Chapter 165 -- French Fries
Adriano-san's request for a favour was... odd. It seemed that the city, indeed the entire Kingdom was suffering from a lack of new cuisine. Every restaurant and food-stall had the same limited and over-familiar range of cooked food on offer. Naturally the Guild Master of the Merchants Guild was being inundated with demands to fix this situation as profits were drying up and he had been at a loss until I arrived.
“You aren't from this country, Mukouda-sama, and you say you're good at cooking. We'd be very much obliged for any new recipes and such you could share with us." I stifled a smile at Adriano-san's readiness to exploit a chance statement from me to boost profits. He was proving that he had truly earned his position as Guild Master of Doran's Merchants Guild. "It would be excellent if any such food went well with alcohol too. We have a lot of Adventurers in this city, as you know and they do like to drink. Cheap too would be good."
Well, he had increased the purchase price for the jewels and such I had just sold to the Guild and if it was just a case of teaching them something simple then I didn't see why not. When I said so Ugor-san got up and said "This doesn't have anything to do with the Adventurers Guild so I'll leave the rest to you then, Mukouda-san. I have a lot of work to get on with and I've left the Guild Master unsupervised for too long, who knows what he's been up to..." before saying his goodbyes and heading off back to his duties.
I thought for a moment, what sort of food and cooking techniques could I teach them? “Food here is boiled or baked." I muttered to myself as Adraino-san sat patiently. "Whatever I choose will have to be done that way or at least in a similar way..." Seasonings, all they had here was salt, some herbs and maybe small amounts of pepper although that was a very expensive item and probably wouldn't suit the sort of dishes the Guild was looking for, not for lower-class inn dining rooms and taverns and food stalls on the city's streets. Could I use seasonings from the Net Super? Nope nope nope. It wasn't just that I needed to keep that particular Unique Skill a secret, I was the only source of such items and I'd be leaving Doran soon. And they wanted it to go well with booze, that meant something like an izakaya's offerings didn't it? Nibbles and such rather than complete meals, I supposed.
Ah, how about... “Adriano-san, do you have any fried foods?” I asked.
"Fried food? What kind of dish is that?" Adriano-san raised an eyebrow.
"It’s food fried in oil. Well, boiled in oil sort of." His puzzlement continued. How could I explain it to him? "Oil, you know..."
"Oil, yes I know about it but cooking... I don't get it." Adriano-san said. Oh, so they don't know about frying food? Then I had the perfect dish for him, thinking about it. Olive oil is the most commonly used oil in this world, grown over a wide area so it was readily available and the price was not too high. Doran wasn't that far from the sea so salt was a cheap commodity here too so what I was thinking of wouldn't cost much and it definitely would go well with the sorts of booze drunk in this world.
“There is one dish that I can think of," I said, "Would you like to watch me make it?" It would be easier to demonstrate how to make it rather than writing down the recipe on paper, I decided.
“Oh, thank you." Adriano-san's face lit up. "There are other Guild members who will want to see this, is it all right to call them?"
"That's fine..." I agreed. I looked around the elegant business meeting room we were in and decided it wasn't really the best place to set out a stove and start cooking, so after discussing my requirements with Adriano-san we moved out into a large atrium area behind the Merchants Guild building. I requested olive oil and salt as ingredients which the Guild immediately supplied. Yosh, time to go to work I said to myself as a group of Merchants gathered around to observe.
First of all, I took my Black Magic Cooking Stove out of my Item Box, to a chorus of comments from the watchers -- "Ooooh" and "That's a huge Item Box" and "A Black Magic Cooking Stove, that's the latest sort." I tried to ignore the comments as I got ready to make French fries. They're easy to make, cheap and as a thousand izakaya owners will tell you they go great with booze.
First off I needed potatoes. I got out a sack of potatoes which I had bought in a market in Doran before I went into the dungeon. I squinted at one of the potatoes, it wasn't exactly like the ones I could buy from the Net Super but it was close enough. Again going by what I had paid for them they were also cheap and common here, another requirement according to Adriano-san. I selected potatoes that hadn't sprouted and started to prepare them, explaining each step of what I was doing out loud to the audience.
"Right then, take potatoes like this, wash them well and wipe them dry. After that cut them like this." I sliced the potatoes into strips like regular French fries. "You can leave the skin on if they're clean." I held up a few other potatoes. "If they've sprouted like these ones then remove the buds, but it's best to peel the skin off in that case." Those ones I cut more thickly after peeling them. "Try different thicknesses and shapes, see what works best for you."
Although the olive oil wasn't too expensive it would take a while for me to heat up a pot of oil for deep-frying so I decided to just use a centimetre or so of oil in a big frying pan for this demonstration.
"So you put olive oil in a pan like this and bring it up to a medium heat then add the sliced potatoes and let them cook." I lit a burner on my Black Magic Cooking stove and started frying the potatoes as the audience watched my every move. Some of the more diligent Merchants were making notes as I proceeded.
"Once the oil starts bubbling and the potatoes float to the surface like this," I said, "remove them from the oil with a scoop and then increase the temperature so the oil gets really hot. Once it's ready," I plunged the half-cooked potatoes back into the bubbling oil with a satisfying sizzling sound. "keep frying them until they are crisp and brown, then remove them from the pan and drain off the oil. A quick shake of salt and they're done."
I added some more details as I prepared another batch of fries, explaining how they could check if the fries were cooked properly by taking one from the pan and breaking it in half. I said they could try using animal fat instead of olive oil, they could deep-fry sliced potatoes in larger pots rather than using frying pans and told them they should be careful against the risk of fire since the oil needed to be very hot for the second part of the cooking process.
"Now, please try them." I offered dishes of fries to the eager Merchants crowding around. "Be careful, they're really hot. Watch your fingers." They all sampled the fries, huffing on them before popping them in their mouths.
"Oh, the outside is crisp and the inside is soft and delicious."
"That salty taste, it's good. They will make people want to drink more beer."
“Oh yeah, these will definitely go well with ale.”
“And they're so cheap to make. Wonderful!"
"They're so easy to cook, I could put them on my tavern's menu today."
Generally the results of my efforts were receiving favourable evaluations but then again I've never heard of people who didn't like French fries. I repeated my earlier comments about trying different ways of cutting the potatoes and cooking them since I wasn't absolutely sure this world's potatoes were exactly like the ones I was used to but they weren't paying much attention to what I was saying, instead concentrating on the rapidly-disappearing servings of French fries. The smiles on their faces told me I had succeeded though.
"Mukouda-sama, I really want to thank you for teaching us about this wonderful dish." Adriano-san said as I put away the Black Magic Cooking Stove and tidied up. "Cooking food like that in oil, it just never occurred to me. The raw materials for this are inexpensive too and," he licked his fingers, "they will definitely make a great accompaniment to alcohol." He bowed gratefully. It was the only sort of food I could think of at short notice but it was good that everyone seemed to be happy.
“As a modest token of our appreciation," Adriano-san announced, "Doran's Guild will cover your membership fee and all taxes due to the Merchants Guild for the next year."
"Really?" I bowed in response. "Thank you for that, Guild Master." The renewal of my Guild membership and the taxes all paid just for showing them how to make French fries? Lucky. It wasn't until later that I remembered I had told Adriano-san that I had been thinking of allowing my membership of the Merchants Guild to lapse in favour of working as an Adventurer. Now, of course, I was committed to remaining a member of the Merchants Guild for at least another year. Ugor-san had described the Merchants Guild as 'sly old foxes' and I was beginning to see what he meant.
Fer and Dora-chan were snoozing on one side of the Guild's paved atrium, unconcerned with what I had been up to although Fer had kept one half-lidded eye on me when I started cooking. There was no meat involved on this occasion so he hadn't interrupted. As usual Sui-chan was still asleep in her bag slung over my shoulder. I nudged Fer and Dora-chan telepathically and they stirred into wakefulness. Time to go back to the inn and eat dinner, I told them.
"I'll take my leave now." I said to Adriano-san.
"Again, thank you very much Mukouda-sama." he said, escorting me to the Guild's front door and waving me on my way.