Re-Host at kitchennovel dot com
While it was not a lie to say that feasting on beauty was extremely satisfying, it did not, in reality, fill his stomach. Thus, early next morning, before the sun even showed it’s first rays, the little marquis had already crawled out of bed without waking up his slumbering wife (number 3).
Duan Tingxuan rubbed his stomach with a bitter face as he left the room, he remained slightly depressed as the maids freshened up his appearance, combing his hair, washing his hands et cetera. Then, without letting the maids announce his leaving, he sneaked out of the house, and made his way towards the kitchen.
The kitchen was lively with women chattering and laughing as they prepared the meals for the start of the day. Thin congee, steamed buns and and stuffed buns as well as other small snacks and dishes were being made. The little marquis almost drooled at the smell of breakfast being cooked.
With a slight cough, he entered the kitchen. The effect was like a kirin stepping into a herd of goats. Middle aged women and other female workers fled like startled birds and beasts, until only Miss Xue was left standing shakily in the middle of the empty kitchen. In a trembling voice, she asked, “Ma… master, why is master here? How… how could master be in such a place…”
Duan Tingxuan cleared his throat again. Embarrassment made his face fierce, just why did these women flee at the sight of him, ah? It’s not like I, your lord, is an evil tyrant out to rape and pillage your virtue, moreover, it’s not like this lord would be interested in your old ugly faces. Humph, want to share a bed with this lord? Reflect on your own appearance first.
However, none of the dissatisfaction showed on his face, he smiled amiably, “That… nothing much. I was just passing by and was wondering what is fresh or interesting in your kitchen. The weather’s been getting hot lately and old madam is most sensitive against heat. Have you prepared any cooling food or drink?”
Miss Xue switched her stare towards the door, staring at sky incomprehensively. Sure, it’s almost the dragon boat festival, but the weather still could not be consider hot, the time for cooling food and drink was still quite far away. However, since the master already asked her, how could she not answer?
To avoid speaking about the subject directly, she cast her mind about, trying to think of a way to avoid the subject. With an ingratiating smile, she started to babble, “As of today, the elder madam have yet to request for any cooling food or drink yet. We received some red beans from the village today and elder madam really seems to enjoy the red bean soup we made. Also, aside from assorted beans, the villagers have also sent us some game animals like wild chickens, rabbits, and gazelles. All things that the masters in the house have always enjoyed, does master have any specific orders regarding the ingredients?”
It was at this point that Duan Tingxuan recalled that farmsteads would start sending in their produce during the beginning of spring as part of their tribute. Though the amount was nothing like what they normally receive during New Years, it was still fresh and tasty. He thought back to what Si Ping said and smiled, “My needs are simple. Since we have some red beans, yellow beans, whatever, just let me have a few catty of whatever beans.”[Ka ba]
It was the sound of Miss Xue’s jaw dropping down in shock. Her mouth was wide open as she looked at Duan Tingxuan in shock. Her look with the mouth opened wide was like a weasel preparing to snatch a chicken. No one could fault her surprise, whoever heard a master coming in to bother the kitchen for food? This event reminded her of the unforgettable day when first madam came in to majestically ransack her kitchen.
“What’s that look for? Can’t this lord take a few beans?” shame made Duan Tingxuan fierce. Anyone who was stared by this kind of face definitely could not remained at eased: Blast it, all he wanted was to have breakfast at Mei Yue Lou, if not for the fact that Si Ping and Shuang Xi could not enter this place at this time, would he, a noble and aristocratic man of high birth, personally come here to ask for things?
Miss Xue quivered in fright when she realized that this master of hers was not joking. With her jaw still unhinged, she began to grab sacks of of beans, shouting for the other servants to come and help out.
Half an hour later, Duan Tingxuan escaped the kitchen laden down with several cloth bags, slipping along small, less travelled garden paths, as he made his way towards Mei Yue Lou. He made some mental calculations and guessed that the women should still be resting, ba. Since they were stuck in such a remote area, they were not required to sent their greetings each morning to the senior ladies. So, there was nothing to stop them from sleeping as much as they wanted, right?
The more he thought about it, the more unsettled he became. Curses, he had sent those women to that place as punishment, but for some reason it looked like they were now living more comfortably than before? Humph! So what if they were more comfortable, the critical point here was that woman refused to let him bum off even a little of her food. That hateful female even spat on the food this lord had his eyes on.
To think that she’d rather feed the chickens and not feed me, this… where is heaven’s justice in this?!
The more he thought about it, the indignant he became, by the time he reached the entrance, righteous indignation had worked its way up to a fierce killing intent.
However, that powerful killing intent immediately dissipated the moment he stepped over the threshold of Mei Yue Lou. A most fragrant smell wafted over from the kitchen, dispelling whatever lingering resentment that may be hidden in his heart.
Just what is this? What’s this fragrance? The little marquis tightened his grip on the sacks of beans and rice, and tiptoed his way towards the kitchen. Just in time to hear Hong Lian’s laughter, “Missy, isn’t this a little excessive? If you’re really craving this, we can just buy some from the street stalls for you. Surely there’s no need for you to waste your effort like this?”
Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “What nonsense are you saying? What we have in hand are ingredients, not money. It’s pure luck that we managed to obtain this excellent soybean milk. If we hadn’t gone to the back lanes, we probably wouldn’t have gotten it so cheap.”
As they chatted, Duan Tingxuan’s eyes zoomed in on the most important target: A large pot, half filled with hot oil. As his greedy eyes watched, Su Nuan Nuan slide in a long piece of dough, after a short while, the dough floated to the surface. The finished product was something that glowed a bright golden yellow, it’s colours drawing the eyes and the fragrance… it seemed to tease at the hungry bugs living in his stomach, enticing them to fly over…
“Missy, I must say you must have miscalculated your cost this time. Though the fried dough and other breakfast things aren’t cheap. Isn’t it even more expensive to make it yourself? This amount of oil must cost a lot of money, right?”
At Xiang Yun’s regretful words, Su Nuan Nuan shook her head with a knowing smile, “You silly maid, once we’re done frying the dough, we can still reuse it for other things. We can reuse it to make vegetable stir fry, pan fried dumplings, flash fried buns…”
Her words trailed off, she had spotted Duan Tingxuan hidden behind the kitchen door, her hand flashed out to grab a cleaning rag off the counter top and flung it at his direction.
Luckily, Duan Tingxuan’s time spent working on his martial arts was not wasted. He dodged the cleaning rag attack and sauntered into the kitchen with his head held high. With incredible calm, he smiled and said lightly, “Yo~ you ladies are certainly hard working, to think that you’re all up so early just to fry You Tiao?”
You Tiao, or fried bread sticks, was not a commonly seen item on the streets. After all, life of the common people was quite hard, how could they afford to use half a pot of oil just to make You Tiao? Even if the oil could be reused, it’s still a rather heart wrenching to see all that oil being used to fry a few bread dough things. Fried bread were not popular since they tended to be really greasy and oily, therefore it’s not like you can depend on quantity to make money. If one really wanted to, there were a few shops that do sell fried breads, but they lose in terms of popularity against light breakfast foods like congee and pickles.
Naturally, since the marquis residence was a rich noble family, they would not be bothered by trivial things like the cost of oil. However, there was a fad for healthy eating right now and therefore, oily things like fried bread fell out of favour in place of things like congee, pickled vegetables and steamed buns.
Therefore, oily things like fried bread were rarely served to noblemen like Duan Tingxuan. Though he might recognise this thing by sight, he had rarely eaten this snack. Moreover, the fragrant smell of fried bread was truly irresistible. On top of that, since this was something personally made by Su Nuan Nuan, its taste had to be outstandingly good, when this thought crossed his mind, his mouth began to drool in anticipation.
“Master, what have you brought with you?”
While Su Nuan Nuan was busy ignoring this greedy fox who was clearly here hoping for some free handout, Hong Lian and Xiang Yun earnestly greeted him. Xiang Yun could not resist inquiring when she spotted the coarse sacks in his arms that were completely at odds with his noble appearance.
“Ahem, ahem… that is… I just happened to pass by the kitchen today and noticed that the village had sent some fresh rice and beans over and thought it might be of use to you. If you don’t want any, you can just throw them away.”
No matter how thick skinned Duan Tingxuan was, the sight of these coarse sacks in his hands made his face hot. The little marquis sighed sadly: Your mother, am I really selling my honour so cheaply for the sake of food?
Hong Lian and Xiang Yun were both delighted, Hong Lian quickly came over to receive the sacks, “How could master speak this way? How could we throw away these perfectly fine beans and rice? If we waste food like this, we’ll be cursed by the heavens.”
As she spoke, she signalled Xiang Yun with her eyes, when that girl looked back with a blank uncomprehending face, she grabbed the other maid’s hand and physically marched her out of the kitchen. Once they were several steps away, she lightly poked Xiang Yun on the forehead, in a whisper she said, “What are your eyes for? Can’t you tell that the master have brought the beans over to smooth things with Missy? We should let them have some privacy to speak together.”
Xiang Yun frowned and kneaded her forehead, and whispered back, “Elder sister, can you pretend I don’t know what you’re talking about and explain things to me? Only, I feel that Missy’s feelings for master is completely different now, and I’m really worried what would happen if they got into a quarrel. Do you really think it’s a good idea to leave them alone for long?”
Hong Lian was stunned, she shook her head in dismay, “Oh no, how could I have forgotten this?” as she spoke she raised her head and peeped anxiously into the kitchen.
Within the kitchen, Su Nuan Nuan did not seemed to be her stubborn self. While her hands were busily pinching and shaping the dough, occasionally dropping one or two into the pot of hot oil, her lips continued to sneer at Duan Tingxuan, “Looks like my lord have gained a little understanding of how the world works. I must applaud you for locating the sense to know that one should never eat for free. To think you’d actually come bearing rice and beans.”
Duan Tingxuan’s mouth flexed out into a pout: Whatever, I shall give you face for the sake of these fried You Tiao, after all, a gentleman never fights with a lady.
“What are these round things? I know the long ones are You Tiao, but what are these round things? Could they be You Bing?” Duan Tingxuan did his best to get a conversation going, trying to build up a better rapport with Su Nuan Nuan. Naturally, this was not something that he’d ever admit even if someone beat him to death.
“It’s not wrong to call it You Bing, why? Have you never seen these before?” Su Nuan Nuan was a little suspicious. She knew that You Tiao exist in ancient China, but what about You Bing? Surely it exist, ba? Savoury You Tiao, Sweet You Bing, all these exist to meet the taste of all kinds of people. Without You Bing, how does one resolve the age old Sweet vs Savoury factions? Wouldn’t the people from the Sweet Faction be super bitter?
“So, these really are You Bing?” Duan Tingxuan never expected his random guess to be correct, he stretched his neck over to look at the fried breads more properly. “That’s odd, is this what You Bing really looks like? Where are the chopped scallions? The last You Bing I had was covered in lots of scallions, ah.”
“That thing should be Scallion You Bing, ba?” Su Nuan Nuan looked at the man slut with disdain: humph, people with so little knowledge still dare to call themselves a proper foodie? What a great embarrassment to all foodies in the world.
“Isn’t Scallion You Bing… also You Bing?”
Duan Tingxuan grew even more suspicious. He enjoyed eating fine food, but never really spend much time researching the finer details of food.
“That is also You Bing, but it’s different from the sweet You Bing I’m making.” Su Nuan Nuan did not feel like wasting words with this useless male. Was she suppose to give him the run down behind the science of You Bing? Give a lecture on You Bing Genealogy? That in addition to standard Sugar You Bing, Scallion You Bing, flat breads like Pancakes, Pan Fried Bread, Stuffed Pan Fried Buns… Oh, how she had missed eating Pan Fried Buns on February the second… well, it’s still not too late. She had a sudden desire to eat those now, thankfully they still have plenty of leeks, the bean sprouts should be ready soon, let’s find a day to make them, ba.