“So, Hunk,” says Coran, shoving a microphone into his face, “What are your feelings on the inaugural Win Hunk’s Love Ultimate Cooking Showdown!?”
“Today, six noble contestants are pushing their culinary talents to the max in the hopes of receiving the grand prize, your undying devotion!”
“Aw, geez, that’s really nice of them, but actually I’m already--”
“And now, a word from our sponsors!”
“First off, let’s meet the contestants! Going down the line, contestants, please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about what you’ll be making to win Hunk’s affections.”
Lance grins and shoots fingerguns at the camera.
“Hey, the name’s Lance, I’ve been best-friends with Hunk since childhood so I’m definitely gonna win, and I’ll be making his favorite food, chili!”
“That’s not his favorite food,” Pidge mutters. Lance scowls.
“Excuse me, Pidge, which of us has been friends with Hunk longer? I think I’d know.”
Pidge rolls her eyes dramatically before giving a cursory wave to the camera. “I’m Pidge, and I’ll be making a deconstructed version of coq au vin using a Class IV laser and a distillation rig.”
Shiro’s cuts in, his voice concerned: “Pidge. You’re using a still?”
“Oh, please. It’s not a still, it’s a perfectly normal--”
“Oh, man,” interrupts Lance, “Pidge, you haven’t shared your ‘shine with Shiro? Lord knows the man needs it.”
“We’ll discuss this later, Pidge,” says Shiro. He looks up at the camera. “I’m Takashi Shirogane, and I’ll be making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
The camera moves on to Keith.
“I’m making toast.”
“Name?” prompts Coran, as Lance shrieks:
“Toast!! Keith’s making toast for Hunk? Get prepared to eat dirt, ‘cause you’re gonna lose so hard…”
“Any reason you’re making toast?” asks Coran.
Keith shrugs. “I make good toast.”
“Well,” says Coran, “Thank you for the illuminating contribution. And now, our next contestant, Princess Allura!”
Allura waves and beams at the camera. “Yes, hello everyone! I am thrilled to be a part of this earthling mating ritual for the honor of Hunk’s hand. I will be making a traditional earthling summer dish, hamburgers.”
“And, now, our final contestant!”
Lotor tosses his hair. “I am Prince Lotor of the Galra, and today I will destroy the competition by using only the best and rarest ingredients from across the universe, topped with earthling black truffle.”
“Er, ah, very nice, but what dish exactly are you making?”
Lotor shrugs languorously. “Does it matter?”
“Ah… Contestants, you will have one varga to complete your dishes, starting…… now!”
The camera cuts to a close-up shot of Keith carefully holding a piece of bread speared on his knife over a candle.
“Now, Keith,” says Coran, “Can you tell us about your...unusual method of toast making?”
Keith pulls the bread away from the flame and inspects it carefully before glaring at the camera.
“Any idiot can make toast using a toaster, but the quality won’t be very good. You get an inconsistent level of browning across the bread. The best toast is made over an open flame, carefully rotated and observed to ensure even toasting. It’s a technique I mastered while living in the desert”
Lance scoffs. “Sure buddy, but it just took you ten doboshes to make toast.”
Keith scowls. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Perfect toast ain’t something to be taken lightly.”
*BEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEP*
Alarms start blaring across the castleship in a shrieking tone that has everyone wincing in pain and covering their ears.
“Just the fire alarm!” yells Coran over the cacophony. “I’ll shut those off and we can sort this out.” He makes his way over to an interface on the wall and turns off the alarms.
There’s a collective sigh of relief.
“Now, is anything actually burning?”
Lotor stands from where he was cowering beneath the counter. “My water appears to have caught fire. Likely due to that one’s” --he inclines an eyebrow toward Pidge-- “fooling about with the laser.”
“Excuse me,” says Pidge. “My laser is operated under only the most careful of scientific protocol! Besides, water can’t catch fire. Water literally cannot catch fire!”
“And yet catch fire it did,” remarks Lotor dryly. “How miraculous. It must be a special property of my imported Bryggian water.”
Shiro walks over to the still-flaming pot and carefully clamps the lid onto the it. “Water or not, any fire will go out without air.”
“Bryggian water?” asks Allura.
“Well, that explains it!” says Coran. “Bryggian water is derived from the second internal chamber of the Bryggian water plant. It’s 82% volatile oils! The Bryggian people use it as fuel for their machinery. We’re lucky the whole castleship didn’t explode!”
“See!” says Pidge. “Now you can leave me and my laser out of this.”
“I still don’t--” starts Lotor.
“Enough,” interrupts Shiro. “The fans are on and the smoke should clear out in a few doboshes. Let’s get back to work.”
“Yeah,” Lance cracks his knuckles, “Let’s get back to work so I can smoke the competition.”
“No,” says Keith.
“Aww, come on, Keithy, you don’t appreciate my fire puns?”
“Hey, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
“Don’t you have chili to make?”
“You know it!” says Lance, shooting finger guns. “It’s okay Keith, just accept you’ve met your match.”
“Now, Hunk,” says Coran. “Are you ready to see how the contestants are doing?”
“I guess. I’m sure everyone’s doing gre--is doing their best,” Hunk says. “Uh, Coran, who’s cleaning up---”
“Great! Let’s get started. Shiro! How’s the ol’ PB&J coming along?”
The camera pans to reveal a bedraggled peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The bread has been mangled, and jelly is oozing out of the sides like it had just been stabbed.
“Uh,” says Shiro. “It’s coming. Never made one before and it’s more of a learning process than I expected, but I’m confident I can master it by the end of the varga.”
“It looks good, Shiro,” lies Hunk brightly. “Very--ah--alien. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
“Right, next up! Allura, m’dear, how goes it?”
“Very well, Coran. I’m just working on grilling these ‘hamburger patties’ as they’re called, and then I will be able to assemble the hamburgers! It’s very exciting, I haven’t cooked this much in millenia!”
Hunk sniffs the air appreciably. “It smells great, Allura.”
“Next contestant!” yells Coran. “Lance, you’re up!”
“Hey, alright! How’s it goin’, Hunk?”
“Pretty good, man. You?”
“Livin’ the dream and making sweet chili. Just chopping up the peppers for it now.”
“...that’s a lot of chili peppers, Lance.”
“Yep! Nice and spicy, just like mi madre makes.”
“A lot of chili peppers. Lance, are you sure--”
“Next contestant!” Coran sweeps Hunk away. “Dispensing advice to the contestants is strictly against the rules of the competition, I’m afraid. Number five! How goes it?”
“Well I had some technical issues with the laser to start off, so I had to sort those out, and now I’m working on vaporizing the gravy and making a flavored ‘ink’ of sorts out of the chicken to print onto the noodle paper I synthesized.”
“That’s really neat Pidge,” says Hunk. “And it’ll taste like coq au vin?”
Pidge shrugs. “Within a rough approximation. It’s not an exact science, and I’m still honing my skills.”
“Looking forward to the final result, Number five! Now, Keith! Show us your toast!”
Keith wordlessly presents his slice of toast on a small plate.
“Uh, nice work, Keith,” says Hunk. “It looks like really good toast.”
“Lotor!” says Coran. “Have you settled on a dish yet?”
“I’ve just finished preparing the Tharnan beef, as you can see,”--he gestures to a stack of blackened chunks that might, under close scrutiny, resemble meat-- “and will begin brining the Welmish roots in Quarki salt as soon as the Reepian corn is out of the oven in a few doboshes. As you can see, no expense has been spared in obtaining only the best and finest of ingredients for this endeavor.”
“I’m sure it’ll taste great,” says Hunk, kindly.
“Wonderful!” says Coran. “Now, Hunk, off you go, and the next time we see you will be when it’s time to judge the dishes!”
Hunk swallows nervously. “I--uh--great.”
*BEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEPPP*
“Fuck,” yells Pidge, startled. “Again?”
Coran flings himself across the room and turns off the alarm.
“My apologies,” says Lotor. “My Shryggi yams appear to have ignited.”
“Just put the lid on it,” sighs Shiro.
*BEEEEEEEEP BREEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEP BREEEEEEEEEEP*
Coran turns off the alarm. They all look at Lotor.
“Just the Yerxan albacore. Nothing to be concerned about.”
*BEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEP*
Coran wearily turns off the alarm. They look at Lotor.
Lotor shrugs awkwardly. “The Gerbish bacon may have gotten a touch overdone.”
“Coran, can you just disable the alarm until the end of the varga?” sighs Shiro.
“Seriously,” says Pidge.
“The alarm system is important to the safe functioning of the castleship!” says Allura.
“That alarm goes off one more time and Lotor’s gonna be toast,” growls Keith.
Lance grins manically. “Keithy! Was that a pun?”
Keith’s eyes widen. “No!”
“Guys, Keith just made a pun! I’m so proud. It’s like watching a child take its first steps--”
“Fine,” says Allura. “Coran, disable the fire alarms for the remainder of the competition. If we all die because something important catches fire, so be it. Now, I need to finish arranging my hamburgers”
“You’re already done?” asks Pidge.
“Effective time management is one of my many talents,” Allura replies.
“Who did this,” growls Keith, murder in his eyes.
“Who did what?” asks Lance.
Keith holds up his slice of toast, now mangled and torn into pieces. “Who ruined my toast? Come forward now and I might not kill you,” he bites out.
“Five doboshes left!” yells Coran.
Keith swears and frantically lights his candle and begins toasting a new slice of bread. “Five doboshes,” he mutters. “Can’t make good toast in only five doboshes.”
“I have to plate my chili!” cries Lance. He run to grab a bowl and dish out the chili, garnishing carefully with various spices and plants.
The kitchen is frantically busy with the contestants rushing to complete their dishes before time is up. Pidge accidentally burns a hole in the counter with her laser, Shiro makes one last stab at the perfect PB&J, and Lotor is grating mounds of black truffle onto his creation. In midst of the chaos, Allura sits peacefully next to her hamburgers, which are displayed daintily on a pink cake tray.
“And five, four, three, two….one! Times-up! Set down your utensils!” yells Coran.
Keith slides his toast onto a plate just in time. Lance slams his bowl down onto the counter. Lotor surreptitiously adds more gold flakes onto his dish until Coran catches him and glares daggers.
“Allllll right everyone, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The moment of truth! Contestants, please welcome our celebrity guest judge, HUNK!!!”
“WHOOOOO YEAH!!!” yells Lance. “Hunk, Hunk, Hunk, Hunk!” he chants.
They all clap enthusiastically. Allura beams, and even Keith smiles.
“Hunk, are you ready to judge these dishes!?” says Coran.
“Uh, ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Great! Let’s get started. And remember, we want only the brutal truth.”
Hunk looks concerned. “Oh, oh boy. Uh, well, I guess before we start I’d like to say that this is really sweet of you guys, to try and cook stuff for me, and no matter how it turned out I really appreciate it.”
“Great, great,” says Coran. “Moving on, our first contestant, Lance! Lance has made a spicy traditional chili dish. Hunk, your thoughts?”
“Well, uh, great job on presentation here bud, it looks great with the garnishes, and I can uh, tell by the uh, smell”--Hunk’s eyes start watering-- “that it’s going to be very spicy so I’m gonna take just a little bit here--” Hunk dips just the barest edge of his spoon into the chili and carefully tastes it. His eyes immediately start streaming tears, and his face turns red. “Oh, oh wow, yup, that is really, really spicy. Whooo, wow, oh man. Can I get some water?”
Hunk takes a few doboshes to compose himself.
“Wow, okay, my throat’s still burning. Uh, great job on presentation, but I’m sorry bud, I’m sure this was a great chili I just can’t taste it past any of the burning.”
“Oh, come on,” says Lance. “I even laid off on the spice a bit! My mother makes it much spicier. Here, let me try.”
Lance takes a heaping spoonful of the chili and swallows it. His eyes bug out, and he wheezes, but gamely insists, “Perfect! Just how I like it. Nothing like some spice to clear out the sinuses, eh?” before downing several full glasses of water.
“Anyway,” says Coran, fidgeting, “Our next contestant, Pidge with….with….what was it, again?”
“I used molecular gastronomy to produce a reimagined version of the traditional dish coq au vin. Now, if you will follow along with my instructions: Here we have a piece of paper which I have made using a noodle-based matrix. On this paper you can see the words “Hunk is the Best” have been printed repeatedly using a chicken-based ink. Now, if you will fold your paper into a cone like so and hold it over the nozzle of my distillation rig here, I will open the valve”--a brown vapor escapes with a hissing noise and is trapped in the paper cone-- “and the vaporized gravy is released and encounters the paper where it binds with the chicken ink! Pretty cool, right?”
“Wow, yeah, that’s really cool. And, uh, you can eat it?”
“Yep!” grins Pidge. “Just take a bite.”
Hunk tentatively puts a corner of the paper in his mouth, ripping it from the full sheet, and chews. “Huh, it’s a little, uh--dry--but the flavors are really coming through.” He swallows. “Really nice Pidge, but I’d rather have just had the coq au vin.”
“All right, and now, the one, the only, Shiro, coming in with a classic PB&J.” says Coran.
“Okay, it looks alright, definitely an improvement from what I saw earlier so good job on that, Shiro.”
“Thank you, Hunk.”
Hunk picks up the sandwich and it immediately oozes jelly out of the edges. He takes a bite.
“Yup, pretty good PB&J. There’s...kind of a lot of jelly but overall a decent sandwich.”
“And, next up, Keith!”
Keith crosses his arms stoically. “Before you begin, I would like to apologize for the low quality of this toast. I had made a better, more suitable slice of toast earlier, but somebody sabotaged it and this is all I could do in the remaining time. I hope after this is over, you would allow me the privilege of making you a perfect piece of toast.”
“Well, it looks pretty good to me, but of course I’ll let you make me toast, man. Anytime you want someone to make toast for, I’m your guy!”
Hunk carefully picks up the slice of toast and takes a bite, chewing thoughtfully.
“Wow, that’s really good toast.”
“And now, the Princess Allura!”
“Yes, hello. As you can see, I have made hamburgers!”
“They look beautiful. Really, a great presentation all around. Let me just take a bite--” Hunk grimaces but gamely swallows. “That--that is awful. It’s amazing, really, how much it doesn’t taste like a hamburger.”
Allura’s face falls, and Hunk immediately starts backtracking.
“Whoa, hey, you said this was the first time you’ve cooked in a long time, right? And you were trying out a dish completely unknown to you, so like, you did pretty good really. If you want I can show you how to make hamburgers later.”
“Uhuh, I’d be happy to, Princess.”
Allura smiles, “Thank you, Hunk.”
Coran sniffs, choked up. “Beautiful, Allura, a touching moment. Now, on to our final contestant, Prince Lotor, who has made....er, what did you make again?”
Lotor’s creation is a heaping pile of a variety of foods which have been burned beyond recognition; black truffle has been liberally grated across it and gold leaf arranged artfully on top.
“It’s a complex symphony of flavors from across the universe. I can provide a full list of the ingredients,” he says, pulling out a gilt scroll and unfurling it, “however, the focus of the piece is around the Syrtish glass-plant and Earthling black truffle, topped with edible gold leaf.”
“Isn’t the Syrtish glass-plant poisonous?” asks Pidge.
Lotor looks affronted. “Certainly not. I have eaten it many times. It is a great delicacy.”
“Pidge is right,” says Allura. “Although the Syrtish glass plant is a valuable delicacy in Galra and Altean culture, it is poisonous to Earthling physiology.”
“Oh thank god,” says Hunk.
“What did you say there, esteemed guest judge?” says Coran.
“Such a shame,” says Hunk. “It looks great, Lotor.”
“Well! That was our final contestant, so now our judge will--”
Keith’s wolf materializes onto Coran’s chest, knocking him down and bounding happily over to Hunk, where the wolf carefully lays a squirrel at his feet.
“Amazing!” yells Coran. “A last minute entry!”
“Awww,” Hunk kneels, petting the wolf. “Who’s a good boy, huh? Thank you so much for bringing me a, uh, dead animal.”
He pants happily; Keith surreptitiously wipes away a tear.
“Any more last minute entries?” asks Coran. “Going once, going twice, and….we’re done! Hunk, now’s your time to deliberate and decide who has won your love.”
“Oh, that’s easy. I love all you guys! But uh, I’m dating Shay.”
“WHAT!?” yells Lance. “And you didn’t tell me!”
“Uh, sorry man, we’ve been keeping it quiet. But look!” Hunk digs in his pocket and holds up a piece of polished chrysocolla. “She gave me this really neat rock!”
“So the winning dish of the challenge is….a rock?” asks Lotor, disbelievingly.
“I guess it is,” says Hunk. “But you all did great! I’m really proud of you guys for trying so hard.”
“Annnnnd that’s all for today folks!” says Coran. “Tune in next week for the First Inaugural Win Hunk’s Love Ultimate Rock-Hunting Showdown!”