Late Saturday morning, the Crusaders met up at the youth center. "So, you really think one cooking lesson will help us be ready for the contest?" Scootaloo asked.
"Probably not, but it can't hurt, right? Besides, it'll be fun!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
"If it at least makes you less of a disaster in the kitchen, Rarity'll thank us," Scootaloo muttered.
"Girls, let's just go in an' do this thing," Apple Bloom said before Sweetie Belle could screech at Scootaloo. The girls sighed and trudged after her, following the signs pointing to the cooking class.
They soon found themselves in a large all-purpose room which had been outfitted with modular kitchen equipment—rolling islands, freestanding ovens, microwave carts, and mini-fridges, all plugged into outlets in the floor. Half a dozen large sinks stood along each side wall, set in black faux marble countertops. "Wonder whut they use this room for most of the time," Apple Bloom commented.
"It's one of those rooms that can be converted for anything," Scootaloo said. "My dad says they put in those sinks on the walls when people kept breaking in and stealing the portable sinks."
"Oh yeah, your dad works here, doesn't he?" Sweetie Belle said.
"Yeah, he manages like, community funding and stuff."
"Why would they steal portable sinks?" Apple Bloom wondered.
Scootaloo shrugged. "Meth labs?"
There were roughly twenty other teenagers there; they recognized some of them from CHS, and a few more from Crystal Prep. The group milled around absently for a bit; some idle conversations were happening here and there, as well as a lot of phones out tweeting and taking pictures. The Crusaders had been there roughly five minutes when an air horn cut through the chatter, and a very familiar blue-skinned girl with ice blue hair in a ponytail bounced into the room, skidding to a halt behind the large teaching station at the front of the room. "OKAY! Hey everyone, welcome to the cooking class! My name is Sonata Dusk, and I'll be your teacher today!"
The CHS students present let out gasps, shouts, and angry mutters. Scootaloo pointed at Sonata. "HEY! You're one of those Dazzlings! The girls that tried to mind-control everybody at our school!"
Sonata put her hand behind her head and laughed sheepishly. "Heheheh...okay, yeah, that happened, but that's no reason we can't be friends and have a lot of fun together, right?"
"We are not here to have fun, Miss Dusk," a sharp, biting voice intruded. An orange-skinned woman with short blond hair and a permanent scowl attached to her face marched into the room, dressed in a sharp purple suit, her heels clicking on the floor.
"Aww, but cooking is fun!" Sonata protested.
The woman snorted, then joined Sonata at the teaching island. "Good day to you all. For those of you who don't recognize me from your many failing grades in my class, I am Miss Harshwhinny. I have volunteered to oversee today's activities, and I will offer any advice and assistance I can while Miss Dusk instructs you all." She frowned. "How this very odd girl ended up in charge of a cooking class at the youth center is beyond me..."
"Oh, I'm doing community service," Sonata said cheerfully. With a giggle, she added, "I got caught peeing on hobos in the park. I can't believe they busted me for that! I mean, HELLO! They're hobos! It's not like they're even real people, am I right?"
A deathly silence fell over the room, which was broken after several long seconds by a blue-skinned girl with salmon-framed glasses and voluminous frost-colored hair done up in two enormous ponytails: "There's something seriously wrong with you."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," Sonata said with a giggle and a shrug. "Anyway! Let's start cooking!" She reached under her counter and hauled out a massive, scaly, dead fish, slamming it on the counter. A cacophony of disgust, surprise, and general dismay rose from the group.
"Oh, no way in HELL!" one Crystal Prep girl yelled.
"Eww, gross!" Sweetie Belle moaned.
Sonata put a hand to her mouth and laughed. "Juuuuuust kidding!" she said. She grabbed the fish by the tail, swung it over her head, and let it fly; it crashed into one of the sinks with a loud *whump!* and flopped to the floor.
"MISS DUSK!" Ms. Harshwhinny shouted. "Would you please behave in a civilized, professional, and not completely psychotic manner?"
"Aww, but that's boring!" Sonata whined. Ms. Harshwhinny continued to glare at her, and Sonata rolled her eyes and blew a noisy raspberry. "Fine," she said. "Okay, so, umm..." She clapped her hands together. "I've been asked to keep it simple, so we're gonna make some pretty boring stuff today, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun with it!" She smiled brightly at the class. "We're gonna make a simple menu. Meatloaf, cornbread, steamed asparagus, yams, and a cherry pie! Doesn't that sound yummy?"
"Sounds like dinner at my aunt's place," Scootaloo grumbled.
"Well I think it's a wonderful menu!" one of the Crystal Prep girls said sweetly. "If we were training to be cafeteria ladies," she added sourly.
Ms. Harshwhinny coughed loudly. "If you're all finished complaining," she said archly, "the menu selected for this class is intended to teach basic cooking techniques that will help you improve your skills in the kitchen and give you a sturdy foundation to build on."
After that, the cooking class began. For all her strangeness, Sonata proved to be a surprisingly competent cook, and explained the procedures for preparing each recipe, with minimal interruption from Ms. Harshwhinny, who only cut her off when she went off on a strange tangent or explained a step in a less-than-clear manner...
"So I like using graham cracker crumbs in my meatloaf because it gives it a little flavor you don't expect..."
"I would strongly recommend using bread crumbs. Honestly, Miss Dusk, are you certain you know how to make meatloaf?"
"Well I know what you don't want is a gravy that looks like half-dried blood mixed with vaseline on top! That's why I use half the ketchup your basic recipe calls for and substitute Worcestershire sauce for the rest. But you'll want to cut back on the mustard if you do that."
"Miss Dusk, that is...! ...actually a fairly decent suggestion. Hmm. I'll have to remember that..."
"So a lot of people make cornbread in cake pans or casserole dishes, but if you want it just right, you make it in a cast iron skillet. You wanna use the kind of skillet you'd use if you were gonna beat somebody to death with it..."
"This will not reflect well with your parole officer, young lady!"
"I remember when I used to shove asparagus up my nose for funsies! Then I started shoving it up Aria's nose. That's when she decided to shove a baseball bat up my—"
"TRY to stay on the subject of cooking, Miss Dusk..."
"And now we do the yams. I yam sure you won't have any trouble with this one, as long as you don't confuse your can of yams for Miss Tightpussy here..."
"Ouch," Apple Bloom said, "that was a low blow."
"Yeah, this is gonna end in bloodshed," Scootaloo said a bit eagerly.
And yet, the lesson continued...
"So when it's done, your meatloaf should look like a roasted brain..."
"Hey, we used to eat roasted brains all the time before you were even born, lady! I'm telling you, it totally looks like a roasted brain!"
"There went my appetite for meatloaf," Scootaloo muttered. Beside her, Sweetie Belle looked like she wanted to throw up.
"Mmm, this cornbread smells sooooo gooooood. It smells like...pornbread!"
"Ugh...really, Miss Dusk..."
The drama at the front of the room had a counterpoint further back, where the Crusaders were cooking...
"NO, Sweetie Belle! You mix out the lumps in the CORNBREAD, not the MEATLOAF!"
"Uhh, Apple Bloom? Why're you putting onions in the cornbread batter? They're supposed to go in the meatloaf!"
"Ah know, but trust me! This is how we make hush puppies fer Sunday supper! They're like fried cornbread with little bits of onion. It'll be good, jes' watch!"
"I dunno, shouldn't we follow directions?"
"Sweetie Belle, you're the last person who should be talking about following directions."
"Oh, let it GO, Scootaloo!"
"Alright, so now we add the Worshister...Worsassist...Worchestnuts..."
"Granny always calls it Whoa-Bastard sauce."
"Eww, these yams are all slimy!"
"Well don't touch 'em then!"
"Wait, so...you mean pie filling just...comes in a can like this? Don't you have to like, do stuff with the cherries and stuff?"
"It's a shortcut. Most people cookin' at home for their families don't have time t' do all the stuff you gotta do t' make pies outta fresh fruit. Ah've seen Granny do it, trust me, makin' a pie takes about five times as long as th' pie lasts once we git t' eatin' it."
"AHH! Sweetie Belle, what are you DOING?! You don't cut BOTH crusts into strips!"
"She did whut? Oh, dammit! Now we gotta start over!"
"Whose bright idea was it to let her handle the knife again?"
"Well, it ain't all bad. Ah mean, we can cut th' extra up inta dumplins an' put 'em in th' pie..."
"See? I'm not a total disaster!"
"Yeah, you kinda are..."
By the end of the lesson, the Crusaders had a meatloaf that was serviceable if not especially moist, cornbread that was a little burned and very dry but still edible with the meatloaf, asparagus that was only slightly mushy, yams that were...yams, and the single best cherry pie of any group in the class, Sonata included.
"Mmm, this is so good!" Sonata moaned as she sampled their pie. "I love how you put dumplings in the pie like a cobbler!"
"Yeah, well, we had extra," Apple Bloom said.
By the time the cooking class was over, the Crusaders were exhausted and covered in miscellaneous food stains. "Well...that didn't go too badly," Scootaloo said.
"Yeah, Sweetie Belle didn't mess up near as much as Ah thought she would," Apple Bloom agreed.
"But still, Ah dunno if we're gonna be ready in time for th' contest," Apple Bloom said. "We gotta practice every day until then."
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo sighed. "We're gonna lose hard," Scootaloo said.
"Hey now," Apple Bloom said, "don't look at it like that. Look at it this way: we're learnin' somethin' new, right? Ah mean, it ain't a total loss if we come out of it knowin' how t' cook a little better than we did before, right?"
Scootaloo was interrupted by a bloodcurdling scream. The Crusaders watched, wide-eyed, as Sonata suddenly ran past as though her skirt was on fire.
"GET BACK HERE, YOU LITTLE DEGENERATE!" Ms. Harshwhinny screeched as she ran past, barefoot and with most of her skirt and blazer missing. "I SWEAR BY ALL THAT IS HOLY I WILL STRANGLE YOU!"
The Crusaders stared after her.
"Should we...should we call somebody? Do something?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Nope," Scootaloo said.
"Ah don't know, an' Ah don't wanna know," Apple Bloom opined. "So...Scootaloo's place tomorrow for practice?"
"Better make it Monday," Scootaloo said. "And I gotta get home. Later, girls."
In the distance, something exploded.