Jim didn’t like cafeterias. He’d had bad experiences in cafeterias. Of course, the adult scientists weren’t likely to dump chocolate milk on his lap or make fun of him for reading at recess, but he was still uneasy. He stuck close to Ronnie as she got in line.
She was practically bouncing in excitement. "It’s pasta day! I love pasta day."
Jim wasn’t sure if he’d call it pasta. It was shaped like spaghetti, but it was green and made out of algae. The sauce looked normal though, and it smelled good. Ronnie dished out two intimidating plates of algae pasta and smothered them in tomato sauce.
He’d seen the tomato vines that they’d coaxed into trees in the greenhouses. He’d never realized how many tomatoes one vine could produce.
Ronnie led him to a table and plopped one of the plates down in front of him. "You’re going to love it," she promised.
Jim poked the pasta with his fork. It looked like long strands of snot. Ronnie took an enthusiastic bite and closed her eyes in pleasure. Jim glanced around. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it, too.
He squeezed his eyes shut and took a bite.
"Hey, this is actually pretty good!" he said. It was pleasantly chewy, and had a subtle saltiness that complimented the sauce.
Ronnie nodded as she shoveled food into her mouth. "My mom came up with the recipe," she said. "She’s brilliant. Annoying, but brilliant."
"What’s her job here?" Jim asked.
"She organizes things. She makes schedules and menus and keeps track of how much food we have and how much we need to plant and all that sort of stuff. She’s pretty busy. What’s your mom going to do?"
"Oh, she’s going to assist my dad. That’s what she did back home, too."
"Back on Earth," Ronnie corrected, grinning around a mouthful of green pasta. "Mars is your home now."
"Yeah. Back on Earth," Jim agreed. He cleaned off his plate.
"You want seconds?" Ronnie asked.
After they finished second helpings of pasta, they had green spice cake made with algae flour and honey. Jim was stuffed. He looked around the cafeteria. It wasn’t so bad, after all.
After a long, contented sigh, Ronnie pulled him to his feet. "Come on, I want to show you the fish!"