The Female Supporting Role Shows Out - Chapter 2
Lin Dan was now in a daze. She instinctively called the system in her head before being surprised by her own action – what is the system? She was holding a spoon in her hand which had a thin layer of milky white soup on it. While it smelled delicious, there also was a slight aftertaste in her mouth. Apparently, she had already taken a sip of the soup just now. But the bigger question was that Lin Dan had no idea who she was, what she was doing, and why did she appear here.
She stared at her thin, calloused hands. She felt that this pair of hands belonged to her, but it did not seem to be hers at the same time. She stood there but clearly did not belong to the place. She felt like a stranger who appeared suddenly and stuck out like a sore thumb. She could not even figure out what was the current situation.
Nevertheless, the people around her did not seem to notice that Lin Dan was different from before. One of them pointed to the dish placed in front of her and said, “It is still lacking in flavor.” Although he could not explain what exactly was missing since he was not a professional chef, his sense of taste was better than average.
Lin Dan came back to reality after hearing what he said. She looked up and saw a man who dressed exquisitely. He was thin, fair-skinned, and handsome, but also looked like a young lady when he was not speaking. Like Lin Dan, he was tasting the dishes with a spoon in his hand, his brows were slightly frowned, and he wore a serious expression.
“Indeed, the heat control could have been better.” Another person said slowly.
Lin Dan turned around and saw that the person who spoke was an old man with a gray beard. He was smacking his lips, seemingly trying to savor the aftertaste of the soup.
Lin Dan quickly looked away and glanced around. Even though she could not make sense of anything, she did not show any signs of panic on her face. She seemed to adapt well when it came to dealing with unexpected events.
“What do you mean by better heat control? I think they’re almost the same, there is not much difference.” The person who spoke this time around was a stoic middle-aged man who was wearing a robe embroidered with auspicious clouds and blue qilins. He seemed to be someone of higher status because people nodded in agreement with fawning smiles as soon as he had finished his piece.
Lin Dan paid no attention to him and looked to her side. She saw a young girl who stood seven or eight meters away from her and seemed to be only thirteen or fourteen years old. She also had a square table placed in front of her with a plate of food on it. If one were to judge based on the appearance, color, aroma, and taste of the dish, it seemed to have no difference from the dish placed in front of Lin Dan.
Based on the circumstances, characters, and dialogues, Lin Dan quickly understood that she was in the middle of a cooking competition.
The young girl smiled a little after hearing what the young man and the old man with a gray beard said. But she frowned knowing that the middle-aged man did not like what she made. She persisted, “Please give it another try, my lord.”
Lord? Lin Dan, who was trying her best to gather information, gave the middle-aged man a quick glance.
As the middle-aged man was about to speak, the handsome young man interrupted impatiently, “Can’t you tell whether the food is good or bad? Are you even qualified to be a chef?” This was obviously addressed to Lin Dan, as his clear eyes were staring straight at her. The young girl was happy to hear that, she lowered her head with her lips pursed and smiled shyly.
Since Lin Dan had already tasted the dish she made, she refused to concede defeat. But “refusal to concede defeat” did not sound right either because she did not find her dish bad or lacking in any way. She thought the young man was dissatisfied with her finding her dish faultless and considered her a worse chef.
As Lin Dan had figured out the situation, she had learned to adapt to the circumstances. She planned to put up an act according to how an ordinary person would and tasted the soup in her spoon without saying a word. Then, she walked to the displeased young girl and scooped a spoonful of soup from her plate.
Both of them whipped up the same dish, it was crab roe and minced chicken with choy sum. Although it looked as though the chef only needed to cook a few stalks of vegetables, it was actually a difficult dish to master. This was a true test of a chef’s culinary skills, as the simplest dish is always the hardest to master.
Initially, Lin Dan only wanted to take a few sips and surrender, so that she could get away from this difficult situation and find a place to quietly digest what was going on as soon as possible. But when she tried both dishes, her taste buds and brain were quick to make a judgment. She was surprised that her sense of taste seemed to be more sensitive than average, and even the slightest difference in taste could be magnified several times on the tip of her tongue. This was exactly what Lin Dan had lacked the most in the past.
“I’ve lost.” She put down the spoon and said sincerely, “My choy sum had a bit of a bitter taste.” Most people could not taste this slight bitterness, but it would never pass the test of a true food lover.
The gray-bearded old man stared at her and remarked, “That’s right, you didn’t wait for the choy sum to be fully cooked before thickening the sauce. This has prolonged the heating time of the starch and made the vegetables burn and turn bitter, resulting in the loss of its crunchiness and moisture. There are two aspects that form the essence of this dish – freshness and sweetness; smoothness and crunchiness. Your dish looks decent, but it’s lacking in flavor.”
Lin Dan nodded and repeated, “I’ve lost.”
Seeing that Lin Dan seemed to have accepted the outcome with no resentment after being defeated, the gray-bearded old man nodded slightly. The middle-aged man sighed with a look of disappointment. A woman who was standing at the back of the crowd suddenly collapsed while holding her chest, astonishing everyone.
“Oh no, Lady Qi fainted! Lin Dan, come and take a look at your mother!” Two women immediately held up the collapsed woman and gestured to Lin Dan to come over.
Lin Dan, who quickly gathered information about her identity from their words, rushed over without hesitation and shouted, “Please get her a physician, I will send my mother home first!” She took over one of the women to hold the lady who collapsed and the woman who suddenly had her hands free did not notice anything unusual. She hurriedly led the way and soon brought Lin Dan back to her own home.
The physician finally came after all the hustle and said that the lady was not seriously ill. She fainted due to anxiety and would be fine after taking some medicine to calm her nerves.
Lin Dan took the prescription and paid the consultation fee with the silver hairpin on her hair. She had no idea where the lady had kept her money and even if she knew, the money drawer would definitely be locked. As the woman was still unconscious, she would not be able to ask her for the key and that was all she could come up with.
The physician gave her a pitying look and said kindly, “The Marquis has paid for the consultation fee and you can keep the hairpin. I’ll take this prescription and have the servant of the Marquis Residence to fill the prescription. Your mother is still unconscious and you must stay by her side. Sigh…”
Lin Dan looked at the doctor as he slowly walked away while sighing and shaking his head. She realized that the cooking competition seemed to be a very important event for her. Otherwise, people around her would not have shown so much sympathy for her, and her mother would not collapse after she conceded defeat. But the outcome of the competition was an undeniable fact and Lin Dan has no remorse for what she had done.
The woman’s face covered in cold sweat. Lin Dan picked up the copper basin and wanted to fetch some water outside, but a sixteen or seventeen-year-old youth entered and whispered, “Lin Dan, I have already filled the prescription for you. There’s one pack of medicine and three bowls of water which can make one bowl of medicine. Boil it before simmering it under a low fire and don’t throw the residue away. The residue can be used to make two more bowls of medicine and that makes three doses a day. She will recover after taking the medicine for seven days.”
Lin Dan thanked him and saw him off before going to the kitchen to prepare the medicine. She realized that her body could effortlessly finish the tasks, whether it was chopping wood to burn it in the stove or carrying a bucket to fetch water. The medicine was boiled and bubbling. Lin Dan removed some of the dry wood and simmered it over a low fire. She then took a small stool and sat beside the stove while sorting out her thoughts and memories.
She seemed to be used to doing this and quickly understood her situation. Her father was Lin Baotian, the head chef in the Marquis Residence of Yongding. The Marquis was very particular about food as he was a food lover. This is why Lin Baotian, the chef who possessed extraordinary cooking skills, was highly valued by the Marquis and had even followed him to battles. Lin Dan and Lady Qi lived a life of comfort in the Marquis Residence thanks to Lin Baotian’s skills. They were given a private house to live in and were served by servants and maids.
However, Lin Baotian suddenly died of illness two months ago. While he was still alive, he passed on his cooking skills and kitchen knives to Lin Dan, his only daughter. Lin Dan had taken a liking to the young Marquis since she was a child, and like old Marquis, he was also a food lover. Therefore, she practiced cooking every day so that the young Marquis could give her some attention.
After the death of her father, she took over the role as a chef in the Marquis’ residence. Despite being only twelve or thirteen years old then, she was already very skilled in cooking. There was once she made black ginseng with green onions, a signature dish that she prepared for a long time, but the young Marquis commented that it was far inferior to what his maid can prepare.
Lin Dan had always been prideful and arrogant. She immediately asked to have a competition with that maid but didn’t expect her to reveal a shocking secret. It turned out that Lin Baotian’s cooking skills and kitchen knives were all stolen from the maid’s grandfather. Lin Baotian was never a descendant of the Golden Knife Imperial Chef, but someone who had deceived his master and brought shame to his ancestors.
The young maid’s name was Yan Langqing. Her grandfather was the former Golden Knife Imperial Chef, Yan Bo, who was a notable figure of the culinary scene. After leaving the palace, he accepted a few disciples including Lin Dan’s father, Lin Baotian. When Yan Bo was seriously ill and was about to die, Yan Langqing’s father happened to be out of town and was unable to return in time to see his father for the last time. Lin Baotian buried Yan Bo and seized the opportunity to steal the Imperial Golden Knife and all the secret recipes of the Yan family. He disappeared since and nobody could find him.
Yan Langqing’s father was upset about what had happened and brought his family to find Lin Baotian in the Marquis Residence of Yongding. To his surprise, Lin Baotian was already dead. He made his daughter sneak into the residence to learn more about the enemy’s descendants and created an opportunity to challenge Lin Dan with a competition. The winning prize was the Golden Knife and the Yan family’s secret recipes.
Lin Dan was very competitive and eager to win. She accepted the challenge because she did not want to embarrass herself in front of the Marquis and wanted to protect her father’s reputation… But she had lost and became the current “Lin Dan”. The handsome young man who served as the judge was the young Marquis, and the middle-aged man who defended her despite knowing that Lin Dan had lost was the Old Marquis.
Although they carry the same name, Lin Dan could clearly feel that her present self was completely different from before. The old Lin Dan fell head over heels with the Young Marquis. He was the reason behind her happiness, anxiety, and sadness. But the new Lin Dan felt nothing towards the Young Marquis anymore as he was just like any other stranger to her.
What she urgently needed to think about was not her identity and memory loss anymore, but her next step. After losing the competition and having a sickly mother who needs to be taken care of, what should she do next?