Translator: Adam Seacord
The kitchen of Hotel Laguna, the most prestigious and extravagant hotel in Adnae, was taken over by a brand new, mysterious scent.
「Again, thank you so much for letting us borrow the kitchen.」
「That’s not a problem, but…」
The head chef responded to Haruna, reassuring her. Some of the hotel’s guests in the past were high profile (Dukes, for example) so this kind of request wasn’t all that unusual. Especially for guests of the Royal Suite, many of them would request a dish prepared by their personal chef, would borrow the kitchen to make it happen.
So, this situation where an adventurer-looking woman cooking in the kitchen did not pose a problem. She even cleaned herself up upon coming in, and took her place in the corner of the kitchen out of everyone’s way. The head chef saw no reason to make a complaint.
The problem was that he had no idea what she was making. While cooking up some mysterious white substance in the wok she brought it in, Haruna was also boiling down something in her pot. Judging by her detailed adjustments to the flame below the white substance, the head chef could see that this one required a rather delicate process. The substance was producing a scent unfamiliar to the chef. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell, but he didn’t have absolute confidence that what he was smelling was edible.
In the pot, the chef could spot the vegetables and meat that Haruna had lightly seared earlier, simmering in a bizarre dark soup that seemed to a mixture of flour and some sort of spice blend. While it looked rather… weird, the complex scent of the various spices was somehow appetizing.
Since the entire hotel was privately rented out (under some powerful influence the chef knew no details about) the kitchen wasn’t being used at the moment, anyway. This allowed all the chefs to observe this teenage girl adventurer cook.
「What are you cooking there?」
「It’s something from my homeland. We pour it over the grain I’m cooking over here.」
Smiling with brimming joy, Haruna continued to check the rice and stir the pot.
「Mm. A little longer on the rice…」
Observing the wok with the lid closed, she occasionally stirred it around. The chef was suspicious of the white grain that showed some mysterious reactions along the way, but Haruna seemed to only be concerned with the flame.
「Curry looks good…」
Checking on the carrots, potatoes, etc., in the pot, Haruna put out the stove and looked at the other pot.
「A little more steam, and that should be good.」
And so, everything appeared to be satisfactory. Putting out the flames, Haruna took out some vegetables that could be eaten raw, and began steadily chopping them.
「A salad of raw greens? Would you allow us?」
「Oh sure. If you don’t mind.」
「It’s our pleasure.」
The head chef, who had been watching in awe, jumped in when Haruna transitioned to cooking something they were familiar with (and quite frankly anyone could handle). He wanted to avoid ending up just watching Haruna prepare the entire thing.
「That should do it.」
Haruna said, looking into the wok after admiring the head chef’s plating of the salads. When she lifted the lid off, each tiny white droplet shone with a hint of stardom. After mixing the contents of the wok with a tool none of the chefs had seen before, as if to pull out the steam, or mix the air together, Haruna took a tiny portion and tasted it.
「Hmm… It could use a little more sweetness and stickiness. I guess it’s a wild strand so it can’t be helped.」
“But not bad at all” she mumbled as she reached to portion them out on the plates she borrowed. Finally, the head chef decided to ask his burning question:
「Excuse me, madam. What in the world is that white grain?」
「Oh, we call it rice. Hiroshi-kun said they were growing out in a swamp around here.」
「Swamp? Could it be…?」
「Do you know something about it?」
Nodding in response, the head chef told gave some simple background about the swamp. The short story was that there were no suitable walkways there, and there were many aggressive monsters, which kept the locals away. Adnae held a large lake to its northwest, from which a river flowed (the source of all water for the town) all the way down to the port town of Merije. As a result, they almost always had plenty of food to go around. In addition, this river barely had any dangerous creatures lurking in it, despite its large size.
So, everyone in town was apparently aware of the wild grain in the swamp, but no one had bothered to look into what it was.
「We have plenty of food, exports, and farmland, so none of us thought to go research a plant growing in a dangerous location.」
It made sense. Haruna had a feeling that Farlane in general seemed to miss out on delicious things with this kind of mentality.
「Well, would you like to try it?」
Bursting out a chuckle at the head chef’s passionate enthusiasm, Haruna plated enough rice and curry for the chefs to taste it. In these kinds of establishments, it would be more proper to serve the rice and curry separately, or half-and-half on the plate, but Haruna decided to pour the curry directly on the rice, as most households would serve it.
This was the historical moment when curry on rice was discovered in Farlane.
「In my country, we would serve it with something called Fukujinzuke, but unfortunately we didn’t expect to find rice like this so I haven’t prepared any.」
Haruna noted as she handed over the plate with a spoon. The head chef squints at the (not visually appetizing) dish. After some moments, he inserted his spoon where there was a good mixture of rice and curry, and took a bite.
「…Despite its appearance, it tastes very refined…」
「This… rice, was it? Holds back the spice of the sauce, just enough…」
「It’s delicious… I could eat a barrel full of this… 」
The team of top-notch chefs fire off compliments left and right. Haruna seemed more relieved by this than flattered. Many westerner would not be accustomed to the taste of rice (Japanese strands, at least) but these were renowned chefs. They seemed to pick up on the faint sweetness, unique to wild-grown rice. As the chefs continued to express their impression of the dish…
「…It’s not fair…」
Aearis said, in a begrudging tone after appearing in the kitchen. Her sentence was accompanied by a begrudging glare.
「I have been waiting with unbearable anticipation as there is no announcement for dinner, so here I am, wondering what has gone wrong…」
「I am well aware how entitled this may sound, but to someone desperately longing for supper, this smell is almost unbearable…」
「S-Sorry! I’ll take some up, right away!」
Startled by Aearis’ begrudging tone, Haruna rushed to prepare the food to take up to their room. What awaited her in the Royal Suite was…
Hiroshi started off.
「I knew we had to wait for you to cook the rice, but that was an eternity…」
「You built it up so much just to tease us…」
Tatsuya, Mio, and Makoto (collectively AKA the SJC, or Starving Japanese Children).
「I-I know, I’m sorry! Coming right up!」
Haruna said, as she hurriedly plated the rice and curry, along with the salad.
「We do have boiled eggs, too.」
「I’m going vanilla for my first plate!」
「You’re already accounting for seconds, huh…?」
The SJC were unstoppable. Haruna could only gaze into space in response to Tatsuya’s declaration.
「A-Any case, let’s enjoy it while it’s hot.」
Elena, who had been almost scared by the SJC’s reaction, attempted to bring the train back on track. Even though she would never put herself out there like Aearis had, she couldn’t deny her gnawing hunger.
「Then, thank you for our meal.」
Following Haruna’s cue, the Japanese members showed gratitude for their meal, followed by the native members of Farlane finishing their pre-meal prayer. While no one was waiting to start eating, they all managed to take their first bite at almost the same time.
「Mmm! This is the stuff!」
「It’s so good…」
Makoto had gone three months, and even Tatsuya had gone two weeks without rice. When it came to curry on rice specifically, even Tatsuya hadn’t had one in about a month. That may not sound too bad, but both Tatsuya and Makoto had been eating rice three meals a day. Most Japanese people start missing rice as soon as a week into studying or working abroad. Their reactions were not overly dramatic.
「It doesn’t look like it, but this dish is really refined.」
「The spices! I could eat a kitchen full of this.」
The Farlane natives were entranced by this new dish, enjoyed in a different way than the curry bun. Curry, by the way, was heavily modified through the Japanese culinary culture. As an old-timey commercial once said, even Indians would be surprised. Nowadays, curry was the dish that represented Japan, more so than India, where it originated. Haruna, a cook of the highest caliber, had put her heart and soul into this particular rendition, with no regrets in the process. There was no cause for this dish to taste anything less than exceptional. Still, seeing Elena and Aearis (who both had well-developed palettes) enjoying the dish as much as Rayna (who seemed to prefer simple, bold flavors) the Japanese members couldn’t help but wonder if the Farlane natives had palettes for rice, after all.
「…What’s wrong, Rayna-san?」
「Oh, no, I mean…」
Rayna had cleared her plate entirely, save for a smudge of sauce, and had been staring at it with a contemplative expression on her face. It didn’t look like she hadn’t enjoyed the dish, only that she was hesitating to say something.
「If ya want seconds, ya just gotta speak up.」
Rayna asked timidly, and Haruna took her plate with a smile. Watching this, Aearis donned an expression of envy. She wanted to eat more, but she was getting full.
「Will there be enough for everyone, still?」
「Mm-hm. I made enough so everyone could have seconds.」
「Then, might I ask for seconds, too? I seem to have worked up an appetite after yesterday’s fiasco. I’m getting too old for all that.」
Haruna smiled cheerfully, hearing the raving reaction to her curry on rice. Haruna herself, in fact, didn’t have seconds. Of course, Tatsuya and Makoto (especially Makoto) ate enough to make up for it.
「Ahh, that was good…」
「This could keep me going for another half year…」
Tatsuya and Mio had thoroughly revelled in the prodigal grains of rice, the curry they had dreamt about, and finally uttered these words from the bottom of their hearts. Even Mio, who usually didn’t eat as much as the other members, had cleared two servings.
「So, how much more rice can we get?」
After their food had settled, Makoto asked the question on everyone’s mind.
「Hmm… A barrel’s worth at best, lookin’ at the size of the land they’re growin’ on.」
「How much are we talking here, exactly?」
「60 kilos. Definitely won’t last the nine of us a month if eat ‘em three meals a day.」
「That’s not much…」
Makoto sunk in defeat upon hearing this. She had gotten her hopes up that they might be able to eat rice again like they used to in Japan.
「That’s with the future in mind, ‘course.」
「We can get some more now if we ain’t leavin’ anythin’ for next year.」
Makoto groaned at the conundrum.
「So, Hiroshi-kun. What is it like there?」
「Pretty big, actually. They called it a swamp, but it’s all dried up now, so we can walk ‘round it. I asked some local folks, and they said the water dries up naturally from around this time until that start of spring, naturally. And the water comes back ‘round the time when they’d be plantin’ the crops in Japan.」
「Isn’t that pretty ideal?」
「Sure is. The natural rotation of the water and soil would allow for continuous croppin’ and it seems like the climate and weather ‘round here’s similar to Japan.」
Which must have lead to the wild-grown strand’s similarity to Japanese rice. Elena, who had been listening in, said:
「Then it may not be a bad idea to collect some specimens and grow them.」
「If we can convince Layotte, it would be very possible. 」
「I agree. What a shame to label this exquisite dish a delicacy simply because we can only harvest one of its ingredients in the wild.」
The two princesses were running amok with this idea. Hiroshi cracked a grin watching them. This was the first step of Farlane developing their rice farms. Everyone here would have guessed that establishing the basic routine would take a decade (if they were lucky), but a surprising someone would provide accompanying knowledge in a surprising fashion later on, which led to rice becoming the most ubiquitous food in Farlane within ten years. Of course, no one could foresee that much at this time.
A living vegetable that uses hot springs to reproduce. That’s quite the interesting organism. XD
Thanks for the new chapter!
Thanks for the chapter. Funny one.
Are Japanese people really that obsessed with rice, since I can’t imagine being able to shallow it three meals a day?