The Empire’s Food Situation
The bell that signaled the start of our lunch break rang.
“Hm. We’ll leave our morning lectures here.”
The teacher immediately left the room right after curtly saying that.
As usual, he seemed like the kind of person who lacked amiability, but it was great that he ended our lectures right on time.
And at that moment, the earth started to shake.
“It’s an earthquake!”
While the classroom was sent into a panic, I went over to shield Claire-sama.
The earthquake subsided within a minute.
“That earthquake just now was quite big, wasn’t it.”
“Yes, it feels like there have been a lot of them recently.”
Just as Rod-sama mentioned right before we had left the Kingdom, earthquakes had grown to become more frequent.
Ever since the incident with the eruption of the Sassal volcano, it seemed that more and more people in the Empire had become increasingly more anxious.
Since I was originally from Japan, a place where earthquakes often occurred, I was already used to this level of frequency.
“Claire, Rei, are you two alright?”
“Thank you for your concern. We’re fine.”
Philine-sama came over to us with a worried expression on her face.
“I see, then I’m glad. Would you like to have lunch together?”
It seemed that she was inviting us to lunch.
If it were any normal day, Lana and Frieda would’ve joined us as well, but unfortunately, today was a bit different.
“Sorry, Philine-sama. We didn’t bring our own lunches today.”
Due to the issues that Mei and Alea brought up with us, I didn’t have any time to prepare our lunch boxes today.
To be more precise, I did have something prepared for us, but it ended up becoming Mei and Alea’s breakfast for the morning.
Claire-sama and I didn’t get the chance to have breakfast either, so we were quite hungry now.
However, Claire-sama’s expression looked unwell.
“In that case, are you two going to the dining hall…..?”
“That’s the plan.”
Philine, who was the one that called out to Claire-sama to begin with, had somewhat of a bitter smile on her face.
As for the reason why…
To be honest, the food served in the dining hall wasn’t all that delicious.
“In that case, may I come along with you as well?”
“Of course. As a facility, the dining hall here isn’t all that bad.”
“That’s because it’s a place that offers official Imperial meals, after all.”
While we were walking to the cafeteria, I was listening in on the conversation Philine-sama was having together with Claire-sama.
As usual, the two of them seemed close.
Not like I was feeling jealous, though.
Nope, not at all.
There’s no need for it, as her wife.
We arrived at the dining hall within a few minutes.
“It looks quite empty again today, doesn’t it?”
“This place isn’t popular, after all.”
The dining hall was below standard, but the facility itself was really clean and spacious.
It was about the same size as the cafeteria from the university I attended in my past life.
The building wasn’t made out of concrete, but wood instead – which gave off a rather warm feeling – and the tables and chairs were neatly arranged as well.
The only problem was with the food itself.
“Hello miss, what’s on the menu for today?”
“We have lamb soup with boiled vegetables, sausages, sauerkraut, and bread.”
The cafeteria lady answered succinctly with no sort of emotion behind her voice.
Along with her physical build, she gave off the impression of a woman who had guts.
The menu also hadn’t changed much since the last time we came here to eat.
There wasn’t a lot of freedom when it came to the selections of the menu either.
All of the cafeteria-goers could only eat whatever was decided on the menu that day.
“In that case, could we have two servings?”
An unmotivated voice responded from inside of the kitchen to Claire-sama’s request.
I was standing behind Claire-sama, who was waiting for the food.
“Well, I’ll go find us some seats.”
“Is this place even crowded enough that we’d have to compete with other people for seats?”
“Well, the food here is lacking, so wouldn’t it best to at least find a good place to sit?”
“That’s true. I’ll leave it to you, then.”
While still holding onto her lunch box, Philine went off.
As I followed her with my gaze, it seemed like she was trying to secure some seats by the window in a sunny spot with a good view over the scenery.
“Alright, thanks for waiting. Take it.”
The cafeteria lady handed us the trays with the food.
It only took less than five minutes to have prepared.
The food was most likely made in advance, so all that was needed was a reheating before being served.
Well, there was probably no helping it.
To begin with, even regular restaurants had their food premade, and only very few kitchens made their dishes from scratch every time.
That was fine.
But the problem was――
“Claire-sama, you can’t make it any more delicious just by staring at it. Let’s give up on it.”
I urged Claire-sama on and we headed towards the seats that Philine reserved for us.
“Now then, let’s dig in.”
“Let us eat.”
As I looked over to the two of them, who had their hands together just like me, I was reminded of the fact that this world belonged to a game that was made by a Japanese company.
If this world was completely modeled after medieval Europe, then we would’ve been making religious prayers before we ate.
While absentmindedly thinking about such things, I tore off a piece of the bread and brought it to my mouth.
Yep, it was stale.
That was probably because the wheat was of poor quality, or that barley was used to make it instead.
The yeast might not have been so great either.
The amount of butter used was also proportionately little.
It wasn’t that difficult to eat, but it certainly wasn’t delicious either.
However, that was just the beginning.
I took a sip out of the soup.
It had a simple salty taste, as well as an intense scent from the spices.
The lamb that was used was mutton instead of actual lamb.
The spices themselves were nice, but the amount used wasn’t measured properly, and it would’ve been better if the odor from the mutton was removed.
The vegetables were overboiled and became too mushy.
I couldn’t call this delicious either.
The sauerkraut was normal.
It was normal, but there was nothing particularly praiseworthy about it either.
My impression of it was no higher than an average batch of fermented cabbages.
The only salvation was the sausages.
This was actually edible.
And it was delicious.
However, the main source of protein in this meal was supposed to be the mutton and the sausages were intended to be the side dish, so there weren’t a lot of them.
Rather, I felt like the soup could’ve been better had the sausages been used instead of the mutton.
Well, as you could see, the Empire’s official dishes were really not delicious.
It’s a well-known truth in this world, and it’s similar to how infamous the English cuisine was in my previous life.
Although unlike in England, there was no saving the cuisine of the Empire.
Even Claire-sama, who never complained about the food that was made for her, remained silent while she did her best to work through it.
That alone was enough to show just how the cuisine in the Empire was like.
Of course, there were several reasons behind this.
The first was that the Empire had a traditional view of their food.
The wealthy people in the Empire encouraged simple meals and were against the gaudiness of them.
As a result, the meals that were publicly served were devoid of luxury.
It was the same case as with the English gentlemen that loved simple meals.
There were also societal reasons behind it as well.
A lot of people in the Empire would leave their parents’ sides and pursue live-in apprenticeships from a young age.
As a result, without having an opportunity to adopt their parents’ home cooking abilities, the food that they’d make would often turn out to be not delicious.
It was a negative cycle in their dietary culture.
The social statuses for chefs and pâtissiers have traditionally been quite low as well.
In the Empire, which has been long at war with other countries, being a soldier was the most revered profession.
Chefs and pâtissiers were considered occupations that were reserved for those who were not fit for battle, which was something that could potentially make people subject to discrimination.
Of course, the military had their own chefs as well, and food was a very important element for the military as well.
Don’t get me wrong though. All of that was only related to the Empire’s official cuisine.
In the capital city that we walked through earlier, the marketplace was lined up with various foodstuffs from many different countries.
There were also a lot of international students and migrants from other countries.
Under those circumstances, there was no way that the people in the Empire could be limited to poor tasting meals.
In other words, there were a lot of delicious foods among regular citizens.
It’s just that the wealthy people in the Empire, including the people of the Imperial family, stubbornly refused to change their cuisine.
And the boxed lunch that Philine, a member of the royal family, had was filled with food that was just like what Claire-sama and myself were eating.
That’s why Philine was so impressed with the chocolate and the rakugan that we gave her.
“Rei, there’s a wrinkle between your eyebrows, you know?”
“I’m sorry. But even I’m a bit angry with how the cooking is. It’s blasphemous to the ingredients.”
“……. I’m sorry.”
“It’s nothing you need to apologize about, Philine-sama. All I can say is that this lies on the national character.”
“But it’s a problem that frequently gets mentioned among foreign affairs officials. The Imperial official cuisine seems to be highly unpopular among our guests.”
Well, that was to be expected.
If I was served something like this while I was being welcomed, I would’ve suspected that it was laced with poison.
“Even we’re unsatisfied about it, you know.”
The one who suddenly called out to us was the cafeteria lady, who had come out of the kitchen.
It seemed that she had been listening to our conversation.
“Ah, I apologize. I wasn’t trying to blame you or anything――”
“It’s fine. I understand. The food here really isn’t delicious at all. But it’s not like us cooks are satisfied with it either.”
As she said that, the cafeteria lady distributed some sort of white lumps to us on small plates.
“Use this on the bread. Or if you want to use it for something else, I won’t complain either.”
She said as she gave us a smile like she had something in mind.
“What do you mean by that?”
Philine tilted her head as she asked.
“She probably meant for something like this.”
I cut the butter in half and put it in the soup.
I had a taste, and it was much richer and much tastier than before.
“Ah, it’s delicious now.”
“Is that so?”
“Wouldn’t it have been better if you had made it like this from the beginning?”
When I asked that,
“If we had done it like that from the start, we’d get scolded. There were a lot of tasty dishes in the Empire…… Things like zwiebelkuchen, spargelsuppe, eierschecke…… but they’ve since been forgotten.”
The cafeteria lady mumbled to herself as she went back to the kitchen.
The foods that she mentioned were probably originally from Germany back in my previous world.
“…… Is there anything we can do about this?”
“I also want to do something about it, but it all falls on my mother, who doesn’t seem to have a problem with it…..”
As I thought, I couldn’t understand what Dorothea was thinking at all.
In any case, food was food, so we couldn’t leave anything behind.
The three of us took our time eating the poor tasting food.
“…… Thanks for the meal?”
“Don’t say it like you’re questioning it.”