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Tastes Like Ration Bar

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Poe doesn’t quite remember how he ended up agreeing to teach his new friends to cook - okay, that’s a lie, he overheard them marveling at the concept of food that wasn’t ration bars or dehydrated portions and his grandfather’s voice boomed, Feed those children! in the back of his mind and ten minutes later he’d arranged for the pilots’ kitchen to be clear for the evening so that he could show them how to feed themselves, kriffing hell - but regardless of how he got here, now that he is standing in a kitchen with the young heroes who the propaganda people are already calling the Hope of the Resistance and the New Light of the Jedi, he’s slightly discombobulated.

For one thing, he was so busy arranging for the kitchen to be free and all of them to have time available that he sort of forgot to prepare a recipe.

Okay, then, he’ll wing it. He’s good at that. Poe fishes a double handful of vegetables out of the fridge and piles them on the counter.

“Right,” he says cheerfully. “Stir-fry. Nice and easy and you can do it with whatever you’ve got on hand, spice it to your preferences, simple as anything. And if you’ll get me - let me see. Flour and baking powder and salt out of that cupboard, and some butter and milk - we’ll make grandpa’s emergency biscuits to go with it.”

“Emergency biscuits?” Rey asks curiously. “What makes them ‘emergency’ biscuits?”

“You can make ‘em fast if visitors come over unexpectedly,” Poe explains. “Usually bread takes a long time, because you have to let it rise and knead it and let rise again before you bake it, and I’ll teach you that way if you like, but sometimes you need a biscuit fifteen minutes from now, y’know?”

Rey nods eagerly, then shakes her head just as hard. “No,” she says. “I’ve never had that problem.”

Poe blinks at her. “Fair enough. Take my word for it?”

“Sure,” Rey agrees.

Finn looks up from the cupboard he’s hunkered in front of and says, a little plaintively, “Did you say baking powder or baking soda? And what’s the difference?”

“Um,” Poe says. “Powder, please. And I’m not actually entirely sure what the difference is. We can look it up later if you like.”

“Okay,” Finn agrees easily, and emerges from the cupboard with the dry ingredients. Poe grabs measuring cups and a bowl.

“Right,” he says. “Rey, can you measure me two cups of flour? Carefully!” he adds, a little too late, as she plunges the measuring cup into the bag of flour and it poofs everywhere. Rey blinks at him from behind a dusting of flour, and Finn giggles at the sudden whiteness of his arms. Poe rubs a rueful hand through his suddenly salt-and-pepper hair.

“So, flour does that,” he says. “Should’ve warned you.”

“It’s not harmful, right?” Rey checks.

“Not in the slightest,” Poe assures her. “I mean, I suppose if you were buried in it, or - I think I’ve heard you can explode it if you try hard enough -”

“You can explode anything if you try hard enough,” the New Light of the Jedi says dismissively. “Alright. Two cups, you said?”

“I did,” Poe says. “Finn, I need four teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of salt. The spoonfuls should be flat, not heaped up - you can use the back of a knife to scrape off the excess.”

Finn squints down at the measuring spoons. “I can do that,” he says, nodding firmly.

Poe measures out the wet ingredients, because...yeah. They don’t need to all be covered in milk, too. At least flour washes off pretty easily. But he lets Finn do the stirring, and Rey pour the milk into the bowl, and puts a hand to his face to hide the grin at their expressions of deep concentration.

“Right,” he says when the dough has come together, “so now we can let that sit while we get the stir-fry started and the oven heats up, and put them in about twelve minutes before we want dinner.”

Finn eyes the dough dubiously. “This turns into biscuits?”

“It’s gooey,” Rey agrees. “Are you sure?”

“Buddies, trust me,” Poe says, patting each of them on the shoulder. “I promise it will turn into biscuits. Heck, we’ll turn the oven light on and you can watch it happen. Which reminds me, turning it on might help.” Thankfully, this oven heats pretty quickly, and setting it to pre-heat takes a scant few seconds.

“Alright,” Rey says, shrugging. “So, stir-fry?”

“First we put all of this away and wash our hands,” Poe says, and takes the bag of flour, because he does not want a second explosion. A few minutes, significantly less floury, he gestures at the array of vegetables in front of them.

“Okay,” he says, “do either of you know what any of these are?”

“Nope,” Finn says, shrugging.

“...No,” says Rey. “I like the colors, though.”

Poe grins at them. “Alright. So. These are bell peppers. Green, red, yellow, orange. The green ones aren’t as sweet as the others. The long skinny guys are carrots: orange, white, purple. They all taste the same, though. The little trees are broccoli; these skinny little things are bean sprouts; and the brown things are mushrooms.”

“Alright,” Finn says, picking up a carrot curiously. “And they’re all good to eat?”

“Actually, they’re all good to eat raw or cooked,” Poe tells him. “You can taste them before we throw them in. But this is an onion, and it’s less good raw. Also, when you chop it up, you might start crying.”

“Why?” Rey asks, examining the onion closely. “Does it make you sad?”

“No, it just - I think it’s acidic or something. So. We need to wash all of these, peel the carrots and the onion, take the seeds out of the peppers, and then cut everything up into bite-sized pieces.”

That I can do,” Rey says, and there’s a knife in her hand that Poe didn’t even see her draw. It’s a very dangerous looking knife, too, sharp and well-used. Poe suspects it has been used for things he frankly doesn’t want to know about.

“...Let’s use a kitchen knife,” he suggests carefully. “For...um...cleanliness.”

The knife vanishes again as Rey shrugs. “If you like,” she says.

Sometimes interacting with these two feels a little bit like playing with a very large, very dangerous, half-tame but very friendly animal. It’ll probably do what you tell it to, and it’ll probably not injure you - but there’s always that chance that it will change its mind. Thankfully, Poe is an adrenaline junkie, and the edge of danger around his two newest friends is not even remotely enough to scare him away.

Washing and peeling the vegetables goes pretty well - no one gets maimed with a vegetable peeler, which was something Poe was vaguely worried about - and Rey reduces the vegetables (minus the onion) to bite-sized pieces in a startlingly short amount of time. Poe and Finn exchange a brief, impressed glance as the last carrot falls to pieces beneath her knife.

“Nicely done,” Poe tells her. “Right, you guys want to try a piece of everything while I cut the onion up?”

He’s pretty quick at this from long years of practice, though not nearly as fast as Rey - and oh, he doesn’t want to think about why she might be that fast with a knife - and he has the onion diced in a couple of minutes, with a bare minimum of tears. Rey and Finn linger over their tasting, though, and Poe cleans the knife and then leans back against the counter to watch them, grinning to himself.

“This is sweet,” Rey says, marveling at the strip of orange pepper in her hand. “Finn, did you try this yet?”

“Not yet,” Finn admits, hands occupied with a chunk of purple carrot and a slice of mushroom, and Rey holds the pepper to his lips. Finn bites it out of her fingers delicately and chews thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’s good,” he agrees.

Poe resolves to cook them both all the things. And also bring back a whole sack of interesting fruits and vegetables the next time he gets sent on a supply run. “D’you want just vegetables, or would you like meat, too?” he asks once they’ve finished trying everything but the onion.

“Oooh, what sort of meat?” Rey asks, looking kind of worryingly excited.

Poe tugs the fridge open and glances over the options. “Chicken?”

“Wait,” Finn says, “that’s a bird, isn’t it?”

Poe and Rey glance at each other. “...Yes,” Poe says carefully. “Chicken’s a kind of bird.”

There’s a long pause, and then Finn says, “So...we’d be eating an animal?”

Ah. Finn has never eaten any protein that wasn’t a ration bar before he came to the Resistance, has he? And mess hall cooks don’t label anything except common allergens, so Finn wouldn’t really know what he’s been eating. “Yeah, buddy,” Poe says gently. “Meat comes from non-sapient animals.”

“Oh,” Finn says, looking more than a little taken aback. “Um.”

“Tell you what,” Poe offers. “We’ll cook this separately, and you can try it if you want to or leave it alone if you don’t.”

Finn nods. “That sounds good,” he says. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Poe says. Rey cuts the chicken up - Poe is disconcerted all over again by her ease with a knife, and also her complete lack of squeamishness about cutting up raw chicken - and Poe finds a couple of frying pans and a baking sheet and a pair of wooden spoons.

“No one is allowed to burn themself,” he cautions his friends. “Use the gloves to touch hot things, and assume the metal is going to be hot.” He grimaces. “Trust me, burning yourself on a hot baking sheet is no fun at all.”

“Doesn’t sound it,” Finn agrees.

“Okay then. Splash a little oil in the pans, Rey, and then put the chicken in this one and the veg in that one and turn the burners on to - oh, three maybe? Finn, we’ll need to grease the baking sheet and then put spoonfuls of dough on it.”

“Got it,” Finn says, and Poe leaves the biscuits to him and manages to stop Rey from adding entire pints of oil to the frying pans. There’s a slightly hectic few minutes, and then Rey is standing over the stove frowning with concentration at the two pans and stirring the vegetables slowly, and Finn is presenting Poe with a beautifully greased baking sheet covered in carefully-measured spoonfuls of dough.

“Lovely,” Poe tells them both. “Okay, that goes in the oven, six minutes and we’ll rotate it and turn the heat up. You can watch them bake if you like.”

Poe takes over stirring, because Finn and Rey both plop down on the floor in front of the oven and watch with avid interest as the dough begins to turn into biscuits. Besides the oil, he’s not going to flavor this stir-fry at all; next time, he can start experimenting with spices and sauces, but for today, if Rey and Finn are that overwhelmed with the simple flavor of a pepper, well, Poe doesn’t want to give them too much to deal with all at once.

Finn very conscientiously puts the oven gloves on to rotate the hot pan at the six-minute mark before resuming his seat on the floor, Rey leaning against him as they both marvel at how much the dough has changed already, and Poe turns up the oven temperature and keeps a careful eye on his deconstructed stirfry, hoping the onions will have enough time to soften. The chicken is starting to smell good, at least.

At twelve minutes, Rey lays claim to the oven gloves and pulls a tray of really lovely biscuits out of the oven, and Poe scrambles to grab a couple of hot pads for her to put the baking sheet down on and watches with vast amusement as Rey and Finn sort of hover around the biscuits, eyeing them with fascination. “They changed a lot,” Finn says wonderingly.

“They’re not gooey at all anymore,” Rey agrees, and then tries to pick one up and drops it. “But they’re very hot.”

“Yes, well, they did just come out of a very hot oven,” Poe points out. “Give them a few minutes to cool down. Grab some forks and the butter and a butter knife, and some plates, and we’ll have a proper dinner in a few more minutes.”

They bustle around opening cabinets for a little while, and Poe checks to make sure the chicken is done and grabs a couple of serving bowls. “Dinner,” he proclaims triumphantly as he pours the vegetables into a bowl and hands it to Finn, the chicken into another.

“Dinner that we made,” Rey says wonderingly, and snags a piece of chicken out of the serving bowl, chewing happily as she puts the bowl down on the table. Poe sighs and grabs some serving spoons, dishes vegetables onto everyone’s plate and adds a scoop of chicken to his own, and settles back with a buttered biscuit to watch as Rey and Finn demolish everything on the table. There aren’t going to be any leftovers, that’s for sure.

Finn even tries a piece of chicken, and Poe can’t help laughing when Finn’s careful judgment is, “Tastes like a ration bar, but the texture’s nicer.”

Rey finishes the last bite of stir-fry and splits the last biscuit in two, handing Finn one half and nibbling happily on the other. “So, can we do this again?”

“Sure,” Poe says. “I like cooking, and I’d be happy to teach you guys some other dishes.”

“Are there other things that can be baked?” Finn asks, examining the biscuit half curiously. “I think I like baking.”

“Sure,” Poe says again. “Tell you what, next time we’ll bake a dessert. A cake for Rey.” Rey’s love of cake is deep and sincere; if the mess hall offers it, she’ll usually eat two pieces and then hang about at the end of the meal to see if there are leftovers that she can carry away.

“You can make cake?” Rey asks, awed.

“Not sure I should teach you how,” Poe teases gently. “You’d never eat anything else again.”

“I would,” Rey protests. “I’d eat stir-fry. It’s good.”

“It is,” Finn agrees. “But I want to try those other dishes, too. I want to learn everything.”

Poe grins at them both. “Learning everything’s gonna take a while, buddy.”

“You’re a good teacher,” Finn says calmly. “I like learning from you.”

Rey nods. “I like learning from you, too,” she agrees. “And this is a lot more fun than meditating.”

Which is how Poe ends up agreeing to spend at least one night every week teaching Rey and Finn to cook, which in turn leads directly if somewhat bafflingly to the incident referred to in the history books as ‘The Great Bell-Pepper-and-Cake Stormtrooper Revolution.’ Poe refuses to take responsibility for that, though. That one is all on Finn. Poe was totally not involved. (Anyone observing that the unlikely sequence of events leading up to said revolution would have required at least two pilots, and that the only person who’s ever admitted to being one of them is Rey, is summarily ignored.)

But in the moment, all unknowing of the oncoming momentous events, Poe just smiles at his friends and starts planning the next meal they can make together. Gazpacho, maybe. Lentil soup. Frittata. Chili.

Cake. Definitely cake.