They awoke the next morning with the dawn.
“This is the biggest meal yet,” Joshua told them. “I’m going to need all of your help.”
Joshua lugged a bag of flour to one of the kettles while Lucinda and Dina filled every pot and bucket they had with water.
That’s when they heard it. The sound of children’s voices on the wind. Sophie came into the alley a moment later.
“They’re on their way!”
“Let’s get started,” Joshua said.
He poured the flour into the kettle.
On cue, Lucinda and Dina poured the water into the flour as Joshua stirred with his long board. In a matter of moments the flour came together into one large shiny ball of dough. Joshua rolled it out of the kettle and on to a large plank dusted with more flour.
“Pinch off bits of dough and roll them into balls. This big.”
He showed them.
They followed his example.
“Once you have the little balls, flatten them out between your hands until they’re this thin.”
He took the flatbreads to the grill and laid them on the sizzling hot surface. They puffed up immediately. Joshua flipped them. The cooked side was covered with little brown dots. When they were done he swiped them off and set down another row until all the dough was gone. They kept them under some clean blankets.
They pulled the kettles onto the fire. Joshua poured the spices into one. Their aroma filled his nostrils and his mouth began to water. He felt as though the smell alone would nourish him.
That’s exactly what I want.
He gave it a quick stir with his paddle.
“Now add the lentils!”
They dumped in a half bag of lentils. He stirred for a moment to lightly toast the tiny discs.
Lucinda poured in the water. It hissed and boiled the instant it hit pan. Joshua stirred and stirred. The lentils boiled and grew thicker and thicker. The stew plopped loudly. A few of those plops splashed Joshua’s legs with scalding hot liquid. Joshua bit back the tears and stirred until the lentils were a thick paste.
“Now the greens!”
They threw the greens into the hot pan. They wilted down almost instantly. He tossed in a touch of pungent chili sauce and stirred a few moments more. He gave it a taste.
It can’t be too spicy.
It wasn’t. The chili gave it just enough spice to blend with the bitterness of the greens.
Just then the voices reached their loudest level.
“They’re here!” Sophie yelled.
They ran out of the alley and onto the street. They saw the multitude march towards them. There were dozens of children, none older than eleven or twelve. Some were tall, others were short but they all had the look of the famished on their faces.
Joshua stared at the oncoming crowd.
“There’s so many.”
Inside he froze. He had no idea what to do next. The hall was ready to seat them, but what should he say to get them to listen.
Sophie ran forward and announced at the top of her lungs, “Congratulations! You have found the Hidden Kitchen of the Great Children’s Underground!”
Joshua automatically grimaced when she said that.
Sophie pointed to the hall.
“Please take your seats and you shall be rewarded.”
The crowd of children halted and changed course. They poured into the waiting building.
“That was wonderful, Sophie,” Dina said.
“You’re saying we’re the Children’s Underground now?” Joshua asked with a smirk.
“Maybe we are, without us even knowing it.”
“That makes absolutely no sense.”
“I believe you’re the one who said there isn’t a lot about all of this that makes sense.”