My family was poor.
Being a peasant house for generations, the poor are the same everywhere. But in our case, our father died early and we couldn’t survive on our mother’s work.
So when my sister and I were ten years old, we started working as servants.
My first job was at a priest’s home, where I didn’t receive a salary. However, since I was allowed to eat rice, I wouldn’t talk about it in a poor house.
And there were always a few such kids here, and they would learn the ropes of cleaning and laundry and all that kind of stuff, and after two years or so, when they learned their work and their manners, they would go to work for a slightly wealthier family.
The priest’s house is like a school for servants.
My luck was set in motion when I was 15 years old.
My sister, who had gone to work three years before me, became a servant in the lord’s villa. There she met and married a castle guard. Because of my sister’s husband’s connection, I was assigned to work at the castle.
I was a lowliest kitchen maid, but my salary at the mansion was much better than before. I was able to send money home and it allowed me to send my brother to school in town.
Working in the kitchen was a tough job, from early in the morning until late at night, but there were some good things about it.
One of them was the food.
Leftovers from the lords and their families are not given to us because the high-level servants are supposed to eat them. But what was left over after we served it was left to the discretion of the cook in charge, and Ida, the baking guard, often shared it with us servants.
It was hard work, but everyone was nice.
The one who was especially nice to me was Rod, the confectioner.
He would give me freshly baked sweets to taste and he was very good to me.
I still remember the excitement I had when I ate my first sweet.
Freshly baked sweets…The golden brown baked goods melted in your mouth and the smell of butter and sweetness of honey was enchanting. I didn’t know what was going on in my mouth, I was so surprised.
After that, I sighed and realized that there were so many delicious things in the world, and I wanted to give them to my mother and sister someday.
That pastry was the second lucky break for me.
There is hardly any such thing as a vacation for the servants of the castle. Instead, they are allowed to return to their homes once every two years…and in some cases once a year.
When they return home, everyone brings a lot of souvenirs with them. There are fancy clothes and linens that you can only get in town, ribbons of beautiful colors, and then there’s the sugar and salted ham that you can’t easily buy in a poor house. It was partly for the sake of prestige to make ends meet, but it was also to show my family that I was okay and that I was doing well.
I wanted to give them that pastry…a pastry called a financier that I didn’t even know the name of at the time.
That’s why I asked Mr. Rod who made it. I told him I’d buy the ingredients and asked him to teach me how to make it…
Rod, who had been making sweets for 50 years, said it was impossible for me to do so. I was so disappointed, but Rod-san smiled at me and said,
“It can’t be helped. Then I’ll make it for you and you can help me.”
As I helped Rod-san, I realized for the first time that it took a lot of work to make the snacks.
I was happy to see my mother and siblings laughing as they ate the financiers I had brought home.
From then on, I became a subordinate, taking on most of the jobs Rod asked me to do. The old man had a lot of troublesome things to do.
It was always my job to prepare the jam, and it was also my job to boil it down.
As I became more and more useful, Rod began to teach me things.
He taught me how to use the oven and how to watch the temperature of the oven…the right amount of sugar to make fruit jam… Sugar has always been a precious commodity from the south, but it used to be much, much more expensive than it is now. If you’re stingy with sugar it won’t last long.
Before I knew it, the people in the kitchen had come to call me Rod’s apprentice.
Eight years after coming to the mansion, Rod-san died of a bad cold.
I followed in his footsteps and became in charge of sweets.
There were five male children in the lord’s castle, and I made many sweets every day.
They weren’t elaborate, but just plain scones or big biscuits and so on. The only time I was allowed to use elaborate or extravagant ingredients was when we had the occasional party.
When I wasn’t baking sweets, I was making jams and syrupy things every day, or sorting dried herbs, as Rod had done.
I had even been asked to get married, but I loved my job. I didn’t want to go back to the village and just be a farmer’s wife, making soup every day.
I refused to marry and cut my hair short, like a man.
At first, people said a lot of things to me, but then they stopped saying anything.
I didn’t want to make excuses, and didn’t say anything.
Sometimes I would bake special sweets for the mistress’s tea party, and it was fun to get creative with our limited resources.
What made me happy was when the only princess of this castle, who had gone to marry into the royal palace, returned.
The lord of the castle came all the way to the kitchen and told me to bake a bunch of sweets. I made a lavish pudding of syrupy fruit and baked pies.
The princess was a surprisingly small eater, but she liked the sweets. The lord went out of his way to compliment me.
So when I heard that the princess had fallen into the lake, I was very worried, and when I heard that she had woken up, I couldn’t decide which sweet she would like, so I ended up baking many different kinds of financier and madeleines.
The princess has a lot of young maids, so I heard that she enjoys sweets every day, so I was very excited about the variety of sweets I was making.
After that, when the princess’s breakfast was poisoned and her maid died, there was a terrible commotion.
All the people who worked in the kitchen were questioned many times by the wise knights, and they asked a lot of questions about the details. It didn’t matter to me, as I worked in a small pastry kitchen, but the knights still came to talk to me again and again.
Soon, rumors started to circulate that the culprit was John the Soup Keeper.
I heard that several people had seen him with the princess’s handmaiden, who had died, and that he had been seen by several people.
He was a bit of a lax man, but I couldn’t believe it.
Because everyone who works in the kitchen knows very well that they are making something that goes into people’s mouths.
Making food…We know that it is a matter of life and death, and we’re proud of it.
The only thing is that the head chef is a person who only cares about cooking cheaply and was chosen by the butler to cut down on the cost of food, but even he still knows that.
He complains all day long when he throws away spoiled ingredients.
…But they don’t use spoiled materials like you hear rumors about in other mansions.
I was still reeling from the aftermath of the incident when the butler called me in.
“Elda, you may be asked to go up to the royal palace.”
I didn’t understand what he was saying to me.
For me, everything from my village to the lord’s castle was everything in my world.
Still, my world is a big one. There are many people in my village who will live out their wholes lives while never leaving.
For me, the royal capital was a foreign country, and the royal palace was a dream world.
“Her Royal Highness seems to be very fond of your sweets.”
The butler was like a king to us servants. Almost all matters pertaining to the servants were within the scope of his duties, and in fact, he was the one who had the final say on our wages and work matters.
We’re not the kind of servants that have had the opportunity to have close contact with the lord and his family.
“Her Royal Highness…”
“That is the title of the Duke’s youngest princess. She is the Princess of the Crown Prince.
Everyone in the country knew that the youngest princess of the castle was married to the oldest prince when she was less than a year old.
I worked here as soon as the princess went to the castle, so I don’t know much about those days.
“Currently, due to circumstances, there is nobody with Her Royal Highness from the Elzeverts. That’s something that worries the Duke, who is very concerned about it.
I don’t know the circumstances, but I do know that the princess who gave birth to the Princess, who was the lord’s consort…wanted to return to the Royal Capital as her final wish.
She came to this castle as a bride and lived in tears every day and died when she was only 17 years old.
Therefore, the current king wanted to take the princess away from the Duke and make her the consort of his first prince, which was the topic of conversation among the servants. The king does not get along with our lord.
I had no choice but to respond to that.
I didn’t know what the Duke was worried about, and I didn’t know what I should do about it.
“There’s nothing to worry about. When I say you go up to the palace, all you have to do is make the sweets that Her Royal Highness likes.”
I was relieved to hear the butler’s words.
“In that case, I’ll do my job.”
“For that purpose, we are building a new kitchen in the palace. The Duke has already applied for it.
“A new kitchen…”
“That’s right. Tell Sailiz to provide the ingredients. I’ll get whatever you need.”
I know the name Sailiz.
It is a famous food wholesaler, with stores in all five major countries.
They’re the only company that brings oranges from the South, grows them in huge greenhouses and sells them, and they’re the only company that sells ‘Majella,’ a highly alcoholic liqueur made only in the North.
But Rod, who was dead, told me that the biggest source of money for Sailiz was sugar. Not only do they get a lot of cheap sugar from the southern continent, but they’ve also set up a big sugar plantation in the Anola region.
Thanks to that, the price has become much cheaper, and sugar is always available in small houses in the city, and sugar can be used in villages when making jam.
“Ah…Can I take some of the jam I made here, or some of the syrup and pickled*** jams made here, to the royal capital?” (***I think another word used for “pickled” is “soaked” like for soaked fruits or preserves)
“It doesn’t matter. You can take whatever you need.”
It was good. You can’t have get a pickled taste right away, and it takes a lot of time to make this many different kinds of jam.
“I understand. I can get my things ready right away, but I need three days to organize the pantry.”
I wondered if this butler was in a hurry.
I really wanted to go back to my parents’ house once, but I decided to write a letter and get it over with.
My village is about a two days’ ride from here. I gave the shoeshine boy a coin and asked him to send a postcard.
“When you get to the Royal Capital, make a list of what you will need.”
“…You mean like pots and pans?”
I wondered how much it would cost to build a new kitchen for the sweets that the Princess liked, complete with all the equipment…I got dizzy wondering how much money it would cost.
The copper pots and pans that I usually use to make jam cannot be bought with my monthly salary.
“Do I have to go up to the palace all by myself?”
“I’ll give you two subordinates. If you have any ideas, say it.”
“…If possible, my youngest sister.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s a live-in maid in Lord Kreuz’s house under the castle of Raativ.
My youngest sister, Alyssa, is a very shy girl who always worried me and my sister. Partly because of the age difference between us, but also because everyone around her was so mature that everyone else got ahead of her, so she became a quiet girl who didn’t speak her mind much.
However, for a child who can’t even say what she wants to say, working at a mansion is pretty hard. According to a letter from my older sister who lives in the same castle, she’s still doing her best, but I think she would feel a little better if she could at least work with me.
“I’ll make some arrangements.”
I intended to be the bad guy, so I was glad that the butler was going to be able to arrange it right away.
In other words, that’s how important this job is.
“Henceforth, you are Her Royal Highness’ confectioner. Do not forget that and do your job.
I didn’t understand the difficulties of the circumstances, but I did understand that this was important enough to have a king-like butler make my wishes come true.
“……But at the end of the day, all I could do was make delicious sweets.
It’s a good thing that I have a good relationship with my friends. The subordinates and maidservants threw a farewell tea party and I heard all sorts of rumors about the lord, the king, the princess and the prince…but it did not remain at all.
However, the butler’s words were refrained in my head all the time.
Her Royal Highness’ confectioner…
Will ever be able to become a full-fledged confectioner as I once thought?
The answer to this question would surely be found in the Royal Capital.
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