“So what do you guys want to do?” Alex asked us.
I looked at her. “Whatever you want. I’m just happy that we’re all together.”
“Yeah, Alex. It’s your place. I’m cool with doing anything.” Edward agreed.
“I know! How about I make some tea?” She suggested, smiling.
My brother nodded. “Sure. That sounds good.” He said to her.
Alex stood up and walked over to her desk. “Are you alright with green tea, Ed?” She asked, picking up a pitcher and pouring some water into a cast-iron teapot (also from Xing, by the looks of it).
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure.” He looked at her.
“Oh, good. I’ve got some honey if you want to make it sweeter. It’s kind of bitter by itself. To be honest, I kind of like it that way.” Alex said, taking a spoonful of green powder from a ceramic container and dumping it into the teapot. She took a hot plate out of a drawer, plugged it in, and set the teapot on top of it.
I watched her prepare the tea. “You have a hot plate in your room?”
She laughed. “Yeah. I use it to heat up water, like I’m doing now. I really like tea.”
“You know, this table’s really warm. How did you do that?” Edward asked.
Alex sat down again. “Oh, the heating table? There’s a pot full of burning charcoal hanging underneath the table.”
Ed lifted up the thin, white blanket that was covering the table and looked under it. “Oh, wow. That’s cool!”
“Yeah. In Xing they have a lot of these types of tables.” She told us. “Oh. I’d better go get the tea.”
“Hey, Alex? Does your room always smell like this? I mean, it smells really nice.” My brother asked her.
“Thank you. No, I’m burning Xingese incense right now. I love the way it smells.” Alex said, unplugging the hot plate and bringing the teapot and two cups over to us. “I leave the hot plate out for a few minutes so it can cool down.”
I noticed that the cups that she was pouring the tea into also looked foreign. “Are those cups from Xing, too? They don’t have handles on them.”
Alex nodded. “Yes. I don’t know why they don’t have handles, but to be honest, I think it’s cool that they’re missing. Here, Ed.” She sat down and handed him a jar of honey and a spoon.
He smiled at her. “Thanks.”
She returned the grin and took a sip of her tea. “No problem.”
Edward mixed a spoonful of honey into his drink and tasted it. “Oooh. This is good! Where’d you get that powder?” He asked, drinking some more.
“Oh, the matcha powder? It also came from Xing. It’s my favorite type of tea. Sometimes I bake with it, too.” Alex responded.
“Like what?” I wondered.
“I make these dough balls out of sweet rice flour. They taste good by themselves, but sometimes I add a pinch of matcha to give them that unique green tea flavor. I use other things, too.’ She told me.
My brother took another sip of his tea. “You make flavored rice dough? Cool! I’m guessing that recipe came from Xing?” He looked at her.
Alex nodded. “Yeah. I can never make mine as good as the traditional pastries, though. There’s always something missing.” She said, her eyes glazing over as she went deep into thought. “I just can’t put my finger on it.”
“What other flavors do you make?” I asked, petting Nya.
“Some I just keep plain. Although, most of the time I make green tea, chocolate, and mint. I don’t really like the strawberry, lemon, and cherry ones, but I make them sometimes because other people like eating them.” She told me, taking another drink.
Ed smiled. “You sell your pastries?”
The girl shook her head. “No. Although I probably could… They’re pretty popular. No, I make them for the military officers. They like them a lot.” She paused for a minute. “Do you guys want to make some now?”
“Could we?” I asked, getting excited.
She laughed. “Absolutely. I’m sure everyone would love that.”
“Awesome! Let’s do it!” Edward said, drinking the last of his tea and standing up.
“Let’s get the ingredients.” Alex got to her feet and stretched.
I stood up as well, and we all walked out of her room. After closing the door, we walked down the hall to the cafeteria.
Alex smiled at us. “What flavors do you want to make? I normally make three different ones, but if you guys want to make more or less, that’s fine too.”
Edward looked at her. “We can make three. How about we each choose a flavor?”
She nodded. “That sounds good to me. How about you, Al?”
“I’m alright with that. Can we make a few chocolate flavored?” I requested.
“Sure. Everyone likes those. How about you, Ed?” Alex asked him.
My brother smiled. “I kind of want to try the plain ones.”
“Awesome! My personal favorite flavor is the green tea. We’ll make those three.” She responded.
We reached the cafeteria, and Alex walked into the kitchen. We followed her.
After talking with a woman for a few minutes, Alex walked back over to us. “The workers here let me borrow their supplies sometimes. I think that they’re just happy that I make them sweets.” She said, gathering her materials (which included a metal pot, three large bowls, a small bowl, and a small bag of sweet rice flour).
“All right. Let’s go back to my room.” She said.
“You make them in your room?” I asked curiously, taking the bowls from her gently. Edward took the pot.
Alex nodded. “Yeah. To be honest, I don’t really like taking up space in the kitchen.” She told us as we headed back to her room.
When we walked inside, Alex got a large plastic sheet and placed it over her heating table (after moving the teapot and cups over to her desk). We set down the pot, bowls and flour on top of it.
“That way, the table will stay clean.” She told us, plugging in the hot plate and getting the water pitcher.
I wiped my hands with a wet towel as Ed and Alex washed theirs in her bathroom. Pretty soon we were ready to roll.
“Okay, now what?” I asked Alex.
She pulled two ceramic containers out of a drawer and brought them over to us. “All right. Al, can you pour a little bit of water into each of the bowls? And Ed, how about you divide the bag of flour evenly between the three bowls? Be sure to save a little bit of it. I’ll go and boil some water.”
We got to work. My brother put the flour in the bowls, I put the water, and Alex put a pot of water on the hot plate.
“Okay, now we add the flavoring. Edward, you get to skip this part because you want yours plain. Alphonse, take a spoonful of the powder in that container and put it in your bowl. I’ll do the same thing with the matcha.” Alex said.
I took the lid off of the ceramic and discovered some cocoa powder and a tiny spoon. Alex did the same to her container, and we both scooped the respective powders into our bowls.
“Do we mix them now?” Ed wondered.
Alex nodded. “Yep. Here comes the fun part. Here, guys. I’ve got some gloves for you two.” She said, walking over to her desk and taking some out of her drawer.
“Are you going to put any on?” I asked, slipping them on.
The girl shook her head. “I like to get my hands dirty.” She rolled her sleeves up to her elbows and smirked.
My brother and I watched her shove her hands in to her bowl and knead the mixture. We exchanged glances and did the same.
After a few minutes of mixing, Alex pulled her hands out of the pale green dough. “That should be enough.” She said. “Now we roll that stuff into little balls and drop it into the pot. We should do each flavor separately.”
“Kind of like making cookies.” I realized.
Edward snickered. “Alex’s salty cookies, take two.”
We laughed, and Alex turned a bit pink. Ed smiled at her.
“I’d give you a hug, but I’d get rice dough all over you.” He said, sticking his tongue out at his messy gloves.
Alex giggled. “You can do it later.”
We rolled the mixture into little spheres, and Alex gently put her dough in the hot water.
“Now we just wait for them to float. See how they’re at the bottom right now? They’ll float when they’re cooked. It’ll take a few seconds. Right now, I’m going to go put that extra rice flour into another bowl.” She told us, getting the fourth smaller bowl and filling it with flour.
A dough ball rose to the surface of the boiling water. “This one’s done!” I called.
She ran over to the pot and used a wooden spoon to pick the piece of dough up. Then she dropped it into the small bowl and lightly coated it with sweet rice flour.
“There. Now we just have to do that to all of them.” Alex told us, skewering it with a wooden stick that she had gotten out of her drawer.
One by one, the little pieces of dough started floating. She coated all of them with flour and skewered each one with a stick.
“Okay. Who wants to cook theirs next?” Alex asked.
My brother waved his hand. “Me!”
She laughed. “Okay, Ed. Just do what I did.”
Edward dropped his dough into the pot and watched it intently. Alex opened her drawer and got some clear gift bags, some ribbon, and a pair of scissors out. I was starting to wonder what she didn’t have in her drawer.
“Oooh! They’re floating.” Ed commented, taking the dough out and dusting it with sweet rice flour.
“Nice. Okay, now you just poke a stick through the center of them.” Alex said, handing him a stick that had a green tea dough ball on it.
He took it and carefully put his piece of dough on top of hers. “How’s this?”
Alex smiled. “Perfect. Now just keep doing that, okay?”
Ed nodded. “Okay.”
While they were talking, I had begun cooking my dough. When they rose to the surface, I took them out and started coating them in flour.
“Al’s on a roll.” My brother said, laughing.
“You go, Alphonse!” Alex cheered me on.
I put the dough balls onto the skewers. “There.”
“Awesome! Now, for the final step, we put each skewer in a separate bag and tie it up with a ribbon.” Alex announced. “But first, we set a couple to the side for us to eat.” She smirked, handing a stick to Ed and taking one for herself.
Edward took a bite. “These… Are… AMAZING!” He shouted, eating some more.
Alex laughed. “I’m glad you like it.” She said, nibbling on hers and picking up another skewer to wrap. “Here. You just put it in the bag and tie a ribbon around the top.”
We watched her tie a bow around the top of the bag. “See? Then we give them to people.”
My brother and I started copying her. After a few minutes, twenty bags of rice skewers were sitting on the heated table.
“All right! Great job, you guys. We’re done!” Alex announced, setting the skewer bags onto her bed and moving the bowls onto her dresser. She took off the tablecloth and laid her head down on the thin, white sheet covering her heated table.
“Try it. It’s cozy.” She said, standing up and putting the tablecloth, cocoa, and matcha powder back in her drawer. Then she threw the rice flour bag away, emptied the water from the pot into the sink, and unplugged her hot plate.
Ed pressed the side of his face against the table. “Oooh… You’re right. It’s warm.” He said, closing his eyes. “Wait, Alex! Don’t you want any help?”
She waved him off. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. You’re my guests, and I’ve already made you work enough.”
Edward sighed and stood up. “But that was fun work. And tasty work. Here. Let’s go put these bowls away.” He said, taking them from her desk.
Alex shrugged. “If you insist…” She grabbed the pot. “All right, guys. Let’s go do some dishes.”
We left her room and walked down the hall. Eventually we reached the cafeteria, and Alex cleaned the bowls and pot. She wouldn’t let us help her, insisting that we had “done too much all ready”.
The three of us went back into her room. Alex picked up several skewer bags.
“All right. Who’s ready to show the world our mad cooking skills?” She asked, winking at us.