Chapter 140: Turn Base Metal Into Gold

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

After speaking a few words to Old Madam Fang and the rest, Duan Tingxuan left the mansion. He still had to visit the Imperial Palace and the East Palace to check out the situation and to update the imperial family on the matter. Games and gossips aside, a large group of bandits had been put away in the Ministry of Justice’s prison, and he has the right to interrogate them. Whether as part of the investigation team for the unrest within the Capital or as one of the main person involved in the capture of these men.

The sun was setting in the west by the time he left the prisons. Duan Tingxuan went home and immediately headed towards Spring Breeze Court and found that Su Nuan Nuan was fast asleep. He decided not to disturb her and was about to set out to the study to look over the clues he had gathered when he heard a lazy voice called out, “Hong Lian, Zhao Cai’s vest was destroyed when he fought heroically beside me last time, make another one for him, please.”

Somehow, Duan Tingxuan automatically laughed at the sound of his wife’s voice. He turned and headed back into the mansion, calling out, “If you intend to reward Zhao Cai for his meritorious deeds, shouldn’t you as his mistress personally make the clothes? Why are you fobbing the work to Hong Lian for?”

Su Nuan Nuan was just stretching in bed when he arrived. She sat up slowly and said, “When did you get back?”

“Just now. The servants said you were sleeping, so I decided not to disturb you. I was on my way to the study when I heard your voice.” Duan Tingxuan said as he made his way towards Zhao Cai’s little cat nest. With a quick, swooping move he lifted the comfortably snoozing cat by the back of his neck.

“Miao-oo, miao-ooo…”

Zhao Cai probably never thought that even after ‘Establishing Great Service’, this annoying, bad, greedy human would still dare to disrespect him so. How dare he just grab this King Cat up as he pleased? Zhao Cai’s fur immediately puffed up, and his claws left scratch marks down Duan Tingxuan’s arm.

“What a terrible beast, you dare disrespect me?” Duan Tingxuan scolded, throwing the fat cat to the floor. He turned to Su Nuan Nuan and to snap, “Look what kind of beast you’ve raised? Typical spoilt, pampered beast, even dared to attack me.”

“You deserved it. He was just resting there. He’s not even snatching food from you. You’re the one who provoked him. Content yourself with the knowledge that Zhao Cai stayed his claws for my sake. Have you not seen what he had done to those bandit’s checkerboard[1] face?”

Duan Tingxuan shuddered, and he nodded quickly, “You’re right, you’re right. This beast is a fierce one. Two of the bandits nearly lost their sight because of him. That is to say, I get the feeling that he had been staying his claws when dealing with me?”

Su Nuan Nuan shook her head mirthfully, “Why are you comparing yourself with a cat, ah? Are you trying to get me to thank you for going easy on him? Are you trying to recover some dignity points?” She then turned to Hong Lian, “Get a tray of those steamed dates over. You should know by now your lord always brings an empty stomach to Spring Breeze Court.”

“My beloved wife knows me perfectly.” Duan Tingxuan laughed happily, then he it followed up with, “Are you planning to make snacks with date paste? Excellent. I saw them deliver a batch of fresh dates just two days ago. Do you happen to know any special dishes made with date paste?”

“Eat, eat, eat, you bring up eating at every third sentences, do you know that?” Su Nuan Nuan sounded crossed. “It’s just some steamed dates. If you want date paste snacks, I can send Xiang Yun to the main kitchens to see what they have.”

“Steamed dates? How do you eat them? Aren’t dates supposed to be made into a paste before filling them in snacks or at least candied? Surely there’s no need to eat them the way commoners do. We’re a rich noble family, this kind of commoner food probably won’t suit our palate.”

Su Nuan Nuan sneered, “Of course, since you’re so rich and grand, dates had to be turned into snacks before they’re allowed to pass your noble lips. Only your lives have gone beyond just rich, you’re so stinking rich that you don’t know what you’re missing.”

Duan Tingxuan smiled, “Surely you’re overstating things? Though I did say we’re rich, it’s not like I’ve never had raw dates before. When I was much younger, I used to climb the date trees in the courtyard and eat the fruits there. Though I must admit they tasted refreshing, the skin tends to stick to the throat. Perhaps this might not be a problem for young people, but old people might find it difficult to cough it out, right? Also, it’s not like dates tasted much better than other fruits. Therefore we’ve always eaten it as a paste in snacks.”

He had just finished speaking when Hong Lian came in. Duan Tingxuan couldn’t help himself as he sniffed the air curiously, “This fragrance, is… dates? How odd, to think they’d become like this after just steaming them? Could it be that dates are Stingy Skins[2] that had to be steamed a bit before they are willing to reveal their sweetness?”

“Pei! If I’m a date, I’ll make sure to stick all my skin down your throat. See how you cough me up, humph.” Su Nuan Nuan spat. She then grabbed two dates with her hand and crammed them into her mouth. The little marquis, who had been about to use his chopsticks, paused. Well, he can’t lose at this game, right? Throwing away his dignity as the lord heir, he too grabbed two dates and shoved them into his mouth. A couple of chews later, his eyes brightened. His thumb drifted up and he cried, “Nuan Nuan, you’re a goddess! You’re no Master Chef, you’re the God of Chefs. This is so magical. How could such an ordinary date suddenly be so sweet and tender just through steaming? Delicious, tasty, too amazing. Have you sent any to old madam and senior madam?”

Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “What did I say? You that you people are too stinking rich! That’s why you don’t get to eat delicious things that every commoner gets to eat. This is how they regularly eat dates. Steamed. I had the servants steam a few catties of dates this afternoon, most of it is probably eaten by now. To be honest, I’ve never seen such lovely dates in my life. When Ms. Xue brought a basket over, I was shocked to see them. So large and red, they didn’t look like normal dates. When I asked her about them, it turns out that this was a special breed that only appears in the market every dozen years or so. Something called the Maya Date[3] or Cheng Tuo Date or something. Since they look so big and delicious, I tried eating one, and have her send up a few more basket from that village. After steaming them, I plan to keep them in the ice house and save them for winter. It will be an especially delicious, refreshing and sweet snack when winter comes.”

Husband and wife were chatting and going through the dates together when they heard Cong’er’s flustered voice, “Second master is here? The master is still speaking with madam. This one will go and notify them.”

“Go, go, go.” Duan Tingye sounded quite anxious. Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan exchanged a look, but it was Su Nuan Nuan who laughed and remarked, “I see that second master is becoming rather keen on getting closer to this elder brother. In all these years he never set foot in this house, but now that you two are in a business together, how many times has he been over?”

“Nonsense, you really think he’s looking to get close to me? What he’s really interested in is money. He must be here to talk to you about some new money making scheme. Otherwise, why would he be so anxious about rescuing you from the mountain?” Duan Tingxuan sniffed disdainfully. Still, seeing that he and his wife still looked presentable enough to receive guests, he said, “Let your second master in.”

Duan Tingye braced himself and went in. In fact, even though he was considered a brother-in-law, it was still not proper for him to visit his sister-in-law’s house on his own. However, luckily for him, with Duan Tingxuan there he did not break any rules. As soon as he was inside, he urgently asked, “Sister-in-law, who else did you give the recipe for this Candied Dates to? Why are you so careless as to let the kitchens make it? Even if Ms. Xue is trustworthy she’s still not one of us, what if she sell your recipes to outsiders?”

Su Nuan Nuan blinked stupidly at him, then she turned to look at Duan Tingxuan. Her expression was perfectly readable: When did your brother turn into such a money grubber? Also, what is he saying? It’s just a simple Steamed Date, it’s not like there’s a real recipe behind it.

Duan Tingxuan must have felt odd too, he coughed and said, “Tingye, why don’t you take a seat first. Just look at yourself, where’s that calm noble young master façade you always had on? These dates are merely steamed, there’s no secret trick or recipe behind it. I was just speaking to your sister-in-law about marketing it, but it turns out that this is how commoners often eat dates. The only reason why we haven’t seen this type of cooking before is that it never occurred to us to cook it in such a simple way.”

“Ah? Is that so?” Duan Tingye deflated into a nearby chair like a broken rubber ball. He muttered, “And here I thought sister-in-law must have come up with some unique Candied Date technique. It was incredibly sweet, and the texture was smooth, almost sticky, but still very gentle on the palate, unlike most Candied Dates. Its fragrance was quite unique too. How odd, you say it’s just steamed dates, but why is it so sweet? You’ve really added no honey or sugar into it?”

“Really.” Su Nuan Nuan really doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point. “I say, second brother. I heard from your elder brother that your cake shop and restaurants are doing a roaring business. It seems like people are practically throwing money at you for the privilege to get into the shops and that the restaurant seats are all booked ahead. Since business is so good, why are you still looking for more?”

In the end, Duan Tingye was still a young master and he quickly recovered his lost poise to laugh, “Sister-in-law, have you ever heard that ‘Man’s greed is like an elephant swallowing snake[43]? So, there’s no such thing as too much money. The more money the better.”

Duan Tingxuan said, “It’s fine to be a little greedy, but don’t be a slave of money. What elephant swallowing snake, if you happen to provoke someone, don’t look for me to help you.”

Duan Tingye said earnestly, “Please be at ease elder brother. I know to act according to propriety. Moreover, as representatives of the marquis family, it’s important to keep everything above board. The ingredients we used are all the best, if you don’t believe me you may come over any time to check up the stores. With brother’s reputation, just a short visit will keep those managers and shopkeepers on their toes.”

“It’s good as long as you make sure to act appropriately. I have my own business to do, when would I find the time to look after you? Since you know those managers and shopkeepers might be a bit dodgy, you should keep your eye on them.” Duan Tingxuan said mildly. Then, he suddenly changed the topic and said, “It would be winter soon, and house expenses are bound to increase. Normally at this time of the year, the public funds wouldn’t be able to cover it and we both usually have make up the differences from our own personal funds. What’s about this year?”

Duan Tingye grinned., “There’s absolutely no need to crack open our warehouses this year. The cake shop’s profit alone is enough to cover both regular winter expenses and the new year celebrations. This is before we even include profits from the three restaurants. I shall hand over brother and sister-in-law’s share of the profits before the end of the year. Go on, try and guess how much it is.”

As he spoke, he held out three fingers. This time, the little marquis was so surprised that he nearly fell off his chair. In a faint voice, he said, “30,000 teals? Surely not? Are you running a restaurant or turning base metal into gold?”

“Brother is almost right, but the alchemist is not me, it’s sister-in-law here. Therefore, brother should know that this year’s public funds should be quite plump, yes?” Duan Tingye’s eyebrows danced cheekily. He was clearly filled with glee and did nothing to hide it. Even though he credited the dishes to Su Nuan Nuan, the success of the business was all him.

It’s rare for him to have a chance to puff out his chest in front of this brother of his, so how could Second Master Duan not be gleeful?

 

[Gumihou: Aaaahhh, Duan Tingye is so cute. Fufufu ~]

 

 

[1] checkerboard face: a result of Zhao Cai’s claws. Swish swish, criss cross!

[2] Stingy Skin – a) humble person; b) a child that’s too daring and not afraid of pain (kind of like Wei Wu Xian, lol); c) a tsundere, tough on the outside, but a little pressure later becomes sweet

[3] Maya Date – It’s a real thing! It’s usually sold as black, dried dates (the colour comes from processing). Unlike normal red dates that get chucked into soups, Maya Black Dates are eaten on its own like snacks.

[4] Man’s greed is like an elephant swallowing snake – Man’s greed is bottomless

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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