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Green Eggs and Ham

Posted on Tue Nov 16th, 2021 @ 1:44pm by Evahnae Kohl & Ships Doctor Hiram Maitland M.D.
Edited on on Tue Nov 16th, 2021 @ 1:50pm

Mission: Holoworld
Location: Ship's Galley
Timeline: MD03 11:59
4002 words - 8 OF Standard Post Measure

There had always been a general bewilderment amongst Eva's family that, whilst she had an exceptional palate for flavours and their various interactions within the alcoholic processes, she had a stubbornly persistent inability to produce food that came anywhere close to the standards of her personal drinks menu. One father put it down to impatience, the other had a more circumspect view of how difficult it was for her to remain focused on any task that involved a period of 'wait and don't burn'. Distractedly abandoning a task before its completion had been a trademark of her childhood and it had stunned both parents when her musical aptitude had proven capable of rooting her in place for a solid hour at a time. Eva had always strived to be good at cooking; she wanted to be good at cooking. There was just a lot more to it than creating drinks that had to be ready to serve on the spot.

Despite recent challenges and taxation on her equilibrium, or perhaps because of it, Eva's mood as she entered the doors to the galley, well after the hours of food service, was disproportionately chipper. It was late, enough that some of her enthusiasm could probably be attributed to fatigue, but wedged centrally enough between the two shift cycles that the culinary lesson ought to experience no real interruptions. That was the plan, anyway. With her hair, complete with freshly-purple tips, piled up in a haphazard disarray of wisps and curls, the petite woman crossed the room and launched herself , face-down, on the serving counter in an effort to propel herself across its polished surface to land on the other side. The squeal, and subsequent laughter, that followed an audible thud gave ample hint to her success. Slightly winded, but unable to keep from a repetition of huffed laughter, Eva sprawled out on her back somewhere between the bench and the doorway to the kitchen area and took a brief moment to slightly lose her mind.

"I don't think that is how you are supposed to make soufflé," a dry commentary came from the doorway as Hiram's head ducked under the threshold, his eyes crinkled at the corners in an expression of impassive amusement. "But we could always try launching you across the table, just to be sure?" his eyebrows arched, although subtle, there was warmth visible in his expression. Granted, he hardly intended on starting at soufflé, in fact, in his hands was a simple container of eggs. He held it aloft, gauging her reaction-whether or not she felt it was too basic, most people frankly didn't know how to make a good omelet or scramble eggs correctly, leaving them many times charred and rubbery or serving straight up goo for breakfast. And it would be a good testament to deduce how Eva learned, how she worked, and what methods would best allow for progress.

The breathless puddle of bartender took a moment to compose herself. In her current mood, Eva was just as inclined to see the carton of eggs as an invitation, or a threat that required retaliation, but she lacked the immediate impetus to follow through with conflicting impulses. The thrum of her energy carried none of the hallmarks of intoxication, however, seeming to be more a product of an exhausted mind's attempt to liberate itself from a week's worth of sorrows. Insomnia was a fickle beast, inclined to weave in and out of her sleep schedule at a moment's notice, and its first intrusion always seemed to be a capacity to find absolutely anything funny. Eva looked up at her mentor, reached a hand up to wiggle its fingers at him as a request for assistance, and then hiccupped. Her next peel of laughter presented first as a snort.

To his credit, and at this point perhaps unsurprisingly, Hiram did not seem particularly fazed by her behavior, inclined to chalk it down to either intoxication or exhaustion, but there was no trace of judgment on his features at all, only an adjustment mentally to ensure that what they did accomplish could be done so safely. When she wiggled her fingers in front of his face, he took a moment and then pretended to chomp on her finger, biting down on the air and pursing his lips in his own version of a smile. He laid the eggs on the counter and motioned for her to approach the stove. "I presume you do know how to make scrambled eggs?" he said, eyes flicking back and forth as they hooked onto hers.

Abandoned to find her own way off the floor, Eva had taken a moment after swiping playfully at his face without making connection to work up the energy. Eventually, tucking her arms in, she rolled onto her front and clambered upwards, following her new mentor into the kitchen space. A hiccup echoed off the walls. "You presume dangerously." With an oof, Eva pushed up to sit on the counter and looked Hiram in the eye with earnest sobriety. She hiccuped again. "I know how to eat them though?" Technically, she had some idea about how to scramble eggs but had been long-since forbidden from attempting breakfast by just about anyone who'd attempted to eat her runny offerings.

"That is a good start," Hiram replied, gentle as ever. "So," he opened up the carton and cracked two eggs, each with one-handed proficiency, into a non-stick pan before grabbing a plastic spatula. "We generally want to get an idea of where your skills currently lay, which means-for the first batch, you'll be making them yourself. Just make it how you would if you were at home, until you think they are done," Hiram instructed, handing over the spatula with an expectant expression.

The fact that he'd cracked the eggs himself took an element of reoccurring challenge away from the task. Truthfully, Eva could manage breakfast to her own taste if she followed the simple steps her father had attempted to instill during childhood but the issue always came from her determination to discover, on her own, how that same parent always managed to add his own little flair. Talon had come from a family of producers, counting amongst their numbers proficient cultivators, distillers and chefs. Much as he'd tried to impart the wisdom of centuries on his daughter, there had typically never been time to indulge her inventiveness when the need to provide a meal was crammed into their busy schedule.

Eva squinted at the spatula and hiccupped.

"Well, firstly," she started, hopping down off the counter, "if I were making these at home, those eggs wouldn't be in the pan yet. Aren't you supposed to add milk and seasoning and whisk before you dump it on the heat?" Turning the spatula to its point, she swirled patterns through the runny mess of yolk. "Way less mess if I use a bowl for that." Lack of efficiency was definitely one of her major issues in the kitchen, so it was hardly any surprise that the brunette typically used twice as many dishes as was actually required. "But I guess this works?"

'Dumping' proved to be a very accurate way to describe the way the other ingredients found their way into the pan. No formal measurement, a short-cut afforded to only competent cooks, created a slosh of milk that may or may not have been adequate but the salt and pepper weren't even given any serious consideration. Instead, Eva added them whilst studying the impassive doctor's face. "I think I'm getting close to having a performance space in the lounge. We close the place off during down-times and it can double as a rehearsal space."

Instant distraction.

Taking that in stride, Hiram didn't comment on it-not precisely, the goal was to see what she did, and to that effect he didn't confirm or deny whether or not her instincts were correct. Some of them actually were! But as she began to move through the motions, it became pretty clear pretty quickly what the results of her attempt would be: it would certainly be edible, but she had missed a few of the key tips and tricks that elevated the dish from something one would get at a hospital or in a school cafeteria to something genuinely satisfactory. "That sounds exceedingly promising," he commented instead, head tilted to the side in acknowledgment. "If I have not frightened you off of my drumming forever," he added, rueful.

"Your drumming is fine." In a direct parallel to the way she lived much of her life, Eva wielded the spatula with exaggerated confidence, using it to dissect the slowly solidifying egg into pieces and flipping them over. Her appreciation of his talent came from a hard-earned tolerance that also shared a foundation with the reason she didn't play the instrument herself. Percussion resonated too deeply, any time she had tried to take direct responsibility for it, she'd driven herself and everyone else slightly mad with her perfectionism. These days, she was much better, as Jonas was wont to say, at 'taking a chill pill'. "The drumming wasn't the terrifying part; the dying is the bit you need to work on." To prove she had no intention of dwelling on the situation, Eva picked up a tiny piece of eggshell and flicked it at his nose. "Let's just not do that part again."

His nose wrinkled up playfully as the eggshell promptly stuck to its tip, and he wiped it off with a flick of his index finger, looking no more unruffled than prior. Somehow he managed to make having eggshells thrown at him appear dignified. The eggs didn't take very long to scramble up, especially as she had them on moderate heat, and he surveyed the end result with a nod, pressing his lips together. "Your initial instinct was correct, for the record," he told her honestly, accompanied by a small, practiced smile.

"It appears I am still somewhat recovering from my ordeal, but ordinarily you would whisk the egg together in a bowl prior to placing it in the frying pan," he conceded. Fortunately, the purpose of this endeavor wasn't a test as much as it was a learning experience, to gain new knowledge and apply it to the old. He plucked up two forks and handed one to her, deigning her to try her concoction with a small gesture. All-in-all, it was eggs, and they tasted pretty normal. Nothing to write home about, but it was acceptable to a layperson.

"So, there are some key differences to how you both prepare the eggs and cook them that make them into something much richer, and more fulfilling," he said. He grabbed another pan, and a bowl this time, as well as a whisk, butter, and a sprig of fresh dill and crème fraîche. He cracked in another two eggs and whisked them up quickly, while he added the butter to the pan on high heat to brown it up.

"No seasoning yet-salt breaks apart the compounds of the egg while it's cooking, which gives a less desired consistency. You want to have the eggs mostly cooked beforehand," he explained, directing her to watch as he added the eggs to the frying pan and stirred them with the spatula, letting them firm up just a bit before abruptly taking it off the heat after a few moments and continuing to stir.

"Another component is the heat itself-when you cook eggs on continuous high heat, they get rubbery. Take it off the heat at around 30-second to 1-minute intervals, stirring regularly for about 10 seconds each time," he explained. Finally, after roughly three minutes, he lifted the pan off of the element and stirred in a small amount of crème fraîche for consistency rather than milk-which tended to dilute the flavor-dill and black pepper.

"You can add whatever you like to the end of it, sometimes I use a bit of lemon, grated strawberry and Carolina reapers-if your palate is spicier-or plain old salt and garlic." He plated them with a mildly self-deprecating flourish and presented it to Eva.

Never before, in the history of culinary enterprise, had a plate of scrambled eggs created such dense silence. More miraculously was the fact that it was Eva who had been rendered momentarily speechless, a feat not often enjoyed by sentient lifeforms let alone a conglomeration of protein, fats and whatever the hell else he'd added. The rapid darting of the brunette's eyes from ingredient to pan, back to the selection of packages, was a clear attempt to memorise the sequence and that ought to have played immediately to her strengths had she not spent the first thirty seconds secretly looking for something else to throw at him. Her attention waivered back and forth, an attempt to make a decision about where he'd started without the need to ask him to repeat the whole thing again, but the smells drifting up from the plate of eggs eradicated the last of any resolve she'd mustered.

The first forkful was hot.

"Ho'y 'hi'!"

Having had no capacity to learn from the experience, the next forkful only evoked the need to jump up and down on the spot, fanning her hand in front of her mouth and then, inexplicably, using it to punch him in the arm. It wasn't hard, though it left the impression that there was a surprising amount more potential for it to be hard if the occasion called for it.

Her fist dented off of Hiram's arm, but something inexplicable happened when he was struck-even though it wasn't with much force. His eyes stuttered from their usual pacing and he inhaled slowly and deeply, barely audible, though his nose. Curled the tips of his toes. Wound down each finger until the nail dug into his palm. As his gaze moved rhythmically his breathing seemed to take a similar form, to the count of four. His eyes briefly shut, barely more than a blink, before he animated to respond like a normal person, reaching for the synthesizer to fabricate a glass of water for her. "All right?" he asked, curious to her opinion-and if she'd actually injured herself in some capacity.

Eva never meant to be oblivious. With such contradictory regularity, she could alternate between uncanny perception and utter failure to notice the blatantly obvious within the space of the same conversation. It had caused her enough grief over the last three decades to form the crux of multiple personal resolutions but no matter how much she berated herself for her lapses, the result was always the same. He had the best of her in more ways than one, having not only done things to eggs she didn't think were possible but also snuck in an initial reaction to her playful brutality that would have concerned her...had she noticed it. As it stood, the glass of water received the bulk of Eva's consideration and was half gone before the brunette found her voice again.

"Petition to have you cook everything I eat from now on."

Whatever it had been, was as subtle as it was fleeting, for Hiram had regained his equilibrium in quite short order and felt no need to address it or call attention to it-at least, insofar as it had been a singular experience. Repetition would yield another outcome. "Hopefully, with time, you will be able to replicate some of these recipes for yourself," he pointed out, lips pursed in wry amusement. "This one is quite easy, just a little tedious. The best food often is. Would you like to try your hand at it?"

As delicious as his first offering had been, Eva's effort with the pizza had done very little to emphasise the true nature of her appetite when aroused. The plate, already half-empty, stood as testament to a perfectly healthy relationship with food and the morsel offered to him on the end of her fork was a sacrifice of the highest order. An unintentional peace-offering, given the discomfort she was still completely unware she'd caused. "Help me eat this first, before it goes cold." The buoyancy of her mood, despite the fatigue it stemmed from, continued as a somewhat ridiculous effort to weave the fork back and forth like a mesmerised serpent. Eva grinned. "And, also, I may have forgotten the first two steps already."

Picking up the utensil and leaned slightly against the counter, Hiram acquiesced and 'dug in', lifting a forkful of fluffy eggs up to his mouth and consuming it easily. "Of no concern, of course. We can go over it as many times as necessary," he said, which wasn't exactly a big shocker, patience was one of his defining features. "I'm pleased you enjoy it, and eventually it will be second nature for you as well."

"How do you even figure out half these ingredients?" A swirl of her fork did very little to coax any egg onto the prongs, though it left a pleasing pattern that warranted a second and then third spin. "That's the part that's always baffled me. Alcohol is different." It really wasn't. "Give me a stocked bar and I will happily make you something to satisfy any craving, but food does all this...weird business." The chemical reactions she was inexpertly describing really weren't considerably different to those she'd already mastered when creating her personal cocktail list but ignorance was an easy haven. Several more twirls saw her finally scoop up another portion of egg, but instead of offering it to him in an upwards swoop as one might a child, Eva turned the fork vertically like a laden catapult and grinned. "Open up."

Having missed it the first go-around, and knowing that Hiram's personality didn't necessitate straight up ignoring someone, it was easy to presume that he'd visibly missed it-his eyes and their jerkiness spoke to some sort of visual problems at the least. But this time around he caught it and his lips separated in a smile-"Three points if you succeed," he deadpanned. Before he leaned forward, mouth open expectantly as if to say give it your best shot.

Her 'best' shot was a subjective notion, influenced heavily by her desire to actually make her target when the alternative was to splatter his face with egg. Eva grinned, having already found considerable charm in his nonchalant tendency to acquiesce to most of her impulsive nonsense. Most of the egg, its trajectory aimed perhaps a little higher than necessary, hit his upper lip, but a significant chunk wound up dangling precariously from the end of his nose. The expression of exaggerated chagrin on Eva's face did little to prove the whole debacle wasn't calculated. "Wait, wait, I'll try again!" The next offering was barely aimed at all, flung haphazardly in a smattering of mush. The brunette's laughter returned, a gasping repetition of exhausted delirium. "WAIT, THAT WAS JUST A PRACTISE."

Sitting there with a pile off eggs dripping off of his face, Hiram looked perfectly contented, as though this were a normal situation that he frequently got himself into. "I shall hazard a guess that you are not particularly good at this endeavor," he said when a piece of egg landed on his eye, next. He flicked out his tongue and snatched up a piece o egg by the corner of his mouth, eating it for good measure. "This was not how I was taught to consume my breakfast," he told her very seriously.

"Really? From what I can tell from holophotos, this is exactly how I was taught to eat anything. Though," Eva conceded, her mouth curling into a sly half-smile as her shoulders still shook from anticipatory laughter, "I can see one slight issue." Slowly, deliberately, without taking her eyes off his, she lifted what remained of the battered eggs and allowed the plate to hover just above his head. "You don't have enough in your hair yet." The threat was there, it lingered, because even though she was clearly not in the best frame of mind to be the model student, Eva still has some sense of proportion. A quirked eyebrow issued the challenge.

Of anyone whom she could possibly encounter who might be okay with having an entire bowl of whipped egg-yolk batter dumped on their head, Dr. Hiram Maitland may have just fit the bill, since he barely even moved when he hefted the bowl in what could only be described as a pure threat. "They say protein is good for the hair," he acquiesced, nose wrinkling up wryly.

Something about his passive compliance only triggered Eva's giggles further. It also, as a result, saved him from wearing the rest of his masterpiece. Instead of tipping the contents of the plate all over his hair, Eva very carefully balanced it to perch, eggs-up, as an improvised hat atop his head and then wiped a goop of egg off his cheek with her index finger. "Move," she demanded, nudging him over with her hip without consideration for his continued effort to practise deportment with his breakfast. "I got this. Don't move." The contradiction didn't miss a beat.

Despite her mood, and the fatigue that was responsible for it, Eva's growing respect for her mentor showed in the genuine effort she put in to improving her next round of eggs. Her focus was still lacking, since the occasional side-eye to snicker at him drew her attention from portion control and cooking technique, but by the time she was reaching up to try to shovel her best attempt onto his plate without sending it tumbling to the floor, she had arguably achieved an improvement. Apparently the only motivation she needed was extreme hilarity. Standing back, she eyed him and his plate with a playfully critical eye and then reached up with a thumb to smudge a trail of yolk along his cheekbone. "Darling, you look amazing."

"I am pleased that you have found improvement in my appearance," he deadpanned, looking stern and serious with his hands clasped behind his back as he watched her work, with thick rivulets of egg glopped in his hair and dripping down his cheek and nose-and perfectly balancing (and not dropping) a plate on his head-it certainly detracted from the picture, but he didn't appear very put-out about it. It wasn't anything a quick sonic shower couldn't fix, and it seemed to bring her an inordinate amount of joy, so he was easily able to provide reasoning behind the indulgence. When she presented the next batch (on his head), he expertly maneuvered the fork up to his head, snatched a bite, tried it carefully and swallowed before giving a nod. "Try this one," he pointed toward the plate. Maybe his head came pre-loaded with glue? "It is much better. Already you have made significant progress."

The difficulty arose from a retrospective realisation that he was too tall for her to actually see the contents of the plate. Serving the eggs had put Eva at full stretch and now that it came down to being able to scoop up a sample without knocking the entire serving onto the floor, she was left with only one option. With a huff as she landed, the would-be chef lifted herself up to sit on the bench and then wriggled herself onto her knees. From there, it was a simple dip of the fork to appraise her second attempt, and for a moment, as she squinted thoughtfully at the ceiling overhead, the ridiculous tableaux they created was uninterrupted.

Eva bent sideways to peer under the rim of the plate, her face mere inches from his as she grinned.

"When do we get to dessert?"

 

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