Chapter 180: To Jiang Nan!
Translated by Gumihou
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“By then it would be too late for them to do anything.” Duan Tingxuan was perfectly satisfied with their current situation. He pulled a still shocked Su Nuan Nuan downstairs, with a smile he said, “Dear wife, let’s have breakfast first. You should adapt yourself quickly.”
She… she was being looked down upon!
She was a great modern transmigrated woman you know?
Aside from absorbing countless number of television dramas, films and theatres, she had been a powerful actress at school theatres and was even an extra in many dramas. To think that she was currently being looked down on by an ancient male scum who had never received a modicum of acting lesson. How shameful, how utterly shameful, ah. Looks like she would have to pull her socks up for this trip. She must use this Jiang Nan trip to show this male scum man-slut that she, Su Nuan Nuan, was more than just a foodie. She was in fact a very successful actress… Ah! But it looked like being an actress was not something to be proud of in this era.
Lost in her own thoughts, she did not really come back to the real world until she suddenly found herself at the dock. She blinked and looked about with wide eyes at the river and the large boats and ferries around her. She muttered, “What… what are we here for?”
“Taking a boat to Jiang Nan.” Duan Tingxuan looked at his wife worriedly, “Lan’er, have you lost your mind? The only way to reach Jiang Nan is by boat. If the weather is fine, we should reach Su Zhou in just over 10 days.”
Si Ping also expressed great worry for this greatly respected first madam’s acting skill, “Sister-in-law, our trip to Jiang Nan this time depends on you, ah. You can’t lose your mind now, ah.” After some careful deliberation, Duan Tingxuan had decided to disguise himself as a chef, with Su Nuan Nuan as the kitchen assistant and Si Ping as an apprentice chef to seek work from his cousin and one of the Mingyu branches. The plan was to get hired there, and Su Nuan Nuan’s role was to teach him her culinary skills. Though it was risky for them to have Nuan Nuan transfer her cooking skills to Duan Tingxuan just before they enter the battlefield, the little marquis was confident of his own ability to master any skills he set his mind to.
It was one thing to be looked down on by Duan Tingxuan, to think that this servant Si Ping actually dared to look down on her too? Eclipsing the modern concept of ‘everyone is equal’, the idea that a mere servant actually dared to look down on her made this first madam especially malicious. She glared at Si Ping and evilly suggested, “Dear husband, I find that Cheng’er is too clever. This is not good, how about we make him an idiot? It would save me the trouble of teaching him my cooking skills too.”
“First… sister-in-law, please have mercy, ah.” Si Ping implored with alarm. Be an idiot? He’d never played that role before, ah. The difficulty level was too high for him, someone was bound to spot him. Fearing that his whipped master might actually play along with Su Nuan Nuan’s suggestion, Si Ping quickly bowed his back and applied all his pleading at Su Nuan Nuan.
“Enough, don’t quarrel anymore. Our ferry is here.”
Duan Tingxuan glared at Si Ping, but thankfully did not take up Su Nuan Nuan’s suggestion. Si Ping seriously felt like he just had a very narrow shave with death.
There were all kinds of travellers on the large ferry. They were mostly travelling merchants or commoners visiting relatives and friends. Women were not the minority either, therefore their little ‘family of three’ did not stand out. Their journey was fairly uneventful. The weather was clear, the water calm and the boat ride smooth. Three or four days later, the scenery around the boat changed. Unlike earlier where traces of winter could still be seen, the shore was a brilliant green. Another three or four days more, they saw a whole line of peach blossoms during sunset. The ferry owner was most likely a Jiang Nan resident who loved peach blossoms because the boat began to dock by the tree-lined shore.
As she viewed the peach blossoms by the light of the setting sun, mirrored by a gently rippling river, how could Su Nuan Nuan’s romantic cells resist? She ran out of the cabin spiritedly for the deck, excited to see the views. As for Duan Tingxuan, he had no real interest in these charming and tranquil scenes. However, as the saying goes, ‘Love the house and its crow’ or ‘Love me, love my dog’ he could only pretend an enthusiasm he did not feel and joined Su Nuan Nuan at the deck.
“The flowers here haven’t all bloomed yet, in a few more days it would be like looking at gorgeous rose-tinted clouds. And look, someone must be living here.” Su Nuan Nuan pointed at a few smoke spires floating lazily to the sky. Her voice filled with excitement as she looked yearningly at the scene.
“If you like it so much, how about I get someone to purchase a house here? That way, we can visit whenever we like and pass our time leisurely here.” Though the little marquis’ romantic cells were much fewer compared to some people, being in such a painting like scenery and standing next to the person he loves inspired him.
Suddenly, they heard a rough voice laughing from behind them. “Jiang Nan has so many beautiful sceneries, what is a little peach blossom forest like this? If sir and madam would like to find a retirement home, you should see the sceneries further down the river. Suzhou, Hangzhou are all on the outskirts, therefore the places with beautiful sceneries are especially plentiful. Thanks to our wise emperor, after the seaport was opened up, his majesty sent soldiers downriver to drive away those pirates. That area is no longer the chaotic area it used to be. The towns are now a peaceful and fertile region. A good place to retire. However, aren’t you two a little young to be thinking about retiring?”
When they turned back to look, it was the old boat master, Duan Tingxuan smiled, “Mister boat master sure is gracious, I was just speaking casually with my wife. To think you’re moved to speak out like this, if there really is some place so gorgeous why wait until we retire? We can move there now.”
The boat master laughed, “Not bad, not bad, living in those places is like living in the land of the immortals.” Then, he raised his voice to sing,
” He only knew the deep ways he wandered.
How many green streams in those cloudy woods?
When Spring comes a myriad Peach-filled rivers,
Who knows which one might lead to Paradise? “
The lyrics song he sang was plucked from the poem called Peach Blossom Spring by Wang Wei. Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan exchanged a glanced with a laugh. How unexpected to find a boat master who not only knew poetry, but to also turn it into a song. Though the lyrics and melodies matched the scenery, the boat master’s rough voice made the song sound out of place.
As they continue to chat, a few of the sailors casually made their way to the side of the boat, took off their clothes, and jumped into the river. Su Nuan Nuan jumped in shock. Hey, though winter has ended, it’s still really cold you know. The water must still be freezing! Duan Tingxuan frowned, but probably more in disapproval at men taking their clothes off in front his wife than them jumping off the boat. The boat master rubbed his head awkwardly and explained, “This is the best time to eat puffer fish. These guys really can’t wait anymore. The reason why I’ve docked the boat is to let the boys catch fish. Apologies for being rude to young madam.”
Su Nuan Nuan laughed, “No harm, no harm, we’re merely regular people so we don’t pay attention to such things. Only… catching puffer fish at this weather? Could they really stand the cold? It’s already spring, but surely the river is still really cold, right?”
The boat master laughed, “We all grow up by the river edge. This is nothing, occasionally we’d break the ice to catch fish during winter as well.”
Even Duan Tingxuan was a bit shocked at this. Su Nuan Nuan’s mouth fell open. How unexpected, ah. These group of sailors were all winter swimming enthusiasts. However, compared to those Harbin winter swimmers, these people were even more crazy.
The boat master was probably more concerned about his sailors’ harvest, as he was no longer paying attention to their conversation. Duan Tingxuan and Su Nuan Nuan were curious too as they made their way towards the edge of the boat to look down at the river. Duan Tingxuan whispered, “I heard that puffer fish are delicious, but that those things contain poison. Which is why we don’t get to eat them at the mansion. However, who knows what kind of special technique the boat master might have to deal with these blowfish. If it’s done well, we can buy some. Do you know anything about these fish?”
Su Nuan Nuan whispered back, “The puffer fish poison is contained in the blood and organs. If they can take out the organs and remove the blood cleanly, the poison will be gone. We’ll just watch how they butcher the fish. We’ve really gotten lucky, these fish are a great delicacy. Get a few. Also, didn’t you say we’ll be in Suzhou in another day? Once we reached a stop place, I can make something really delicious.”
“I don’t believe it. Could puffer fish really be better than bass?” Duan Tingxuan chuckled a little condescendingly.
To that, Su Nuan Nuan loftily answered, “There is no comparison between Great Beauties. Take Concubine Jing and Madam Lan for example, can you tell who is more beautiful? Puffer fish and bass are the same. Anyway, you’ll know when you eat them.”
As husband and wife continued to whisper to each other, people began to come out of the cabin in twos and threes. A pair of young ladies were making their way to pick peach flower branches. Su Nuan Nuan wanted to go too, but then hesitated. When it came down to it, puffer fish still won over peach blossom picking. In the end, her foodie cells won out. When in doubt, eat up, was the great logic of a foodie.
Close to an hour later, they saw a few of the sailors starting to haul themselves back into the boat. It turned out that every one of them had brought a net with them. At this moment, the nets all contained at least a few puffed up puffer fish flopping about in it. The sailors handed their catch to the boat master with a laugh, saying “Uncle Chiang, it’s all up to you now. Make sure to get rid of all the blood and guts, don’t let these guys be our last meal, ah.”
The boat master scolded them with a laugh, “You little bastards, enough with your jokes. I’ve been ferrying up and down this river for 30 years and have gutted at least 180 puffer fish every year. By now I can gut those suckers clean with my eyes closed.”
The boat master did not waste time just talking. His hands occupied themselves with a knife and cutting board. In a flash, four or five fish had been gutted and cleaned. Just as Su Nuan Nuan had mentioned, the blood and guts had been cleaned out perfectly. Once the fish were gutted, they were tossed onto a large plate, they could see the revealed flesh, clean, white and almost translucent.
Duan Tingxuan remembered Su Nuan Nuan’s words, and his greed popped its head up. He loudly asked, “Boat master, are you selling those fish?”
“Sell, ah. We’re only a keeping a few to eat and selling the rest. It’s good money, so why not?” the old boat master said cheerfully. Duan Tingxuan immediately reached into his breast pocket and took out his money pouch, after asking the price he took out 80 coins and put them on a string for one of the sailors. Then, he and Su Nuan Nuan crouched by the plate to pick out the fish. Mutterings of “This one… it’s fatter…” “This one… this one is fresher…”
The remarks all caused the sailors to roll their eyes. Come on you two, you literally watched us take the fish out of the river just now, how can it not be fresh? It’s actually more difficult to find a rotten fish, you know? Also, it’s the start of spring, the fish had been fattening over winter, so how can any of those fish be anything but fat?
They had no idea that this was actually something that Su Nuan Nuan and Duan Tingxuan did out of sheer, gluttonous happiness alone. To a foodie, the only thing that could even be compared to eating was picking out gorgeous ingredients, therefore, how could they not be happy? After picking out six large puffer fish, held together in a net, they happily brought it over to Si Ping to be put away. It was just too bad there was no kitchen on the boat. Otherwise Su Nuan Nuan would have shown off her ability immediately. The little marquis also felt incredibly impatient about trying these fish. However, burdened by the responsibilities of this trip, the little marquis had to suppress his greedy heart for the moment.
[Gumihou: Oho, puffer fish! I’m surprised Su Nuan Nuan didn’t try to eat them raw, although, maybe there’s no good soy sauce around…]
 Wang Wei – Ancient China poet born in 699
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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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