On the first night of Chanukah, Janice had a slumber party.
It was well-timed; Megan's family celebrated Yule and Patrice's family celebrated Christmas, and Edmond's family had been in Night Vale since the Founding and whatever they celebrated, it wasn't spoken of. But they were all days away and they sat in a circle in the Carlsberg kitchen, wreathed in the smell of Steve's slow-cooking brisket and joining forces to make latkes. Edmond chopped the onions because he was the only one who could do it without tearing up, Janice mixed the batter, Patrice grated the potatoes, and Megan squeezed the potato shreds dry with her strong hands.
"Your kitchen looks so shiny and special now," Patrice said. "But I bet now they remodeled it so you can get at everything, you'll have to cook all the time and you'll get sick of it." She tempered the remark with a wink; she hadn't meant to be mean.
"I like learning to cook," Janice said with a proud tilt of her chin. "And it's fun to learn to make new things. I even got my Cooking badge! I mean, this is so cool, we're making food that didn't exist before."
"I like learning to cook too," said Megan. She was still trying to pitch her speech in a way that made her comfortable; she tended to speak softly in a deep voice and it didn't quite satisfy her yet."It's fun, doing this together."
Patrice nodded. "I don't usually like to cook but it's fun with friends." She passed a bowl of grated potato to Megan and realized she'd finished her part in the task, and rinsed out the grater before putting it in the dishwasher. "And it sounds good, kind of like hash browns."
"I've never cooked before," Megan said, as Edmond passed her the onions and Janice passed her the batter. "Is is silly that I think it's exciting? I mean, just stirring it makes it start to look like food."
"My mother says cooking was the first kind of alchemy," Edmond told her earnestly. "Most people would say that was exciting. I'm just looking forward to trying them."
Janice was beaming with pride at being able to get down a frying pan and set it on the stove without help. Getting the kitchen remodeled was the best gift ever. When Steve acted apologetic that it couldn't be a surprise she couldn't help laughing, and it was still new enough that everything she cooked was exciting. Edmond passed her the oil and when it was nice and hot Patrice ladled the dense latke batter in small portions as Janice sat by with a spatula.
"Does it always smell so good?" Megan asked eagerly.
"I think you kids have fixed something extra-special there," said Steve from the kitchen doorway. They'd been too focused on cooking to notice him approach. "The brisket should be ready too, go wash your hands."