Souma hung his head crestfallen in a corner of the feudal lord’s residence’s garden.
Seeing him restlessly eat the hard bread he had pilfered from the kitchen while entrusting his back to a bush, one could perceive that he was very dejected.
Despite his current state, Souma was busy as the lord of Bolnis. Originally, a mountain of matters of unfinished work was waiting for him. If he stayed like this any longer, Shyemul or Michena would likely come searching for him after having noticed his absence from his office.
However, even while he apparently considered that option, the current Souma simply lacked the willpower to do anything.
The reason why he ended up like this was a report about the farmers shirking the compost he had tried to popularize at great pains.
The stock-farming of cows as fee to the zoan for borrowing the land and as an important source of workforce during farming had been proceeding favorably. The dung of the cows, which naturally accompanied the whole process in great quantities, would be used as compost, and it had been Souma’s plan to compensate for the traditional rotation of cultivated and fallow land by using that compost to manure the soil so as to allow it to recover its fertility.
And yet, the farmers, who still had a strong aversion towards the dung based on the legend of Genobanda, didn’t show any signs of trying to use the compost on their fields.
Even if they didn’t manure the fields and instead added ash and humus to the soil when reclaiming new land, it wouldn’t pose any problems for several years. However, at this rate the fields would sooner or later lose their fertility, and it would become impossible to grow crops on them.
What popped up in Souma’s mind as he brooded over how to familiarize the farmers with compost was the idea how the Frenchman Parmentier had popularized potatoes.
It was even highly evaluated as “It has three times the production output of wheat” by the famous Adam Smith in his “The Wealth of Nations.” Potatoes could be even called a representative of produce that had been adopted in many light novels. In the modern era it was a very normal dish, but at first, when it spread from its place of origin, the Andes Mountains in South America, to Europe, it was labeled as “Devil’s Fruit” for the reasons of not having been mentioned in the bible and containing poison in its sprouts. It was even said that it would become the source of plagues if eaten.
The method, which Parmentier adopted to make potatoes spread, was to have soldiers strictly guard the potato fields. It’s said that the farmers, who saw that, thought that something quite valuable might have been planted there, and thus stole the potatoes in secret after the guards were gone at night, and cultivated the potatoes on their own fields.
Souma, who had obtained a hint from that, disguised himself as a peddler, and went around the pioneer villages, directly collecting the neglected compost.
In an era where telecommunication hadn’t developed yet, peddlers visiting pioneer villages located at places far away from cities were a precious source of information. Once a peddler visited, the village chief would warmly welcome them by organizing a drinking party, and in exchange obtain information about the state of things in various regions and new technologies.
There was no way for them to not feel curious about a peddler who took over the compost everyone avoided. Of course, the village chiefs asked what he was planning to do by claiming something like that. While remaining hesitant to answer at first, he pretended to finally spill the beans after getting drunk at the welcome party, disseminating the rumor that farmers close to the city would pay good money for it since the crops would grow well if compost was scattered on the fields.
There was no doubt that the farmers, who felt like wanting to oppose an order that had been handed down to them by someone in power without listening to their concerns, harbored interest towards the secret story that he had revealed at last.
Souma’s scheme achieved its goal, and when he visited the villages one year later to collect the compost again, the farmers refused to hand over the compost, resulting in Souma secretly chuckling to himself.
It’s a digression, but welcoming a peddler visiting from outside didn’t have the sole goal of obtaining information and his merchandise. It also had the goal of assigning young widows to peddlers and travelers visiting like this and have the visitors leave behind their offspring in order to avoid the blood ties becoming too thick in a small village.
However, Souma, who had drunk alcohol for the sake of disclosing the secret after getting drunk – despite being weak towards alcohol – actually got drunk for real, and continuously ended up unconscious in all the pioneer villages he visited. Being called “useless despite his youth” behind his back by the village chiefs, who had expressly prepared widows for him, was a story Souma had no knowledge of.
And, it was at a time when Souma was visiting a pioneer village in his disguise. Drinking the wine offered to him by the village chief at the reception party bit-by-bit, Souma got suddenly surprised by the scene of the village’s women preparing the dishes.
“Is that by any chance miso!?”
It was a dark reddish-brown paste which a woman was about to put into the stew. Its appearance completely fitted that of miso. The village chief, who was approached by Souma whose face had become bright red due to the alcohol having already spread, taught Souma that this ingredient was called “Mito” even while being taken aback. In the pioneer villages around this area they were apparently often eating a soup which was boiled after adding this mito, goat milk, and chunks of vegetables and meat to it.
Souma felt shocked after hearing that.
Miso and goat milk? What a fearless, blasphemous act towards the gods!
Spurred on by his alcoholic intoxication and his anger towards a deed, which was absolutely inexcusable for a Japanese, Souma insistently addressed the village chief, “Please sell that mito to me!”
Thus Souma, who returned to Bolnis while embracing the mito he had bought forcibly, immediately started to make miso soup.
As he had given up on garnishes representing miso soup such as tofu or fried tofu, the problem about making miso soup was how to make the soup stock.
Even if mushrooms could be obtained in this world, he didn’t know how he could use them for a shiitake mushroom-like soup stock. Because Bolnis was located inland, he couldn’t obtain kombu. Getting his hands on sliced, dried bonito was out of the question, too.
It looked like the only one he could obtain were dried sardines.
As expected, Souma didn’t know about the production method in full detail, but going by the name, he thought that it would be fine to boil and dry small fish. If it was only that, it was simple. It should be possible to substitute it with small fish and river fish.
Souma immediately started to work on making dried sardines. He had the administration introduce him to a fisherman catching fish at the river, and got the fisherman to share a large amount of small fish with him. After boiling them in a big pot, he allowed them to dry in a windy place for several days.
That was quite an effort. After all, Souma had no free time. He had only the little time he managed to somehow wrench open by finishing the busy governmental affairs of a feudal lord quickly to make dried sardines.
And not just that. During the time he allowed the fish to dry, thieves such as birds turned up as soon as he took off his eyes for a short while. And above all, the hardships of having to drive away drunkards raiding the dried sardines to use them as side dishes with their booze were so extreme that he couldn’t talk about it without crying.
At the end of all those hard trials, he finally completed something like dried sardines. At last he had reached a point where he could make miso soup to his heart’s desire.
Lending a soup pot from the kitchen, he first made a broth with the dried sardines. When he had enough broth, he extracted the dried sardines, and melted mito in the stock. Once he did, something like a miso soup without garnishes was produced going by its appearance.
However, Souma who took a sip to sample the broth, was puzzled.
It wasn’t disgusting. However, something was lacking. After pondering about it for a little while, Souma noticed that it was umami. Conversely to that, he felt like it was rather sweet. His frank impression of it was that it could be called a white stew with a very thin taste of seafood rather than miso soup.
Shyemul, who had tasted it together with him, told him that it’s not bad, but Souma, who knew the real taste of miso soup, was very hesitant to label this as miso soup.
The reason for that showed itself right away.
“You have been making soup with mito?” Michena, who had been appealing to Souma to return to the government affairs with tears in her eyes, said after peering into the wooden bucket filled with mito.
“Ms. Michena, you know this?” Souma asked.
“Yes. It’s something that’s often eaten at farm villages around here. You create it by mashing steamed tubers and letting them rest for a few days after adding salt to it.” She answered.
“Tuber? Not soybeans…?”
“Correct. It’s definitely tuber. But, what about it?”
Despite Michena answering quite indifferently, Souma felt shocked.
It’s no wonder that it’s different.
The miso‘s umami was created through soybeans’ proteins being decomposed. In contrast to that, a tuber-based paste had mostly the quality of starch, and lacked proteins. It was only natural that he sensed a strong sweetness and a lack of umami.
Even though he had thought that he had obtained his dearly desired miso at long last, this was the outcome. It was reasonable for Souma to become dejected.
“Come to think of it, soybeans weren’t eaten here, were they…?”
Once he calmed down and reassessed, he remembered that soybeans weren’t deemed as food until he had them cultivated himself. There was no way for foodstuff using soybeans to exist despite that. Besides, if he had listened to the recipe then and there after receiving a share of mito, that misunderstanding likely wouldn’t have come to pass.
Being so happy over having found miso that he didn’t think of something so simple, even if he might have been drunk from wine, made him feel embarrassed.
However, that was understandable.
More than a year had already passed since Souma came to this world.
Beginning with the night attack on the zoan village, he experienced a fire attack, the capture of a fort, the occupation of a city, and a battle against General Darius who was hailed as the strongest general. It had been a chain of close battles within a little span of time. And even after that he started to work on the reclamation of the plains and the development of industries while struggling with the rule of a city as a complete novice. If you furthermore added him becoming the Clan King of the plains’ zoan, many events taking place would be an understatement.
You might really call it a year where he frantically kept running straightforward without paying attention to the sides.
However, in addition to having obtained the cooperation of all zoan clans in the plains, the plains’ reclamation and the operation of the workshops producing glass and soap were going well. And just recently he had reached the point of being able to give his own feelings a little room as well.
And along those emotions, a certain craving welled up within Souma. It was the desire to eat Japanese food.
He had been starving for tastes representing Japanese food such as miso, soy sauce, and its staple food, rice.
Even in the modern era, he happened to hear about people living abroad craving for miso and soy sauce. However, he certainly didn’t expect that he himself would experience the same in a different world.
It wasn’t as though he was particularly displeased with the zoan dishes created by Shyemul. Their spiced meat was delicious. If one considered the common dishes of this world, he realized just how thankful he should be for the existence of zoan cooking.
However, at the same time he thought, I want to eat this with white rice.
He also believed that the dumplings would be a lot more delicious if flavored with soy sauce, and that it might be great to add miso to the soup with cooked intestines.
Each time he ate those dishes, such feelings welled up from deep within his chest.
He had already Yoash look for things resembling Japanese food, but as of yet he hadn’t received a satisfactory reply.
There were times when he believed that he should rather create them himself.
Unfortunately he hadn’t found a produce similar to rice yet. However, soybeans existed. He thought he might be able to create miso and soy sauce as long as he had soybeans.
But, Souma didn’t know the all-important method of making miso and soy sauce. In this case, all he could do was to research and develop.
However, no matter how little amounts of leeway he managed to create, currently Souma held a position where he had to deal with various government affairs as the ruler of a city. Accordingly he singled out the dwarves as the ones in charge of developing miso and soy sauce in his stead.
Just like the dwarves in many fantasy novels, the dwarves of this world were known for the gluttony, too. If it’s them, I’m sure they will be able to develop miso and soy sauce as well, just like they created distilled liquor based on the little knowledge I possessed.
However, that plan of Souma ended in failure. The dwarves ended up eating up all the soybeans, which they had been given for the sake of developing miso and soybeans, after boiling them in salty water. And not just that. The dwarves, who learned of the deliciousness of salty, boiled soybeans, went even for the unripe beans before the harvest, ending up experiencing the taste of edamame which Souma hadn’t even told them about. Once Souma complained about that, it resulted in him being chided with “letting precious food rot is a waste” by the dwarves instead.
Thinking back on it now, it might have been wrong to try to make the dwarves create fermented food, no matter how strong their gluttony might be.
Even though the dwarves like alcohol so much, they didn’t try to produce it out of wheat or grapes on their own initiative. If it comes to food, it’s of course better for it to taste delicious, but if pushed to say, it looks to me that they are looking for quantity over quality. I had been unconsciously under the impression that dwarves could create everything, but I feel like they are rather unfit if it’s about developing foodstuff.
Besides, taste is something that changes drastically over the course of someone’s life. Souma himself had also experienced how his father couldn’t enjoy the sweets from abroad he said to have received from a friend at all.
Even if it’s countries, they are all different. And where a different world is concerned, it’s a question whether the Japanese palate would be actually understood to begin with. Asking the people of this world to reproduce the taste of Japan is an unreasonable undertaking from the outset.
If people capable of something like that really exist, I’m sure they possess a palate and flexible thinking while being worse gluttons than the dwarves.
After considering it this far, Souma suddenly laughed at himself.
In this world with the bad food situation he had encountered so far, it was the priority to sate one’s hunger with food. It was impossible for such convenient people, who desire taste over quantity, to exist so readily in a world like this.
I think it might be unreasonable to ask for Japanese food in this world, after all, Souma sighed very deeply.
However, the more I think it’s unreasonable, the more I yearn for Japanese food.
No. I won’t ask for any more luxuries. I don’t need Japanese food. I want to at least eat food at the same level as the one I ate in modern Japan.
It’s the same even with this bread.
Souma lowered his eyes on the half-eaten bread in his hand.
It’s bread as hard as if a clump of wheat flour had been baked. I told them to give me the same bread as the one the soldiers eat in order to abstain from luxuries, but I wonder whether this can actually be even called bread. As it is now, it’s equal to a biscuit. I won’t ask for the fluffy, soft bread of modern Japan, but I’d like to eat a little better bread at least.
That thought unintentionally spilled out of his mouth.
“”Ah, I really wanna eat something delicious…””
Souma blinked his eyes.
He felt like his words just now overlapped with someone else’s voice. Souma stood up and turned around towards the thicket he had leaned on.
Accordingly, his eyes met with those of the person who stood up on the other side of the thicket.
It was a boy who wasn’t overly different in age compared to Souma.
With his gentle, light-brown eyes, the low nose and the plump cheeks he looked like a really kind person. Seemingly at the time of him leaving the thicket, a single, blue leaf got stuck on his head with its reddish-brown hair which had been disorderly cut short with scissors. Somehow he made Souma recall the racoon dogs appearing in fairy tales.
Souma vaguely lifted a hand and gave a greeting, “Yo…”
In response, the boy also lifted a hand and greeted back, “Hello…”
And then both stared at each other for a while.