“Sister-in-law, what kind of food goes with this apple wine?”
Alfred lightly shakes the bottle of apple wine and the wooden goblet in his hand.
In almost any seldo, it is said that you can take home drinks and food by paying a deposit. Therefore, if you bring pots, pans, plates or bottles from your home, you don’t need to make a deposit.
Alfred, who claims to know every inch of the food stalls in this area, seems to have even borrowed a goblet by paying a generous deposit. It was done out of consideration that he couldn’t make Luthia drink directly from the bottle.
He is often misunderstood by the ruggedness of his appearance, but he is a brother who is well aware of small details.
“That apple wine had a refreshing acidity with a slight sweetness to it, so it goes well with meat and cheese. It’s good for sausages with herbs, and also for fried foods. It refreshes the palate…”
Luthia looks around happily.
This is a corner where all the food seldos are gathered around.
“Doesn’t it go well with the seafood?”
“It’s a good match. Mellow acidity goes with almost any kind of food, and the aroma of the apples is wonderful when they are combined with protein-rich seafood. So it would be nice to have a few different types to choose from.”
Luthia, who has a bouncy gait, looks amused as she peeks into the storefront of the seldo.
“Nigel-sama, please take a look, it seems that you can get it freshly made at that seldo over there.”
Luthia pointed to a Seldo’s storefront, where several skewers sizzling on a slender, simple stove were lined up.
“Then let’s go get one.”
“…Are you sure you want to go to?”
Alfred, who was used to it, quickly turned over before I could say anything.
“…Wasn’t it just one?”
Four skewers are lined up on a disposable plate shaped from square-cut lilo leaves.
“One of each of them, right?”
Alfred looks at Nigel with a curious expression.
“From right to left, it’s Sledge, Sasami, Wings and Peach types.”
Honestly, Nigel doesn’t see much distinction between them.
“Each one is different, isn’t it?”
Luthia looked into Alfred’s hand with a beaming smile.
“Yes. The most popular item is the peach. The characteristic of the seldo over there is that it is browned with a sweet and spicy sauce…Please have it while it’s hot.”
“It’s all right, brother. I can do the poison testing, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to let my sister-in-law eat what I’ve put my mouth on, so…”
“Let’s all take a bite while it’s warm…If it makes you feel uncomfortable, Nigel-sama will take a bite first, then I’ll take a bite, and then Al will take a bite. I’m sorry for the leftovers, but I’m planning to eat a lot of them and I can’t fill up on them now…”
“I understand. That would certainly be a good idea.”
Before Nigel can interrupt anything, the two of them agree, smiling at each other. When this happens, it’s somehow hard to strongly oppose it. Besides, the method Luthia suggested is also the most reasonable.
“Go ahead, brother.”
A plate was quickly presented in front of me and I grabbed the first skewer.
The aroma of the sauce wafting in the air was appetizing in itself.
The sweet and spicy taste of the sauce and its unique charcoal-smoked flavor spread in my mouth.
“Sledge is a muscle.”
There’s something very cute about Luthia saying it in a hushed voice, as if to say so secretly.
The tight, fat-free flesh gets more flavorful as you bite into it.
“Brother, this one too.”
He handed me a wooden goblet.
The refreshing acidity moderates the taste of the thick sauce in just the right way, raising the anticipation for the next bite.
“……How is it?”
“I don’t think it’s bad…but I don’t have a tongue as delicate as yours, so…”
I handed her a skewer, saying that Luthia should try it too.
Unlike in the Royal Palace, I didn’t wear gloves. Our fingertips lightly touched each other as I handed the skewer to her raw untanned hand.
For most of my adult life, I’ve rarely taken my gloves off outside. Perhaps that’s why I looked at Luthia, as I felt something tingly about just that.
Luthia probably felt the same way, and she looked at me as well.
Then we looked at each other and gave each other a small smile.
There’s no reason why…such a moment, which is seemingly nothing, would create such a soft, fluffy, indescribable feeling in my heart.
I’m not sure what to call it.
It feels like love, but it also feels like something more elusive.
“Thank you for the food.” (***the word used is “Itadakimasu”)
Luthia smiles and takes a good bite of the skewer I hand her.
I felt my cheeks loosen at the child-like expression on her face.
When I felt a gaze, I looked at Alfred grinning as if he had something to say.
Alfred’s grin was gently shed and I offered her a goblet of apple wine.
“Thank you…then please, Al.”
“Thank you, sister-in-law.”
Luthia handed Alfred the skewer first and then took the goblet I offered her.
The rustic wooden goblet looked a little awkward on the outside, but it was surprisingly good for holding cold food. It is not filled with ice, but the coldness does not escape. Because it’s made of wood, it has a simple insulation effect.
Luthia took a sip of apple wine and tilted her head slightly.
“…No, it’s delicious, but I wonder if the taste of the apples would be a bit out of place…the sauce might be a bit thick for me.”
Then we did the same thing three times to taste the sasami, which was fluffily grilled with a generous coating of sauce, the slightly charred wings, and the juicy peaches with a crispy charred surface…
“The skewers themselves are very tasty, but I think that beer would probably go better with them than apple wine.”
Alfred nods deeply, as if to say, “Certainly.”
“…Then, if you were going to pair it with apple wine, what flavored skewers would you make with it?”
“Maybe it’s not suitable for a seldo, but I’d give it a refreshing finish with salt and pepper. Pepper is too expensive to use at a seldo, isn’t it?”
With the establishment of import routes and successful cultivation in some parts of the country, pepper is gradually becoming available to the average homeowner. However, it’s still not cheap enough to be used casually.
“If you’re going to have it in a seldo, I think it’s important to set a price.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“So, sister-in-law, if you ignore the price, what kind of skewers would you like to make?”
Alfred asked curiously.
“First I’d need to wash the thighs with white wine, then lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then brown the skin and plump the inside so that it is slightly rare in the center. I’d serve it with a squeeze of lemon to taste. You can also use the apple wine instead of white wine.”
“What’s the point of washing it with alcohol?”
“Yes. Washing the meat with alcohol removes the smell and makes the meat more tender…Of course, that depends on the quality of the meat itself.”
“I think that apple wine has a nice, subtle, refreshing aroma to it.”
I tried to imagine the taste and gave up. I’ve never been that interested in eating, so it’s difficult for me to remember or imagine what something tastes like.
But what I do know is that if it’s made by Luthia, it will always taste good.
My absolute faith in Luthia convinces me that it must be a great dish.
“The skin is still the sauce. I like a garlicky sauce or a sweet and sour sauce, crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside…And I like to wash the liver fresh in wine, let it marinate in the wine for a bit, and then grill it in the sauce to make it plump and rare on the inside.”
“Is Luthia okay with the skin and guts?”
“Yes…I’m taking the lives of other creatures after all. I have to make sure to see every part without wasting it!”
The way she clenched her tight little fists was somewhat encouraging.
“That’s a good attitude.”
“I don’t think it’s anything special…And besides, the skin and innards are usually delicious!”
“No, there are a lot of people who don’t like livers, aren’t there?”
“Some people say they don’t like the unique odor. But if it’s fresh, there’s no odor, and with a little ingenuity, you can make it go away for as long as you like…That’s right. You can try hollowing out a small tomato and stuffing it with liver paste and grilling it with cheese…However, I think it would be a bit difficult to sell in a seldo. It’s better to make something simple and easy to make with fewer steps rather than something more elaborate…”
“I think that novelty is necessary…”
I imply that it would take some ingenuity.
“That’s where you show off your skills…you should show off the differences between the two by using a sauce or a texture that’s easy to understand. In that sense, Tsukune can give you individuality and you can make a lot at once, so it’s good.” (***Tsukune is basically a japanese ground chicken skewer, but it doesn’t always have to be chicken I think…)
“What is tsukune?”
Alfred is curious.
“Well…the surimi is formed into a dumpling or bar shape and grilled on a skewer. You can use all the leftovers, and if you pound it with the cartilage you get an interesting crunch, and if you pound it with the skin you get a completely different flavor.” (***Surimi is like a fish paste)
“It’s all about freedom.”
“Basically, you can cook freely. You should avoid things you can’t eat together or anything like that, but…Oh, there’s one thing that’s an absolute unwritten rule, though…”
Luthia looked at me and Alfred with a supremely serious look on her face.
Alfred gasps slightly.
“Don’t waste the ingredients! Making something you can’t eat is a blasphemy for food.”
“Isn’t blasphemy a bit of an exaggeration?”
““It’s not an exaggeration.””
For some reason, not only Luthia but also Alfred rushed in.
“Nigel-sama, cooking is what makes something better than eating it as it is. However, if it is better as it is, there is no need to cook it. It is nothing but blasphemy to make such a thing.”
“Brother, it’s sweet. Listen, there are people in this world who cheat on rotten ingredients with strong flavors, cut corners in preparation and create something unpalatable, or do not follow a recipe and then create something that you can’t even consider to be food!”
“…You guys are really in tune.”
“It’s…because we are fellow foodies.”
“Besides, sister-in-law is also my cooking instructor.”
Luthia laughs with a slightly embarrassed expression, and Alfred, who cooks himself, gives Luthia a look that oozes with deep respect.
“Thank you. But Al…Al is good enough, so I don’t have anything to teach you.”
“No, no, no, not at all as good as my sister-in-law…I definitely want to try the skewers sister-in-law makes.”
“If you think it’s a good idea, Nigel-sama, I’d like to make it.”
It is said that my princess is quiet, but when it comes to the subject of food, she is very talkative. Her expression is brighter than any other time, and her eyes sparkle. I can’t help but feel my cheeks loosen up at this expression that is only shown in front of a limited number of people.
“Of course, I don’t mind…Shall I invite Shion to join us then?”
“Does His Eminence Shion like skewers?”
“It’s all right. Both Shion and I would rocks if it was made by sister-in-law.”
Luthia laughed at the joke, but perhaps Alfred was serious.
It was nice to see Luthia spending time like this, and how she was having fun with my younger brothers.
Suddenly, I think.
Maybe it’s these kind of uneventful moments that are what true happiness is all about.
“…I’m getting pretty full.”
After eating from a few of the food stalls recommended by Alfred, we were resting in a little square.
In this open space, there were tables and chairs that looked like they had been handmade from scrap wood and other materials, or platforms made out of wooden boxes that we could freely use to sit and eat.
That said, Alfred and I still had plenty of room. The absolute amount of food that Luthia and I can eat are very different. To begin with, Luthia is not a person who eats that much.
“It’s about time for us to finish this one too.”
Alfred lifted the empty bottle from its wooden stand and shook it lightly.
“We’ve had everything from skewers and spit-roasted potatoes with cheese sauce, to baked shrimp, steamed shellfish, baked sausages, patties with meat in sweet sauce and shredded greens, stewed lump of meat in crepe wrappers, and venison stew in a pot…but which one is the best match for apple wine? Do you think one was the best match for the drink?”
“…If I were to eat it on its own, I would have preferred the chunks of meat in a crepe wrap, but that would have gone better with a barleywine or red wine.”
“I think so, too.”
Luthia nods persistently and looks at Alfred.
“I’m a big fan of skewers, but I think that also goes better with beer…If something was suitable for apple liquor, I think it’s steamed shellfish. Rather than eating just steamed shellfish, I thought it would be much better to eat it with apple wine.”
Luthia smiled as if to say she’d gotten her own way.
“It’s delicious when eaten on its own, but when eaten with apple wine, it’s even more different and delicious…Probably, that steamed shellfish is steamed with apple wine. I’m sure you can’t help but notice the slightest hint of aroma…That’s why it feels more like a good fit…Let’s call a marriage, if you will.”
“Well, I guess you could say it’s a nice combination of drinks and food.”
“So, Nigel-sama, please buy that steamed shellfish again.”
Her white cheeks were tinted with a hint of vermilion.
“So we’re going to go back to that grandpa’s place again to ask him to eat it…Also, I’ll have his apple liquor tasted by the older brother at the seafood stall this time”
I think that since it’s food and drink seldos, they’re more or less interested in the taste.
“Once they see how good each others’ are, we can recommend that they partner up. Neither of the seldos were in a very good position, so it would be even better if they could move and line up next to each other if possible.”
Luthia was smiling and in a good mood. I felt that endings of her words were a little poorly worded.
…Did she get drunk? With a kind of liquor that’s more like a fruit juice?
I wondered if he looked very suspicious, or if he was thinking the same thing, but Alfred turned a questioning look in my direction.
“Luthia, let’s go back soon.”
Her face, which had been a big smile, sank into a dreary state. That’s exactly what she looked like, a deflated look that made me feel guilty for looking at her.
“…Let’s come back another time.”
“…Wil you have ‘another time?’”
Luthia asks, seeming to have half given up.
There was an echo in there that I couldn’t ignore, as I was basically used to passing off most of it.
No, but because it’s Luthia…
I don’t think it can be ignored because the other person is her.
“Yeah…I promise. It’s true that we don’t often get to take this kind of time. But I’ll definitely bring you back.”
“I promise,” I repeated again, and the well-listening Luthia, nodded.
When I reach out to her, she gently lies down quietly.
Recently, it’d been harder to let me pick her up these days, so I was a little glad that this wasn’t the case.
“Thank you for today, Al.”
“No. Please, I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Yes. Please say hello to grandfather for me.”
“Of course…We’ll come back when the situation improves. If my brother doesn’t bring you back, I can bring you.”
The expression on her face lights up in a flash.
“Yes…It could be mistaken for an elopement, but…”
He looks at me with a teasing expression.
Luthia had probably never thought about that at all. She didn’t even take it as a joke.
“Luthia, I’ll definitely bring you back, so it’s okay.”
“But Nigel-sama is very busy, so I don’t know when that will be…”
“…It’s fine. Let’s try to go before the end of the year.”
“I understand. I look forward to it.”
Luthia gave a smile that seemed somewhat child-like.
“Brother, please tell me when you come. I will be happy to escort you again.”
Luthia in my arms waved to Alfred, who seemed to be in a good mood.
“…It’s somewhat strange.”
We are on our way home, slipping through the many people seeking food in Seldos.
At this time of day, many of the people seem to be artisans or shop workers of some sort. They look at me and Luthia suspiciously for a moment, but they don’t pay much attention to it and turn towards the seldo.
“What is it?”
When you see the lives of the people of downtown, it makes the royal palace we live in seem like a fairy tale world.
Luthia’s words have a somewhat critical sound to them, so I guess it’s probably not a good meaning.
“What do you mean by fairytale?”
“It’s like a lack of feeling grounded…There’s a sense of something picturesque and empty.”
It’s funny, because we’re struggling for our lives there.
A quiet murmur and a small breath tickled my ear.
“It’s not empty, and it’s not a picture, Luthia.”
“Yes…But I feel something different…it’s strange. We’re not allowed to live anywhere else.”
Neither I nor Ruthia had a way to become anything other than what we are now.
In particular, it’s safe to say that Luthia had everything set in stone for her the moment she was born.
“…Would you want to live downtown as an individual in the city? Among the people I’ve seen today, it’s the kind of life you’d live, having dinner at the seldo or something like that, where your feet would stay firmly grounded.”
Unlike me, who was inflexible, Luthia seemed to do quite well.
Although it seemed like money would have been a bit of a problem, Luthia had the skills. I have a feeling that she’d be able to make money without too much trouble.
Luthia shook her head.
“Why? It’s not because you’d be poor, is it?”
“Because Nigel-sama is not here.”
The answer was immediate.
“…The royal palace is a very empty place, full of pretense and vanity, but wherever the location, the place where Nigel-sama is, is the place where I live.”
“…Even if it would just suffocate you.”
“It can’t be helped…because I’m an ‘Elzevert.’”
Luthia pronounced the word ‘Elzevert’ with a deeper meaning.
“And so, I have no other way. But it’s okay, because I have Nigel-sama.”
Luthia puts her cheek against my chest as if she were hanging on to my chest. I was embarrassed to be told that as if I was some all-powerful hero.
“As long as Nigel-sama is there, the rest is just a bonus.”
The words wavered towards the end.
“That would be an honor.”
There was no reply to that, and the warmth in my arms gained just a little weight.
“Have you fallen asleep? Luthia.”
There is no answer.
So I looked up at the royal palace, which bears the name of the moon, and opened my mouth.
“…Me too. As long as I have you in my arms, all the rest is just an added bonus.”
T/N: I loved this story! I’m so glad we got to see some Artheria/Al interactions–I knew she and Al would get along so well as soon as I read about his love of food. It’s also funny to see a jealous Nigel, hehehe.
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One thought on “Story 13: Dinner Downtown part 3”
I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see the shops’ success 😦