Now Lin Dan is rather confused. She can’t help summoning subconsciously “the system” in her mind, and then she freezes--what is the system? She is holding a spoon in her hand. A thin layer of milky white soup oozed on the spoon. It smells freshly good. There is still a faint aftertaste in her mouth. Obviously, she has just taken a sip. However, the problem is that Lin Dan has no idea who she is, what she is doing, and why she appears here without any reason.
She stares at her thin, calloused hands that she can’t be sure whether they are hers or not. She stands here, but she clearly does not belong here, just like a visitor from another world who suddenly breaks in and is out of step with everything around her. She doesn't even know what the situation is.
However, the people around her do not realize that Lin Dan is not the same as before. One of them points to a dish placed in front of her and says, "The taste could be better." Even though he is not sure what the taste is and he is not literally a professional chef, his taste is more sensitive than ordinary people.
Lin Dan is awakened by this sentence and looks up only to find that the speaker is a young man dressed in fine clothes. He has a slim figure, fair skin, and beautiful eyes. If he doesn't speak, he just looks like a girl. Like Lin Dan, he is also tasting the dish, holding a spoon in his hand. A deep frown on his face looks like he is very serious.
"Yes, it could be better." Another man agrees gently.
Lin Dan turns to look and find that the speaker this time is an old man with a gray beard. Now, with his lips constantly moving, he looks as if he is discerning the aftertaste of the soup.
Lin Dan quickly moves her sights and looks around, even though she doesn't actually understand anything, but she doesn't show any panic on her face. She seems to have become accustomed to dealing with such emergencies.
"What do you mean by saying that it could be better? I think it's all the same. It doesn't make any difference." The speaker this time is a dignified middle-aged man wearing a robe embroidered with auspicious clouds and blue unicorns patterns. He seems to possess high social status, because when he finishes speaking, the people standing around begin to nod and echo his words, with a slightly flattering smile on their faces.
But Lin Dan does not pay attention to him, turns her head and looks aside. About twenty feet away from her stands a little girl, only thirteen or fourteen years old, with a square table in front of her on which there is also a dish. The dish looks good in the color, aroma, and taste, and it is almost the same as that in front of Lin Dan.
Combining all the information on the environment, characters, and dialogue, Lin Dan quickly concludes that she seems to be competing with someone in cooking.
The little girl smiles by listening to the young man and the old man with gray beard, and frowns at once by feeling that the middle-aged man does not support her. "Please try it again carefully, my Dear Marquis." She says with stubbornness.
The Marquis? Lin Dan who is trying to figure out the situation gives the middle-aged man a quick look.
That handsome youth interrupts impatiently the middle-aged man who is about to speak, "Now that you can’t tell the taste of dishes by yourself, quit cooking please." This is obviously said to Lin Dan, because the round-eyed youth is staring right at Lin Dan. That little girl is happy to hear this, lowers her head, puckers her lips in a smile shyly.
Lin Dan would not give in after a nibble of her own cooking. It may be not appropriate to say "not give in". It should be said that she could not tell the difference and which part should be better in her own cooking. The young man who thinks she will lose is very dissatisfied with it.
Having made clear the situation, Lin Dan does not have to handle changes with limited means. She wants to finish the play in the way of normal people's reaction, so she silently tastes the soup in the spoon and then goes to the aggrieved girl to scoop the soup from her plate.
These two dishes are both Cabbage with Crab Roe and Minced Chicken. They look like only a few boiled cabbage leaves. But it takes a lot of skill to do them well. This is exactly what cooking is all about. The simpler the dishes are, the harder it is to make them.
Lin Dan prepares only to taste casually and then voluntarily concede her failure. Only in this way can she get away as soon as possible, and find a place to quietly digest the sudden changes. But when she really tastes the two dishes, her taste buds and brain give her answers automatically. She is surprised to find that her taste seems to be much more sensitive than that of ordinary people. Even the slightest difference can be magnified several times by her tongue, which is exactly what Lin Dan has lacked before.
"I lost." Putting down the spoon, she says sincerely, "my cabbage is slightly bitter." This difference cannot be tasted by ordinary people, but can only be distinguished by gourmets with extremely sensitive taste.
The old man with a gray beard pays her a deep look and says, "That's right, because the cabbage was not fully cooked when you thickened them with starch, which made the heating time of the starch excessively prolonged, so the starch was easy to be scorched and bitter, and so the taste is not smooth. And the essence of Cabbage with Crab Roe and Minced Chicken lies in some essentials, being fresh, sweet and smooth. That’s why even your dish looks like a decent one, but still could not be better."
Lin Dan nods and says again, "I lost."
Seeing her calm and peaceful expression without any resentment at her failure, the gray-bearded old man nods affirmatively. The middle-aged man heaves a deep sigh with a pity expression while a woman behind him falls over with her hand over her chest. The crowd is startled.
"My God, Mrs. Chi faints! Lin Dan, come and see your mother!" Immediately, two girls help the woman up and wave at Lin Dan repeatedly.
Lin Dan, who quickly gathers information on her identity by the words, runs over without hesitation and shouts, "Please help fetch a physician. I take my mother back first." Lin Dan takes over the woman from one girl who does not notice anything unusual and hurries to lead the way. The girl soon leads Lin Dan back to her own home.
After much ado, the physician finally arrives and says that the woman is not seriously ill, just feels faint due to excessive anxiety, and she would be okay after drinking some soothing soup.
Lin Dan accepts the prescription and takes off a silver hairpin on her hair as the pay for the doctor. She doesn't know where the woman keeps her money. Even if she knows, the money box would have been locked. Now the woman is faint and can't take out the key, that's all she can do to pay the doctor.
The doctor gives her a pitying look, and says gently, "The Marquis has already paid the fees. Keep your hairpin, please. I’ll hand the prescription over to a manservant of the Marquis to help you fill it. Your faint mother needs you. What a pity..."
Looking at the doctor walking slowly away while shaking his head and sighing, Lin Dan realizes that the previous cooking competition seems to be very important to herself, otherwise everyone would not have so great sympathy for her, and her mother would not faint after she conceded. But she loses the competition, which is an undeniable fact, so Lin Dan has no remorse for what she has done.
Seeing the woman's sweaty face, she takes a copper basin to fetch water outside, meanwhile, a boy about seventeen years old comes in and whispers, "Lin Dan, I've already got you several packs of herbal medicines. One pack with three bowls of water should be boiled over high heat and then cooked over low heat until a bowl of liquid is left. Don't throw away the dregs of the medicines. You can still cook them for two more doses. A pack for three doses a day, and she will be fine after seven days."
Lin Dan thanks him at once and sees him off. And then she goes to the kitchen to cook medicines. This body she possesses is capable of completing subconsciously any activity like chopping wood as fuels for the stove or fetching water with a bucket. The medicine soup has been already boiled and bubbling. Lin Dan removes some dry wood and makes the heat lower. Then she moves a small stool to the side of the stove, and sits on the stool to sort out her memory.
She seems to have got used to those, and soon understands her situation. Her father is Lin Putin, the chef in the mansion of the Yongding Marquis. As the Yongding Marquis is an epicure and pays special attention to food, Lin Putin, who has extraordinary cooking skills, was highly valued by the Marquis. He was even brought with the Marquis to the battlefield to cook, which showed his importance. Therefore, Lin Dan and Mrs. Chi had a very good time in the mansion. They had not only a single house to live in, but also servant girls and boys to serve them.
However, Lin Putin suddenly died of a serious illness two months ago. Lying on his sickbed, he passed on the kitchen knives and cooking skills summarized from his life to Lin Dan, his only daughter. Lin Dan from a young age loved the son of the Marquis who was also an epicure like his father, so she practiced cooking day by day just to make the son pay more attention to her.
After the death of her father, she took over the mantle and continued to work as a chef in the mansion. Although she was only 12 or 13 years old, she was already very skilled. One day, she made a special dish, Braised Black Sea Cucumbers with Scallion, which she had been practicing for a long time, but heard the son said that her dish was not as good as what his little maid cooked.
Lin Dan had always been very proud, so she went to challenge the little maid, but she never expected the maid would reveal a great secret. It turned out that Lin Putin's cooking skills and kitchen knives were stolen from the maid’s grandfather. Lin Putin is not a descendant of the skilled imperial chef at all, but a betrayer who deceived his teachers and destroyed his ancestors.
The little maid was Yan Langqing, and her grandfather was Yan Bo, a former skilled imperial chef from a former dynasty who was very famous in the cooking industry and received several apprentices after leaving the palace including Lin Dan's father, Lin Putin. Later, Yan Bo died of a serious illness while Yan Langqing's father happened to be out of town and failed to come back in time to meet his father who was about to breathe his last. Lin Putin buried Yan Bo and took the opportunity to steal the golden knives received from the emperor and the recipe book of Yan’s. From then on, Lin Putin disappeared without a trace.
Yan Langqing's very angry father took his wife and child to trace Lin Putin and finally found him in the mansion of the Yongding Marquis. But he didn't expect that Lin Putin was already dead. So he let his daughter sneak into the mansion to pry the situation of the betrayer's descendants and looked for an opportunity to challenge Lin Dan. The bet was the golden knives and the recipe book.
Lin Dan who was quite competitive refused to be disgraced in front of the son of the Marquis, and in order to defend her father's reputation, she immediately accepted the challenge... Later she lost, and then became the present "Lin Dan". The handsome young man who served as the judge was the son of the Marquis, and the middle-aged man who knew Lin Dan was defeated by Yan Langqing but still defended for her was the Marquis himself.
Although the names are the same, Lin Dan can clearly perceive that the former self and the present self are not the same at all. The former Lin Dan is very attached to the son of the Marquis, and she could be ecstatic for a smile of his, and she could also be frustrated by a frown of his. But now, Lin Dan has no such an attachment at all, because he is nobody to her but a stranger.
What she needs to solve now is no longer the problem of identity and memory, but how to cope with the current situation. What should she do after losing the competition and having a sick mother to take care of?