Chapter 10 – Silver Hairpin
Within Bai Yunju’s kitchen, a server tidied up and selected ingredients that Mo Qian Xue had requested.
“Lady, all the ingredients you seek are right here. You may want to be careful since these are all high quality.”
Although the server’s tone revealed impatience, Mo Qian Xue still showed her a smile of gratitude.
With the help of Sister Fang, Lady Ning was able to prepare four dishes and one soup: these included fishcakes, meatpie, fried lotus root, Qianjiafu stew, and meatball soup.
At this ancient era, fish breeding and poultry raising was not as developed. The recipes that master chefs used with meat were quite primitive, and even meatballs have not yet been invented. Under such circumstances, Mo Qian Xue chose to present these four dishes; they were simple and flavorful, with attractive colors.
While flavor was an important aspect, the appearance was the key to selling. As Mo Qian Xue proceeded to decorate her dishes, Sister Fang’s eyes widened in awe. Never in her life had she seen such a beautiful meal, let alone taste.
“Sister Ning, you have quite a skillful hand! These dishes are so attractive and fragrant, just like a painting. My mouth just waters from wanting to try them!”
Although Sister Fang had helped with the preparation, she only aided with mixing and putting together ingredients. She did not have the actual skill to add those final touches.
Even the waiter stared in a stupor at the beautifully prepared dishes.
It’s not like he had never seen an attractively laid dish before. It’s just that this was the first time he has seen food that was decorated so strangely. And yet the design still made the meal look appetizing.
Mo Qian Xue used a Western style when plating the fresh food and vegetables. It was a modern style of presentation that was usually found in high-end restaurants. Of course they would never have seen this technique.
After their preparation, the dishes were soon sent to the small courtyard, while the women stayed in the kitchen.
A quarter of an hour later, the young serving boy came to the kitchen relaying his master’s invitation.
Mo Qian Xue made her way out, but the serving boy stopped Sister Fang in her tracks. “Sister-in-law, please stay. Only your companion was invited to the courtyard.”
“Why is that?” Although Sister Fang tried to be polite, she still felt displeased that her friend was left to go alone.
A young wife alone with a young man. If that Qi Gongzi didn’t have good intentions, how could she be safe?
Sister Fang hurriedly reached out to Lady Ning.
Mo Qian Xue looked back with calm eyes. She shook her head and said, “Sister Fang it’s going to be okay.”
Fang Fangzi replied in worry, “Alright then, just call out if anything happens.” Lady Ning’s seriousness reminded her that Mo Qian Xue’s goal was to discuss about business. She let go of Lady Ning’s hem, then stared suspiciously at Qi Gongzi who sat under the evergreen tree before heading back in.
When Qi Gongzi saw Mo Qian Xue approach, he put away his fan, sat upright, and gave her a welcoming smile.
Mo Qian Xue bowed in courtesy then swept a glance over the table. Most of the dishes have already been eaten, leaving a few bowls of leftovers. The corner of her lips raised.
I didn’t think that this rich young man would eat so much.
When she gave Qi Gongzi a funny look, he didn’t feel embarrassed in the least. Instead, he unfurled his fan and laughed gently, “The young lady’s craft is very delicious. I’ve eaten until I was very full. What a talent you have!”
He continued, “This Gongzi has tasted each of these dishes and I can tell by the appearance and taste that the recipes are high-quality goods. How much do you plan to sell these for?”
Manager Li’s brow furrowed. How could the young master eat so much? If the manager was one who tested the recipes, he would only bother to empty one or two bowls.
Qi Gongzi looked to Mo Qian Xue with inquiry. Mo Qian Xue, in turn, observed his beauty.
He wore expensive clothing, and his adornments were eye-catching and costly. His facial features were delicate and beautiful while his speech was pleasant to the ear. Qi Gongzi swayed his fan gracefully, adding to his luxurious charm.
Mo Qian Xue couldn’t help but stare in a daze.
He appeared too handsome and delicate to refuse!
“Four dishes and one soup adds up to five recipes. Each of these is worth two hundred and twenty silver.”
With this kind of earning, Mo Qian Xue calculated the possibility of opening a soy sauce factory, or even a vinegar factory. If these dishes were served with soy sauce and vinegar, the taste would be even more desirable.
What? 220 silver? A regular menu sold for 232 silver taels is already considered quite a sum. You’re demanding for too high of a price…” When Manager Li heard woman’s selling price, he immediately felt overwhelmed; a chef’s monthly salary did not even exceed 12 taels and yet she dared to ask such an amount.
Mo Qian Xue turned and looked to the rich young man with pride. “Just like Manager Li, do you also think what I’m offering is simply a normal menu? Can your restaurant’s dishes compare with what I have brought? I assume that your young master is quite knowledgeable considering your high status. Have you ever tasted something better than my dishes?”
The village woman composed herself quite calmly before the shopkeeper’s tirade. Trying to haggle with her? As an expert businesswoman, she will never lose.
She continued, “Qi Gongzi’s status must be quite special, not only within this restaurant, but also among the government and other people. Likewise, my recipes don’t have to be limited to this building–I can also sell these to other restaurants who are willing. It goes without saying who gains and who loses such an opportunity.”
Manager Li was angered even more. “You– you’re out of your mind! For a price of 220 taels per dish, even for our Su family…”
“It’s a fixed price, 220 silver, take it or leave it. If Gongzi doesn’t want it, then I’ll just go to Ying Ke Xuan restaurant. I’m sure their shopkeeper would be very interested in this deal.”
When Su Qi Gongzi** witnessed how Li Manager’s thorough defeat in a battle of words, the young master’s eyes twinkled with interest and his smile deepened. He reached out and stopped the shopkeeper from yelling in anger. The young man finally opened his mouth, “Alright, we will accept your price of 220 silver for each recipe. But we must settle things with a contract.”
“We can do as the Young Master wishes.”
“Hearing how eloquent the Miss’ speech is, you must have read many books!”
“This maiden is even more in awe of Gongzi’s manners! Although I have read a few books and know a few words, I can’t even compare to the elegant Young Master.”
Manager Li’s eyes flitted left and right as he listened to their conversation. As he pondered her behavior, he concluded that her mannerisms were not something an ordinary village woman could have. He had a bit of skill in watching people after having managed the restaurant for so many years.
Although the woman claimed to be an ordinary maidservant, her character and eloquent speech made her identity quite a mystery.
Without being aware, the expression on Manager Li’s face had already softened; he was no longer as impatient and arrogant as before.
After all scholars highly treasured while a literate woman was even harder to find. It’s a pity that such an educated woman would be found living in the wilderness while selling recipes.
Su Qi Gongzi stood up smiled. “My requirements are very simple. First, you can’t resell today’s dishes to others. Second, if you come up with new recipes in the future, you should sell them with the same price, and only to our Bai Yun Ju restaurant.”
“Alright, I’ll cooperate with you. I’ll consider you a partner then.”
When Mo Qian Xue walked out of Bai Yunju restaurant, the first thing she noticed was a jewelry shop not far away. She took Sister Fang with her and went in.
In her past life, it wasn’t impossible for Mo Qian Xue to acquire an exquisite jewelry here and there. Now she can’t even afford to buy gold or jade. She needed to prioritize purchasing silverware and buying cloth to sew two new pieces of clothing.
Instead, Mo Qian Xue chose two carved silver hairpins before leaving the shop. She removed the wooden choptsicks on her hair and replaced them with one of the silver hairpins. Meanwhile, she placed the other hairpin on Sister Fang’s hair, and laughingly said it was a gift.
Sister Fang couldn’t bear to accept it but Mo Qian Xue insisted.
Fang Fangzi didn’t know how much Mo Qian Xue earned from selling the dishes, but a carved hairpin with flowers was worth 452 silver. This was worth so much more than the wooden pins she often wore.
How could she accept such a valuable gift?
Mo Qian Xue looked at her with forlorn eyes. “Didn’t Sister-in-law promise to treat me as a close sister? You’re hurting my heart, you simply don’t want my gift.” Mo Qian Xue’s eyes began to water as she spoke with grievances.
Seeing her beautiful friend cry, Fang Fangzi felt very nervous. This beautiful woman did not know her origins nor her family, and yet she was willing to offer such an expensive gift after earning a bit of money.
After thinking about it, Sister Fang decided to accept the hairpin. If Mo Qian Xue’s husband ever decides to leave, she decided to take care of the young maiden and prevent her from being sold as a slave. So if Mo Qian Xue can’t manage her finances today, then Sister Fang will hold on to this expensive pin, just in case her dear sister needs money in the future.
Fang Fangzi reached to Mo Qian Xue and comforted, “Please don’t cry dear sister. It’s my fault for being insensitive. But you must listen to my advice and take this to heart–if younger sister earns money, you must think of your livelihood and not be wasteful in spending. This will only ruin your family! In the future you can’t do this again!”
Mo Qian Xue’s face brightened up. “Oh I know! Didn’t we say we’d buy fabric for sewing? Let’s go buy some so we can make new clothes for Shuan Zi and Yaya. I also need to make some for my husband and myself”
Mo Qian Xue pulled her friend into a fabric store. Sister Fang was reluctant to pick anything from the store so Lady Ning urged her to quickly choose.
Fang Fangzi shook her head helplessly and finally gave in. It seems that her stubborn sister won’t give up until she picks a fabric.