Chapter 66: The Mediocre Days of a Mediocre Girl
Everyone always told me I was a mediocre child.
Because of my introvert personality, I was unable to communicate with others from a young age. In order to avoid isolation, I followed the atmosphere of the place and blended in like everyone else.
I was neither good at exercising nor good at studying. My grades were always in the middle or perhaps a little higher sometimes. I was often referred to as a somber and plain child because I had no special characteristics. I was even average in appearance.
Nothing changed even after I became an adult and inherited the restaurant from my parents. Rather than dressing up and honing myself, I was busy with cooking training and the daily set meals preparation. This became my everyday new life, but I did not change from being a plain and ordinary person.
At the time I inherited my parent’s business, I became friends with Lily who visited the restaurant often. She was a brilliant hero who was the exact opposite of me.
She had a beautiful hair and well-groomed appearance even though we were of the same sex. Although delicate, she had the power to compete with large adults, and had a firm personality to convey her intentions straightaway. She became someone I admired.
One day, she introduced me to a boy. He was a farmer who cultivated rare monsters in this world. In fact, I was struggling with the management of my restaurant since it was difficult to purchase monsters. Therefore, this boy became my benefactor when he began to sell monster ingredients to me. It saved my restaurant from bankruptcy.
Because he was there to help me, I was able to rebuild the small restaurant that I inherited from my parents, and by using the monsters he raised, many customers were pleased and the place became much more crowded than before. This boy was probably not aware of this, but I had not forgotten the benefits I received from his assistance. Therefore, I wanted to return the favor someday.
And that opportunity finally came.
I was somber and mediocre, and I couldn’t fight like Lily. I thought I wouldn’t be able to help that person’s monster cultivation. But there were things that only I could do. I just had to give my best. I had to focus on my strengths instead of weaknesses.
「But, a noodle dish… 」
We went back to Amines’ Castle to discuss the next designated dish. Mister Kyou’s father Keiji spoke first.
「What’s wrong, father. You have an unusually tough-looking face. Is it that difficult to make a noodle dish? I think everyone is capable of doing ramen you know.」
「No, that’s not it, Lord Kyou. Rather the opposite. Many noodle dishes are easy to make, and there are many types.」
Mister Kyou looked attentively at Miss Fitis while she explained.
「Yes, noodle dishes are very varied. Starting with the ramen you mentioned, there is also udon, soba, pasta, and Zha jiang mia*. In addition, there are an infinite number of finer types in each of them. The name “noodle dish” is too sparse and it is difficult to choose the type and subtype to cook.」
「The most important thing to do during the first stage is to focus on the type. You can only determine the direction and arrangement depending on the theme.」
Mister Kyou groaned upon hearing Miss Fitis and Mister Keiji’s explanations. At that point, I also stumbled upon what kind of noodle dish I should make. I clearly understood what they meant. Since the prep time was only three days, I had difficulty in deciding what kind of noodle dish I would use for the first stage. I had to decide the type in order to formulate the details.
Everyone around me began to say, “How about udon?”, “No, that’s too mediocre.”, “If so, then what about soba?”, “That’s too difficult to make…” None of the ideas was feasible.
「Then, I will try every option! Please choose the one that you think is the most delicious!」
I instinctively declared those words. Everyone around me, including Mister Kyou, were surprised at the height of my words, which were different from what I usually said. I felt embarrassed and my face became red. However, Mister Kyou immediately nodded to my words.
「True. It can’t be helped. Okay, Mina-chan, please do your best.」
I reflexively responded with a casual greeting as if someone asked for something at my restaurant.
「How is it? This time, I did a soup of seafood with the shredded noodles, and even tried to mix with wild vegetable monsters. But there’s some confusion between seafood and mountain food. I also made a pasta dish using shirataki noodles**. It’s healthier and more original than regular pasta.」
「I see. I think this seafood soup is quite delicious. However, I think that ramen noodles would fit better, and I feel that you mixed a little too much mountain food in it. I think it’s better for you not to mix both, but to focus on one or the other.」
「I think this shirataki pasta is quite interesting. I never thought about it before. In terms of originality, the score is high. However, it is difficult to say whether it is delicious or not. I think the regular pasta dish is far more delicious. But, if you want to pursue the healthiness, then this one would be the right one to choose.」
Two days later. In the end, I couldn’t decide which noodle dish I’d choose for the competition, so I continued to make various noodle dishes with countless ingenuity and arrangements. I already exceeded making 100 different types, and I used a few ideas that I never thought of before. I kept making more and more dishes based on everyone’s opinions.
However, none of them was decisive. I felt as if “something was missing”.
「Mister Kyou, what do you think…? 」
Over the last two days, Mister Kyou, Dora-chan, and Jack-san were groaning with some difficult faces when they tasted the food I made. Eventually, Mister Kyou gave his opinion for the first time during the last two days as if he had realized something crucial.
「I mean, it feels like I am not eating Mina-chan’s food.」
「I feel like this soup and this pasta are far from the usual taste of your food, Mina-chan. I think you are trying to make something new by force.」
Mister Kyou finally said his opinion. And I wondered what he meant by those words.
「I see…Then, what do you mean by my “usual taste”…? 」
「Well, the “usual” is the food I normally eat at your restaurant, yes normal. 」
「…But, I can’t cook “normal” this time!! 」
I screamed unintentionally. It was the first time in my life that I shouted aloud to someone. Mister Kyou looked at me in surprise. But, I couldn’t stop shouting.
「I can’t win with my usual mediocre cooking…! We can’t afford to lose the next battle! I have to do my best for Mister Kyou and everyone else! For Lily too, who is fighting bravely in the frontlines! The time has come for me to help you. We can’t lose this battle. For that reason, I have to beat our opponent with an innovative dish…!」
I felt that I burst out the hidden feelings that consumed my heart. The word “mediocre” always followed me whenever I went. I always accepted that side of me, for the better or worse. However, this time was different. I was truly bothered by it, and I was extremely concerned. I didn’t want my mediocracy to be the downfall of everyone I held dear.
Therefore, for the next cooking battle, I decided to put some effort and make a special dish in order to eliminate the stigma. However, when Mister Kyou told me those words, I clenched my fist as I shed some tears. I really did have a lack of talent.
「You’re wrong, Mina-chan. Normal doesn’t mean bad.」
Before I noticed it, Mister Kyou put his hand on my shoulder and gently comforted me.
「Mina-chan. Your food is delicious. I want to eat it always, which is different from innovative food. Your food makes everyone crave for more. I think that’s amazing, you know.」
「Think about it. You have similar set meals dishes every day, but a certain number of customers still come every day, right? If your food were mediocre, the taste would get boring immediately. But, Mina-chan’s dishes do not get bored at all even if I eat them every day. The same happens with your customers. We eat and we want to return again next time.」
Dora-chan and Jack-san continued the conversation upon nodding to Mister Kyou’s words.
「That’s right! I also want to eat the usual Mina’s dishes! 」
「True. I agree with brother and Dora. Miss. There’s no need to force yourself. Let me tell you this. The mediocre flowers that bloom on the roadside are the most beautiful because they bring joy and encouragement to those who cross it.」
“There’s no need to force yourself.” Listening to everyone’s words, I remembered the customers who visited my restaurant every single day. Regular customers, occasional customers, and first-time visitors. However, the words that everyone said after eating my food never left my heart.
『It was delicious. I’ll come to eat again. 』
I recalled those words. Yes, the words that supported me and brought me happiness.
「Even the Gourmet Master would have said the same thing we are saying. He once said, “It is far more important to make a dish that only that person can make”.」
Mister Kyou continued to speak.
「Mina-chan should cook the usual Mina-chan’s food. I think that is what the Gourmet Master would have said to you.」
When I finished listening to Mister Kyou’s words, I noticed that I had no more tears in my eyes, and that I was clenching a certain ingredient with my hands.
「…Thank you very much, Mister Kyou. Dora-chan, Jack-san. Everyone.」
I took a closer look at everyone’s faces and thanked them dearly.
「It looks like you’ve decided what to make. 」
Mister Kyou nodded upon seeing my determined face. I responded firmly.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone somber and mediocre. However. Now I could say with all my heart.
As a simple and mediocre person, I shall do my best as usual. With that in mind, I continued to make the same mediocre efforts that I usually did back home in order to be ready for the upcoming cooking battle.
*Meaning ジャージャー麺 (jājāmen). A Chinese dish of ground pork over wheat noodles.
**Shirataki are translucent, gelatinous traditional Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam.