Word count: 3727
Squid roll and absinthe
“I thought you’d only chopped the onions. It seems like you have performed pretty well in the back kitchen.”
Iris’s voice sounded, Lin Ke Song had a feeling that she had been pricked by a needle, and fiercely took her hand back.
She could vividly feel the moment that Jiang Qian Fan clutched onto her, but not half a second of hesitation later, he still let her go.
“Thank you very much for your guidance.” Lin Ke Song turned her body towards Iris to express her gratitude.
“I didn’t even guide you in anything, the person who had been by your side looking at you is Pepper.”
After saying so, Iris called for Pepper to come up.
She propped her chin, her eyes full of laughter looked at Pepper: “You’ve worked hard today.”
“it was all what I was supposed to do.” Pepper nodded, it looked like he had great respect for Iris.
“how did you feel about Ke Song’s performance today?” Iris’s finger slowly slid across the edge of her brow, it was a casual stance, but it made Lin Ke Song feel a hundred times more pressured.
“Worked too slowly.” Pepper used a stern tone to reply.
Iris seemed to have already expected this comment, nodded and smiled: “can’t do anything about this. Before this, she hadn’t even stepped into a kitchen. Apart from being slow, is there anything else?”
“She actually couldn’t even recognise salmon.”
Just as Pepper’s voice fell, Iris laughed out loud.
Lin Ke Song’s face turned red, lowered her head. She didn’t even dare to look at Jiang Qian Fan who was at the side.
“all these have to be taken slowly. Is there anything else?”
“she lacks initiative towards the work in the back kitchen.”
Iris eyed Jiang Qian Fan, like she was waiting for him to say something, but he kept silent.
“Pepper, she’s bound to have some positive points ba. There should be some encouragement for the newbie.” Iris pulled Lin Ke Song to her side, and patted her shoulders.
Pepper inhaled, and furrowed his brows.
Lin Ke Song was even more downcast. Didn’t even think that it’d be so hard to just mention a positive point……
Even though she knew that she couldn’t compare to these professional chefs at all, but that suffocating feeling lingered and couldn’t go away.
“Chef, what do you think about the cutting of the salmon en croute?”
“Not bad ah, the fish meat didn’t loosen, the structure was whole, the cut was neat, just as per your usual style.” Iris’s eyes showed obvious praise.
“It was Lin Ke Song who cut it.”
Iris was stunned, the smile in her face was frozen too. She looked at Pepper, and opened her mouth 2-3 seconds later: “You personally taught her?”
“I demonstrated it once for her to see, and she remembered. Even though her movements were so slow it made people lose their patience, but she didn’t make any fatal error.”
Pepper’s last sentence, finally allowed Lin Ke Song to relax.
Pepper ah Pepper! You are such a great bro! even though you roared at me, grabbed my collar, and are not even gentle or cute, but you are an honest good person!
“Will she continue working here?” Pepper asked.
Iris looked at Jiang Qian Fan: “For that, we’ll have to see Mr Jiang’s intentions.”
“Do you wish for her to continue working here?” Jiang Qian Fan finally opened his mouth.
Lin Ke Song suddenly got really nervous. If Pepper said he wished so, would Jiang Qian Fan agree?
This is a restaurant that has a Michelin star rating, if she could continue on in the back kitchen, she’d be able to see the many ways of dealing with different types of foods, some not seen outside techniques created by the head chefs, she’d definitely be able to improve really quickly ba.
“Even though she has no foundation, she isn’t totally talentless.”
“then we’ll wait until she has enough of a foundation to come back here to work ba.” Jiang Qian Fan’s tone was very dull.
Couldn’t hear whether he was satisfied or not with Lin Ke Song’s performance for today.
Iris’s smile deepened.
Don’t know why, Lin KE Song could feel some hostility from Iris. It’s actually really easy to guess the root of this hostility, Iris obviously likes Jiang Qian Fan. And she being his temporary student, was just too close to him, so Iris didn’t feel comfortable.
Ai, you are so outstanding and pretty, and are of the same world as this ice block, Jiang Qian Fan, I’m only a fledgling, and compared to you it’s the difference between a dragon’s egg and a rotten egg…… why the need to bother about me? You’re dropping your own self-worth ah, goddess.
“Pepper, send the dishes of the new menu we designed, let Mr Jiang have a taste ba.” Iris said to Pepper.
Pepper nodded, Lin Ke Song also felt that there was nothing else, and just as she was about to follow Pepper to leave together, Jiang Qian Fan patted the table gently.
To put it simply, it was only a word.
Lin Ke Song even felt that she had things. Jiang Qian Fan was asking who to sit?
Iris? She hadn’t even gotten up!
Pepper? Wasn’t he going to the pantry?
Then it was only left with her?
Lin Ke Song froze at her spot, not knowing what she should do.
Pepper had already gone down the stairs.
Bro, what are you walking so fast for! Where has the care and concern from earlier gone to?
After a long while of not hearing any sound of Lin Ke Song taking a seat, Jiang Qian Fan slowly got up. His hand moved along the table surface, determined his direction, walked to Lin Ke Song’s side, and helped her slide the chair out.
His hand mounted on the back of the seat, then he said again: “Sit ba.”
Lin Ke Song felt like her heart was about to fly out, needless to say, Iris eyed Jiang Qian Fan weirdly.
“Are you sure to let Ke Song…… stay here too?”
“the dishes you design, represents the best standards in the culinary world. To her, it’s an excellent learning opportunity.”
Iris laughed soundlessly, turned her head and twitched her lips.
This time, Lin Ke Song experienced extremely obvious disdain.
She knew what Iris was thinking. As a fledgling, she couldn’t even differentiate salmon, to taste the work of such a culinary expert as Iris, is like letting ZhuBaJie eat ginseng fruit, can’t even taste any flavour.
But Jiang Qian Fan had already pulled the chair out for her, it looked very gentlemanly, but it was actually coercing her to sit.
Lin Ke Song lowered her head and took a seat. The atmosphere was just like that time with Song Yi Ran at some LangHua hotel with and an extra Chu Ting, but Lin Ke Song had not even felt as out of place as now.
Pepper carried the try up. He carefully placed two portions of the main dish in front of Jiang Qian Fan and Iris.
When he noticed Lin Ke Song was also sitting there, he couldn’t help asking: “excuse me, should I prepare another portion of the main dish?”
“No need, just prepare another set of cutlery would do.”
“Yes, Mr Jiang.”
Lin Ke Song glanced at the plate in front of Jiang Qian Fan, the plating was very beautiful, a beauty that people totally couldn’t bear to spoil.
Rolls of squid were placed on one third of the plate, the surface of the squid was pan-fried to a light golden, the surface of the squid had some finely grinded light green particles, it gave the dish a dash of colour. The base of the plate had a layer of slightly thick pale yellow liquid, that brought some warmth to the sight. With parsley leaves for embellishment, it gave of a mood of a willowy dawn.
But Iris seemed to not have seen anything out of the ordinary and lifted her knife and fork, and elegantly cut the squid, Lin Ke Song then realised, the squid rolls were full of fillings. Iris dipped the squid slightly into the sauce at the base of the plate, then sent it to her mouth, and nodded her head.
“En, this is the flavour and texture. Mr Jiang, what do you think?”
Jiang Qian Fan lifted the knife and fork, the knife moved a round along the sides of the plate, made sure of the position of the squid, and only then did he make a cut.
Lin Ke Song wanted to keep watching him, but she was apprehensive of Iris’s look of mockery, and could only lower her head.
After swallowing, he didn’t make any comments, but slid the plate to Lin Ke Song’s direction.
“what ingredients can you identify?”
Lin Ke Song suddenly remembered the 8 bowls of mint cabbage soup.
No way…… this again?
Iris’s gaze looked over, her eyebrows wrinkled, she seemed surprised.
Lin Ke Song’s scalp started numbing up, to eat from Jiang Qian Fan’s plate in front of Iris……
To Jiang Qian Fan, this chap who always had one mouth, Lin Ke Song eating the leftovers was really not a big deal. But to others, is their teacher student relationship that close? Or that he thought it was enough for her to eat his leftovers?
Lin Ke Song could only totally unfamiliarly imitate Jiang Qian Fan’s posture of dining, and cut a small piece of the squid roll, dip into the sauce, and send it into her mouth.
When the flavour of the freshness of the squid and the other ingredients spread in her mouth, she couldn’t help but produce a sound of “en——”.
That feeling was like waking up after a fulfilling sleep.
Iris looked at her amusedly: “obviously, the lead role of this dish is the squid. Apart from the squid, what else did you eat?”
Apart from squid, the main point of this dish was the sauce and the fully packed filling.
Lin Ke Song recalled the all the flavours that had just slid past her tongue and the various aftertastes, thought about what Jiang Qian Fan had said, that cooking was actually the balance of taste.
The taste of one dish, has layers.
And in this dish, the things that embraced the freshness of the squid, is a kind of fish. It should be part of the fillings.
“the surface of the squid should have been pan fried in butter. As for the fillings, it seems like there’s some kind of marine fish. I get very little chances to eat fish from the sea, so I honestly can’t identify what fish it is.” Lin Ke Song looked towards Jiang Qian Fan, waiting for his response.
“No wonder, after all you can’t even identify salmon. Mr Jiang, to have an average person distinguish the ingredients and spices of such a complicated main dish, is simply too difficult.”
On the surface, Iris’s words seemed like she was defending Lin Ke Song, but in reality, she was constantly reminding the truth of “you are not professional”.
“It’s anchovy. This fish isn’t big, shaped like sardines, highly nutritious, flavour fresh. There are not many chances to have anchovy. Other than this, what else have you eaten?”
Which was to say, Jiang Qian Fan did not mind that she couldn’t identify what kind of marine fish this was?
That’s right ah, there are so many types of marine fishes, of you could figure out the flavour of every kind, then you’re not human, it’s godly…… insane ah!
“I also tasted scallop, it’s also part of the fillings.”
“glutinous rice and barley.”
“and……” Lin Ke Song furrowed her eyebrows and detailedly identified. Where did this flavour come from? It seemed like prawns, but she didn’t eat any prawn meat ah…… and this flavour very primitively belonged to the ocean.
“and prawn eggs!”
When Jiang Qian Fan nodded, Lin Ke Song felt a kind of elation bursting from her heart.
Even Iris looked at her mildly surprised.
“What about the sauce? Can you taste what is in the sauce?” Iris’s expression became serious, and suddenly made Lin Ke Song feel an increase of pressure.
When will she be able to eat a meal properly ah!
Lin Ke Song already could not remember what the sauce tasted like, so she used the fork to dip a little, and licked without a care for how she looked.
“En! There’s parsley, garlic……pepper…… butter……” Lin Ke Song tilted her head, still pondering about what that little smooth and tender taste was.
“and what else?” Iris eyes stared at Lin Ke Song without moving, this made her uncontrollably nervous.
“And…… and……” Lin KE Song could not say it out.
“Then have another mouth.” Jiang Qian Fan said.
The voice that made Lin Ke Song feel cold and emotionless, at this moment actually made her calm down.
She cut a little piece of squid, and dipped it into a little sauce.
The layers of flavours were pulled apart at the tip of her tongue, the light fragrance of the parsley, the flavour of the garlic, the aroma of the pepper, the suppleness of the butter……
The ingredients interacted with each other, it was not a simply matching. There was bound to be something to integrate them together.
“…… it’s egg yolk? Raw egg yolk?”
Lin Ke Song asked unsurely.
Jiang Qian Fan’s affirmation made her let out a touch of laughter.
And Iris’s eyed grew deeply colder, she used a tone near examination and said: “the egg yolk is an ingredient frequently used to make sauces in western food, it’s nothing to have figured it out. But this dish still has another frequently used ingredient, do you know what it is?”
Nothing to have tasted the flavour of egg yolk? Goddess, your expectations are too high!
And what other important ingredient?
“Wanna have another bite?” Iris lifted her brows in provocation.
She was confident, Lin Ke Song would not be able to taste the last ingredient.
This dish used 3 types of seafood, and in it there were squid, scallops and anchovy, the sauce was relatively thick, just what was it that made the fishy taste of the seafood become mild. It was not only because of oven baking or the using of butter to panfry that took away the fishy smell, this intoxicating yet slightly fragrant scent……
“Red wine or white wine?” Iris asked, her eyebrows furrowed.
“not red wine……”
Using red wine for steak was more like it, and white wine and seafood sounds like they’d be compatible, but…… Lin Ke Song didn’t feel like this was white grape wine.
She wrinkled her brows, and uncertainly said: “this kind of flavour of wine should be very refreshing ba. It has a hint of anise. I haven’t studied wine…… I don’t know what wine it is. But I feel that it’s neither red wine not white grape wine……”
Lin Ke Song’s voice got smaller as she spoke.
She had a sense of shame like she had trespassed.
But she didn’t realise that under the table, Iris had clenched her fist tightly.
“It’s absinthe.” Jiang Qian Fan said.
All suspicions and thought at this moment fell away.
Lin Ke Song looked at him in surprise. He really only had a mouth, and he knew all the ingredients in this dish clearly. She knew his sense of taste was sensitive, but she didn’t think it would be this sensitive!
At this time, Jiang Qian Fan moved the plate to his front, and ate the leftovers unhurriedly.
Lin Ke Song widened her eyes and wanted to remind the other party, this dish already had a few mouthfuls eaten by her!
But Iris opened her mouth before her: “I can get Pepper to prepare another portion!”
“it’s fine. This dish is outstanding. You didn’t use white grape wine or hard liquor, and chose absinthe, an extremely clever and wise idea. I look forward to this dish appearing on the menu.”
This was the first time Lin Ke Song heard Jiang Qian Fan praise another person, and even though his tone was too dull, that it seemed like this was what Iris was expected to do.
After finishing this dish, Jiang Qian Fan got up, motioned at Lin Ke Song’s direction to “follow me”, and the two left the restaurant.
Lin Ke Song was a little disappointed, where did her lunch go to? You mean it was only that two squid rolls?
She acknowledged that the squid rolls were very high grade and delicious, but she didn’t even eat a few mouthfuls ah! Breakfast was long digested already ah, and she was batteredly busy in the back kitchen, now her stomach was hooked by the two mouthfuls of delicious squid roll that the front of her chest was stuck to the back of her back…… she wants to eat ah!
Lin Ke Song’s heart was broken and full of longing, but Jiang Qian Fan didn’t seem like he had any intentions to stop.
When they passed the entrance of the back kitchen, Pepper’s voice travelled over: “Hey! Ke Song! Wanna eat sandwiches!”
Lin Ke Song’s eyes lighted up, and without thinking blurted: “Want want want!”
When she bit down into the sandwiches she received, she suddenly felt that such an ordinary thing at this moment could actually become a delicacy.
“Pepper! Your sandwiches are so delicious!”
“Of course, it costs five times more than an average sandwich.” Pepper glanced at Lin Ke Song.
Then this five times more expensive sandwich was even greater!
When the last mouth was stuffed into her mouth, Lin Ke Song then realised that Jiang Qian Fan had already walked to the entrance of the restaurant.
One hand was in his pocket, the other holding the cane, the figure against the backlight had a delicate sense of beauty.
Occasionally when people walked past him, they couldn’t help taking a second look at him.
A slight wind blew past his hair, gently swaying, the whole world seemed to be gently shaken in a glass of wine.
“Lin Ke Song.” It seemed like because he didn’t hear her following steps, that Jiang Qian Fan recited her name.
“You ate something?”
“Yeah ah, Pepper made sandwiches!”
You won’t let me eat, can’t I eat somebody else’s? and Mr May didn’t say that your permission had to be granted for eating, no?
“I originally planned to make a red velvet cake for your tea time, but since you’ve eaten your fill, then I don’t have to bother anymore.”
Jiang Qian Fan turned around, the driver Miller was already waiting at the door.
What? Jiang Qian Fan wasn’t not caring about her lunch, but had already made plans for tea?
Ah! If she had known earlier, she wouldn’t have eaten the sandwiches!
“I can still eat ah! I wasn’t even full!”
Red velvet cake! Red velvet cake ah! She’s never had it before ah! And it was even made by Jiang Qian Fan!
Jiang Qian Fan didn’t say a word and sat in the car.
Lin Ke Song reckons the red velvet cake is hot soup.
It was probably because she slugged an entire morning, and then she was highly strung mentally in the back kitchen, Lin Ke Song fell asleep shortly after leaning on the car window. Don’t know how long she slept, Lin Ke Song’s phone in her pocket vibrated, this made her wake up.
She reached into her pocket, and lifted her head, and suddenly shockingly realised that she wasn’t leaning on the car window, but Jiang Qian Fan!
When she lifted her eyes, and saw the other party’s side profile, she was almost scared to death!
The nose was Jiang Qian Fan’s unique point, the clear and handsome line had a rich tension of intricate beauty.
She hurriedly sat up, touched the sides of the mouth. Thank God! No saliva!
Jiang Qian Fan’s posture didn’t even move, this made Lin Ke Song breathe a sigh of relief.
She said to herself: just treat it as if it’s never happened ba!
She shifted to the side, lengthened the distance between her and the other party, and only until she was far enough from the other party that her heart felt freer and fresher, did Lin Ke Song’s uneasy heart finally calm down.
She took out her phone, looked at the message: coming back for dinner tonight?
It was a message from Uncle.
Lin Ke Song looked at the date, then suddenly realised that today was Uncle’s birthday ah!
She came to New York by herself, and was always taken care of by Uncle, if she didn’t even go for his birthday, will it be considered too unfilially?
Could she ask for leave from Jiang Qian Fan?
This big ice block didn’t seem like it was easy to get along with, but actually her was a pretty good person ba……
She opened and closed her mouth, her gaze on his stern side profile, organising words in her heart.
“if you have something to say, say it.” Jiang Qian Fan said indifferently.
“How did you know I have something to say?” Lin Ke Song thought the other party was simply too amazing.
“Because your breathing tells me you are hesitating.”
Lin Ke Song twitched the sides of her mouth, this big ice block’s hearing is so good.
“That, today is my Uncle’s birthday, can I go back to have dinner?”
“Then may I stayover at my Uncle’s? I think we’ll probably eat until quite late, can’t shower after nine right?”
“I’ll get Miller to pick you up at nine.”
“Ah……” Lin Ke Song showed a disappointed expression, is this the route to not letting her shower tonight?
“I didn’t say you couldn’t shower.”
Jiang Qian Fan’s answer made Lin Ke Song feel very surprised. She thought all of Jiang Qian Fan’s rules were insurmountable.
But today, it seems like she has broken all his rules?
Like holding his hand to take the train; like using the same plate as Jiang Qian Fan; and, like right here right now him agreeing to let her use the shower after nine?