Chapter 7 Wind Crane: Culinary Skills
Feng Luodi left the household in search for information on the 10 Guqin, and ran into a “Culinary Showdown” right in front of Manchun Tang. As the last judge was unable to make a choice between the two chefs, Feng Luodi was given the chance to decide for him, and she gave the begonia flower to the young ‘master’ whose dishes were not only delicious, but poetic. With just a few sentences, she explained her decision clearly to those present, winning their approval. As a result, the young ‘Master’ Qi, won the privilege to dine in a private dining room for free, and the honour to add her personal culinary innovations to the menu.
After finishing her work as a guest judge, Feng Luodi quickly led the starving Scarlet and Jet into Manchun Tang for lunch. They barely had time to sit down before ‘Master’ Qi approached them with a smile on ‘his’ face.
“Let’s head to a private dining room; lunch is on me.” ‘he’ winked. “That was the first time I felt embarrassed hearing my dishes praised in such a fashion, I’m just so excited and happy to have met you. Right! I forgot to introduce myself: my name is Qi Jianqiu.”
What a candid personality she has, Feng Luodi thought to herself, she must be such a bright and lively young woman when she removes her disguise.
Qi Jianqiu led the three of them into a dining room, before excusing herself ‘to look presentable’ as she put it. Finally getting down to their much anticipated lunch, Feng Luodi and the two girls chatted openly about the dishes laid down before them, immensely satisfied by the delicious food. When she was Luo Di in her world, she led a plain and simple life. Her free time mostly consisted of playing the zither, or hunting down delicacies. The frustration after a morning without progress started to simmer away, having found a friend with an interesting personality and exquisite culinary skills.
And when Qi Jianqiu finally reappeared before them dressed in feminine clothing, Feng Luodi was dumbstruck. Even Scarlet and Jet, who were previously engrossed stuffing themselves had stopped to gawk. Graceful and elegant, with a gentle smile across her lips, it was as if Qi Jianqiu had just walked out of a royal painting. Feng Luodi blinked. Is this really the same person? All she did was change her clothes!
“Young missus Qi, you look as radiant as the legendary ‘Beauty of Chang’an!” Scarlet went out on the streets much more often than Feng Luoqiu and Jet, and was more well-versed on the town gossip. The rumors of the ‘Four Masters of Chang’an and the ‘Beauty of Chang’an’ buzzed throughout the capitol, and Scarlet earnestly believed that there was no better fit for the title than Qi Jianqiu.
“What ‘Beauty of Chang’an?’” Feng Luodi looked quizzically at Qi Jianqiu, who came over and sat down next to her.
“She’s the most beautiful woman of Chang’an, as chosen by the pretentious scholars and nobles. I heard she was the daughter of the Right Minister!” There was a moment of silence in the room, as Scarlet realised what she just said. The three turned slowly to look at Qi Jianqiu. Jet swallowed audibly.
“Would that happen to be you?” Feng Luodi looked calmly at Qi Jianqiu.
“Yes,” Qi Jianqiu smiled, “I hope that is no reason for us not to be friends?”
“Of course not.”
Feng Luodi left the house frequently as the days passed, completely different to how she had spent the last 17 years of her life. The chamberlain was surprised, and encouraged her to go out more often, getting the accountant to give her more silver. Feng Luodi felt guilty for taking the silver seeing as she was bound to leave, but her guilt quickly faded away to excitement as she continued to try Qi Jianqiu’s new culinary innovations.
In a private dining room on the third floor of Manchun Tang, Qi Jianqiu supported her head with both her arms in a very unladylike fashion as she happily watched Feng Luodi try her new dish. It was a piece of deep fried chicken cutlet wrapped in flour and spices, something that was too costly for most restaurants to cook in bulk.
“How does it taste?” Qi Jianqiu blinked her perfect eyes in anticipation.
Feng Luodi squinted her eyes, and nodded approvingly.
“It tastes great, like usual.”
As she got to know Qi Jian Qiu better, she was surprised by her mannerisms. She had assumed that the daughter of the Right Minister would carry herself with elegance, allowing herself only small smiles, small laughs, and small steps, while being well versed in the arts. Instead, Qi Jianqiu only looked the part of an elegant lady when she was quiet. Once she spoke, her graceful image was ruined – one could barely even recognise her if she was to wear men’s clothing. Most importantly, she loved the culinary arts, and had a mind bursting full of innovation and ideas.