Chapter 27: Putting on a Show
Translated by Gumihou
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Duan Tingxuan smiled. “What is grandmother saying? It is a grandson’s obligation to show filial responsibility, what need is there for thanks? Your grandson cannot accept these words.” As he spoke, he eyed the table full of food, and immediately instructed pointed out a few dishes that the old madam did not like. “Take these dishes away, prepare a space for me.”
The servants knew that the young master intended to express his filial piety; thus two or three maids immediately came up with smiles on their faces to clear away the dishes that old madam did not like, leaving a space in the middle. Duan Tingxuan turned and beckoned, Si Ping, Shuang Xi, Hong Lian and Xiang Yun came up, placed four large food boxes on the table and ceremoniously removed the lids.
Each food box only contained one dish. Four person bore a total of four different types of dishes. Among them was a large bowl of the bone soup that Duan Tingxuan had specially requested for. The other three was left to Su Nuan Nuan to decide, even he did not know what the food boxes would reveal.
Though there were only four dishes, the young master had actually spent a lot of effort in obtaining them. The whole of last night he had loitered at Mei Yue Lou, doing his beset to persuade Su Nuan Nuan to make something for dragon boat’s festival. Finally, he had resorted to reckless promises of more kungfu moves as well as over ten types of ingredients from him. To add insult to injury, she had also forced him to sleep in the abandoned wing of Mei Yue Lou.
The pitiful young master who had always lived in the lap of luxury was forced to camp out in the empty room without proper bedding. Su Nuan Nuan naturally did not bother to give him any of her own bedclothes, since he was the one who refuses to leave. In the end, he and Si Ping spent the night on the hard stone kang  on some ragged cotton mattresses, trying to make do with what they have. After one night of that, his body was as stiff as a corpse.
Though he had suffered much, the little marquis still felt that it was all worth it in the end. Though Su Nuan Nuan had warned him time and again to not open the boxes or to peek in, which made him worried about the possibility of her sabotaging the food. However, Hong Lian swore up and down with a hand on her chest that first madam had spent a lot of effort on the food, had even gotten up before dawn to start the preparation. This steady and even tempered little maid still inspired trust in Duan Tingxuan, unlike that Xiang Yun. He could see that one had turned as treacherous as her mistress. Luckily, Hong Lian still retained her steadiness as the head made, and had not allowed her own mistress to dissuade her from seeing the big picture.
Therefore, the curious ones today weren’t only the rest of the family, but Duan Tingxuan himself too. Just what had Su Nuan Nuan made today? All eyes were on him as he carefully removed the lid of the first bowl. A sudden cloud of cold air wafted up, upon closer inspection, he saw a large pile of white thing drizzled with pale yellow and red stripes was revealed. As expected, this was nothing they had ever seen before.
As he leaned in to study it more carefully, Hong Lian started her explanation. “Our Missy said that this is called a ‘smoothie’. It’s made by grinding down ice blocks into very fine pieces, milk is added first to the white part, cantaloup juice, apricot juice and peach juice are added for sweetness and colour. On top of that, there are the bearded gourds sent by the master yesterday, which madam really liked and had used two to make this dish. All that effort resulted in this one bowl only. Since today is so hot, Missy said that it’s the best time to eat it. Only, old madam is advised to only try a little due to her age. Just a bit to whet the appetite for other food.”
The ‘bearded gourd’ was actually musk melon, two small countries from the Western Region had brought over a few dozen baskets of these as tribute. The emperor had granted twenty basket as reward to his officers. An Ping palace also received two baskets as a reward for their meritorious duties. Duan Tingxuan loved sweet things, and therefore loved eating these.
Yesterday, when he had gone to Mei Yue Lou to beg for gourmet food on behalf of his grandmother, he had brought a few of these bearded gourds as offerings, hoping to aim at her weak point. Looks like the result was really worth it. This bowl of smoothie really showed great thought and effort, though the rich already had a habit of eating ice during the summer months, it was only iced wine or iced sweetened water. He had never seen people eat ice this way before.
As expected, the moment such a thing appear, a sparkle lit up the old madam’s eyes. The children around them also stared with wide eyes, unconsciously licking their lips. Children are always the first to be interested in new things, especially for something so novel and delicious looking thing. There were not many who could endure the temptation.
Immediately, old madam’s personal made Qiu Ling scooped out a small bowl of the treat and handed it to the old lady. Unable to wait, the old madam took a spoonful and placed it into her mouth, carefully savouring the flavour. She nodded and praised. “Delicious, very delicious. There’s the fragrance of apricots, the sweet taste of cantaloupes and bearded gourds. There’s also the creaminess of milk. The moment I swallow it, all that pesky heat just disappears. Very delicious, but who made it? Who was the one who made the effort to make such an elaborate dessert?”
As she said this, she looked towards Hong Lian and said after a little hesitation. “If I remember correctly, you are that child Nuan Nuan’s personal maid? Did your madam made this?”
Not waiting for Hong Lian to answer, Duan Tingxuan quickly said. “Old madam is correct. This is Nuan Nuan’s new creation, since you like it, please eat a bit more. After we all have a bit, let’s try the other food.” So saying, he gave the old lady a meaningful look.
The old madam was sharp enough to realise that there would be a complicated reason behind this, her grandson’s expression clearly indicated that he will explain everything later. She decided not to keep asking, merely nodded with a smile. “Very well, very well, I’ll just have two more bites of this.”
As expected, after the little bowl of smoothie was gone, old madam’s the summer heat seemed to have vanished as well. She looked at the table full of food with fresh eyes, and a keener appetite When Duan Tingxuan saw his grandmother eating happily, he felt gratified as well. He quickly seized upon the second food box and found that it contained something green and white. The colours were very attractive, but he was not quite sure what he’s looking at. He looked up at Hong Lian, and saw her smiling brightly back.
However, it was Xiang Yun who stepped forward to say, “Old madam, our Missy said that this is Liang Pi’er. It’s made using flour and water steamed into thin pancakes and sliced into broad noodles. It’s served with finely sliced cucumbers and could be eaten with sesame paste, garlic sauce, soy sauce, fragrant vinegar, sesame oil and other condiments.”
“This dish is good teasing the appetite and promotes good spleen health, please try it. This cucumber is actually quite difficult to come by, goodness knows how the master got his hands on some, otherwise, this dish would not have been made at all.”
“It’s nothing, there’s a green house in the West Palace, I got it from the crown prince actually.” Duan Tingxuan explained dismissively, his keen eyes fixed on the Liang Pi. “This is also a new dish, old madam quickly try some, see if you’ll like it.”
Need they encourage more? old madam was a person of advanced age, her sense of taste and smell had declined over the years, whatever she ate seemed tasteless nowadays. This Liang Pi dish came with all sorts of strong sauces, sour and fragrant, good for stimulating the appetite. The old lady ate quite a few mouthfuls before pausing to say, “Aiya, I’ve accidentally eaten so much, yi, are there no restrictions on this?”
Xiang Yun was puzzled. “Restrictions?”
old madam said with some hidden bitterness. “I am an old woman, my body is weak. Didn’t your own madam said it? Because of my age, I cannot eat too much smoothie.” though the old lady cannot afford to be too greedy, she still have some resentment against this.
Author’s Note: After reading this chapter, do you feel that although Nuan Nuan is not in the scene, her presence could be described as ‘Though sister is not in Jiang Hu, she lives on in the Jiang Hu legends’ kind of feeling?
Translator’s Note: I don’t know about you guys but, I definitely felt Nuan Nuan’s presence in these hallowed halls (dining room).
 Kang bed – heatable stone bed.
 Liang Pi – literally cold skin noodles