After leaving the capital, Lin Dan and Chi temporarily settle in a nearby small town. During this period, the Marquis sends several groups of people to invite them back. She declines the invitations politely.
This day she sends another group of people away, and Chi finally can’t holds it any more and stammers, "Dan, in fact, it's okay to go back to the mansion to live. We need someone to take care of us, an orphan and a widow. Your father's house and restaurant can't be left behind, with the support of the Marquis, we can appeal to local authority and let the second and third brothers of your father return everything."
Lin Dan waves her hand and says in a solemn tone, "Mum, you think too simply. Now what else do we have besides 120 taels of silver? What should we take to appeal to local authority without the deed of house or the deed of land? The Marquis is kind and treats us as guests of the mansion, but in fact don't you understand who we are? We are just a little better than the slave who signs the sale deed of freedom. Now the eldest daughter of the Marquis is at the critical juncture of becoming a consort. You know surely how tightly the Yongding Mansion is controlled. The uncle of the wife of the Marquis is still in prison for hurting people with his horse. The Marquis does not care how his wife cries, so he also does not care our lawsuit which will turn out to be an inevitable failure, does he? The Marquis is willing to call us back because he is kind-hearted and cherishes his past friendship with my father. We cannot be insatiable and cannot make endless exorbitant demands. Otherwise, the merely left friendship can be squandered."
Lin Dan sighs and adds, "Furthermore, as long as we are still in the same place with the Yans, they will certainly find ways to discredit my father's reputation in order to appear justified. My uncles will also secretly attack us in order to prevent us from taking back our property. What else do we have besides a little silver? The Marquis can protect us for a while, can he also protect us for a lifetime? Staying in the capital represents endless troubles. It is better to leave and start over. Mum, don’t you think like this? "
Chi's reluctance full in her heart is dispelled by her daughter's persuasion and she can only nod tearfully.
Lin Dan rents a small courtyard to live in temporarily and goes out to wander around when she is free. Her tender face always looks dignified. One day, she walks a long way and unknowingly goes on the state highway to a post house. Loud voices and horses neighing in it can be heard, making it very lively. A straw hut is set up outside the house, and an old woman is busy carrying dishes in and out of the house.
Without knowing what's on the plate, Lin Dan can smell a strong smell from a long distance. Lin Dan is attracted by the smell and walks over quickly. The merchants and customers in the post house also run out to check.
"Madam, the tofu balls smell good. How much is a bowl of them?" An itinerant merchant asks loudly.
"Two coppers for a bowl." The old woman replies smilingly.
"Good, I want a bowl of them please." The itinerant merchant immediately sits down in the hut with his eyes fixed on the frying pan.
When Lin Dan steps forward, the tofu balls have been fried. The old woman gets them out and places them aside to drain off oil. After draining, she pours them into another pan and scoops up a ladle of chop soup to continue cooking. The fresh sweetness of the soup combines the deep-fried scorched smell. After boiling, to sprinkle a handful of chopped scallion, and this dish is made. The golden and crispy tofu balls roll in the white soup with rich milk smell, occasionally dotted with green onion leaves, which are really good-looking. Bean flavor, bone flavor, onion flavor and a little pepper flavor are mixed together to form a very wonderful taste.
Lin Dan quickly walks several steps into the hut and sees that the itinerant merchant can not wait any longer. He picks up a hot tofu ball and puts it into his mouth. He chews it while cooling his mouth through exhaling. At the end, he gives a thumbs-up sign and says, "Madam, your cooking is absolutely superb! I've traveled all over the country and never tasted tofu balls better than this. "
Lin Dan immediately orders a bowl of tofu balls and takes a sip after blowing cold. Her face is suddenly covered by her wonder. After biting through the outer crispy layer, the inner tofu layer is very soft and tender and is also mixed with some minced meat and yam paste. It is easily melted in mouths and it is super delicious. Even better, the innermost layer of the meatballs has a cavity filled with thick soup, which seems to be caused by chop soup infiltrating along the gap, or caused by the secretion of minced meat and yam paste after heating. Only after being sucked into the tip of the tongue can it be known that the soup holds the fresh taste of bone marrow, the salty taste of minced meat and the sweet of yam paste. All kinds of tastes are perfectly combined, which makes one unable to stop.
Lin Dan eats very carefully, and finally drinks all the soup, she shows her satisfaction with a sign. The merchant eats three bowls of the balls, and now he is ordering the fourth bowl. His companions are all hooked up by the good smell to sit in the small hut without any space any more.
Lin Dan does not leave after eating tofu balls. Seeing more and more diners, she takes the initiative to help the old woman burn wood and fetch water, carry and wash bowls. The old woman refuses but can only let her do those works. When she finishes her work at night, she takes out 20 coppers to pay Lin Dan.
"Madam, I don't want the salary," Lin Dan returns the coppers and says sincerely, "I can help you with your work every day, please teach me how to make this dish, tofu balls."
"You want to learn cooking from me? What's the..." Before the old woman finishes speaking, a young woman walks into the hut and says bitterly, "A wild girl coming out from nowhere dares to take advantage of my family. If you learn how to do this dish, how can my mother still do business here? Get the hell out of here, or I'll beat you with a broom!" As she says this, she pulls open the cabinet and pockets all the coppers the old woman has earned. Her eyes are full of greed.
"Don't you also come to learn cooking from me? I never say not to teach." The old woman frowns.
"I am your daughter-in-law, family member, but who is she?" The young points at Lin Dan with anger, standing with arms akimbo.
Lin Dan hurriedly explains, "Auntie, don't be angry. I come to your house every day to work without money. Once I learn this dish, I will go far away and never set up business here. There are only two members in my family, my mother and I, we have no connections here. If you see me setting up business around here, you can either smash it or beat us, the choice is yours."
The young woman has already recognized Lin Dan's accent which is not local. She thinks that Lin Dan is a free laborer who doesn't get paid and she is not afraid of being fooled by a little girl from other places because of her large number of ethnic groups which root here deeply, so she agrees, but her face looks still as bad as giving alms.
With the agreement, the old woman pulls Lin Dan and walks her out of the hut and gives her a pouch. She whispers, "Good girl, this is today's salary. You can keep it secretly."
Lin Dan is about to put the pouch back, the old woman hurries into the hut. Soon there is a rebuking voice from the young woman inside. It seems that the old woman earns less coppers today than yesterday. The young woman comes to be a boss instead of a learner of cooking.
Lin Dan shakes her head, feeling sorry to the old woman.
That night, Lin Dan is still staying in the backyard practicing knife skills. Her bruised fingertips always feel tingling when touching food or knives, making her frown frequently. After chopping a cucumber, she picks up and looks at the chopped cucumber with uneven thickness and sizes, she sighs helplessly .
"Dan," Chi, who has been hiding in the corner for a long time, walks out slowly and softly, "cooking is a happy thing. Don't let yourself carry too much burden. Stop chopping, shall you rest for a while? I don't blame you for losing to Yan Langqing, anyone will have a chance to play below his or her average performance. "
Lin Dan understands that Chi understands wrongly by thinking that there is a psychological shadow in her mind because losing the competition to Yan Langqing, so she can't pick up a kitchen knife. But Lin Dan knows it is not the case. She can practice knife skills again. All she need is time.
"Mum, I'm fine, please don't worry." She does not explain too much, but firmly says, "one day I will earn back everything we lost. I can’t cook the Yans’ dishes any more, so I'll learn to cook other dishes. As the world is so big, there will always be room for us."
"Alas, good good, it’s good for you to think like this. Stop chopping and go to sleep." Chi touches her daughter's head, showing a sign of relief. Recently, her daughter has become more and more silent, but she has also become more and more strong and resolute. It looks like she is not afraid of the wind and rain.
"Well, you should also sleep early." Lin Dan sends Chi back to her room, then she stands in the porch for a long time without moving. In this sad night, she unconsciously falls into memories that do not belong to her, those memories come from the "Lin Dan", no one knows where the “Lin Dan” goes.
The “Lin Dan” leaves a deep regret and unwilling, but also leaves a deep emotion. She is originally a charming and pretty little girl, who loves to play and have fun, but never loves the smoke and fire in kitchens. Lin Putin once asked her to learn cooking several times, but she cried and shouted and refused. But one day, she accidentally bumped into the eldest daughter of the Marquis and was almost beaten. It was the passing son of the Marquis who saved her. The gentle smile of the son had become her obsession ever since.
She asked the son of the Marquis the things he liked, and the son laughed, "I love eating." So the next day she took off her beautiful clothes, put on a dusty apron, and went into the kitchen where she studied for seven years. She never liked cooking, she just wanted to let the son of the Marquis look more at herself.
Lin Dan can't agree with her action of pinning her life on another person. This is the most sad thing. If that person leaves or turns away, all that person leaves is the abyss beneath her feet.
What Lin Dan needs to do now is to walk on her own way, one day she will be able to reach the finish line even by climbing, no matter she falls or hurts. The original host is a cook, so she will continue to be a cook. The world is full of delicious food, so there is no worry about not having a place to learn or a teacher to follow.
From this day on, Lin Dan follows the old woman to learn how to make tofu balls. The old woman has three sons. The eldest son is idle. The second son falls ill and dies when he is young. The third son is born when his parents are old. He is only seven years old now and is still in an age of crying piteously for food. In order to feed her two sons, the old woman has a hard time getting up early and selling tofu balls. Fortunately, she has excellent cooking skills and does not have to worry about her livelihood.
The eldest son’s wife says that she wants to learn cooking from the old woman, but she is always lazy and slippery, so all the dirty work in the house goes to Lin Dan. She has to cook beans, peel beans and order tofu in the morning. She has to carry more than 100 catties of water back and forth, almost bending her waist. However, she has never complained. As long as she can learn something, she will not be afraid of hardship and tiredness.