"What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?"
Black Squadron sat around a table littered with several liquor bottles in various states of fill, deep in the D'Qar Resistance base. They were several hours into celebrating a successful mission and everyone except the astromechs had reached "tipsy" some time ago.
"Be more specific," said Jess, narrowing her eyes at Snap over her glass.
"Weirdest food you ever ate. That's it. You know, some 'delicacy' a contact offered you that you couldn't politely turn down, some bizarre thing you found in a market somewhere that you had to try, something another cadet dared everyone to eat in Basic Training. Whatever—just as long as it was presented as food." Snap took another swig of his drink. "Mine was this snake-meat jerky in a market on Tatooine."
Karé raised an eyebrow.
"Let me finish! The weird part was that it's a venomous snake, and they marinate the stuff in the snake venom. Apparently it's only toxic if it enters the bloodstream, not if it's ingested, and cooking neutralizes most of it anyway." Snap's drink swirled dangerously close to the rim of the glass as he gestured expansively.
"...You just trusted some market vendor on Tatooine that snake-venom jerky was safe?" said Jess, skeptically.
Snap sighed. "I was really hungry and it was one of the few stalls that I was certain I knew what kind of meat was being served. I assumed the seller had little incentive to kill off paying customers. Maybe risky, but in some of those markets, I was a little scared I was going to eat something unidentifiable and later find it out it was sentient."
There was a pause.
"On that cheery note," said Karé, "deep-fried, fermented sea turtle eggs wrapped in some kind of seaweed. Cadet from Mon Cala brought them—his family farmed turtles—and went around really earnestly offering them to everyone. They stank to high heaven, but they actually weren't bad."
She nudged Jess. "Your turn."
"Mine's not a gross-out. Festival on Coruscant. There was this little shop tucked away in an alley selling 'ice planets'—little frozen concoctions, mostly fruit, I think, made to look like tiny little planets about yay big." Jess indicated a size she could encircle with thumb and forefinger. "Some of 'em even had teeny-tiny 'moons.' And they served them on this little force field generator that made them float so they looked like a little solar system circling around your hand." She grinned. "I got a 9-planet system and was reliably informed by the shopkeeper's daughter that it was obligatory to pretend you were a big, mean, planet-devouring space monster as you chomped them out of the air from the outermost planet in."
L'ulo was next in the circle. "Mmm. I suppose I've eaten some odd things, but nothing really stands out. I once had to negotiate with some people who acted like they were trying to make the foreigner eat a weird 'delicacy' for laughs, but...it was just a moderately spicy pepper. The rest of the food was quite bland, so I think the locals' just had a low spice tolerance."
Before the group could turn to Poe, L'ulo added, with conspicuous casualness, "I happen to know our fine leader once ate a live frog, though."
Snap had a minor coughing fit as his sip of liquor abruptly diverted down the wrong pipe. Karé pounded him firmly on the back as she and Jess turned to Poe.
Poe scowled at L'ulo over his glass. "Why did I think it was a good idea to put you in this squadron?"
"What?" L'ulo innocently continued sipping his drink. "Were you planning to tell about a time you ate something weirder than a live frog?"
"When was this?" Jess demanded of L'ulo, since Poe was not forthcoming.
"Oh," mused L'ulo. "I think he was about six."
"Why a frog?" Snap wheezed around coughs.
"Oh, I'm afraid I don't know," said L'ulo, serenely. "Poe would have to answer that."
Poe Dameron frowned coolly back at four sets of eyes, arms folded in the aloof and dignified posture of a squadron commander who definitely did not have to answer that.
"Ooo-wheeee?" BB-8 firmly bumped his calf, and Poe's commanding dignity unraveled.
"Not you, too!"
Poe slouched grouchily in his chair. "Fine." He slid his empty glass to Karé, who wordlessly refilled it, and took a swig before he began.
"I was seven, actually. It was summer, and we'd been having minimal traffic in and out of Yavin IV, when this Mandalorian and his kid came through looking for refueling and resupply. We think he was part of the Bounty Hunters Guild."
"Wait a second," Karé interrupted. "A Mandalorian bounty hunter and his kid just stopped by your house, and we're only hearing this story now as 'why little Poe ate a frog'?! I've never even heard of someone seeing a Mandalorian child in our lifetime!"
"Do you want to hear this story or don't you?"
"So, this Mandalorian and his kid landed. They had this incredible Old Republic military ship that had been retrofitted. You know that unpainted, metallic outer hull styling you see in the old, pre-Empire holos? It wasn't the full-on chromed type and it was pretty weathered, but still gorgeous. It—"
"It sounds great, Poe, but is the ship actually relevant to either the Mandalorian or frog stories?"
Poe huffed a sigh. "Fine. So, the Mandalorian was trying to resupply food and stuff while his ship refueled. Dad had an orchard out back that was producing way more than we could use, so he was asking about purchasing some of our fruit."
"Did he have the classic Mandalorian armor everyone talks about?" Snap couldn't contain himself any longer.
"He did. Full suit, unpainted polished metal. Kept his helmet on the whole time. Dad thought it was pretty much all Beskar. Must have been worth a fortune."
"What about the kid—did he have the armor, too?"
"Nah, no armor; no helmet; nothing. But he was tiny." Poe gestured vaguely to a height significantly shorter than BB-8. "He wasn't even really talking yet. Just kind of babbled."
"Snap," said Jess, "you're side-tracking the story."
"They were gonna purchase some fruit," Jess prompted.
"Right. He was talking to Dad, and I was hanging around, 'cause, you know, it was a Mandalorian in full Beskar and everything. And the kid started making a beeline for the yard, so the Mandalorian had to go grab him and bring him back. And the second he set him back down, the kid headed for the yard again. So, Dad said 'Hey, he's welcome to go play—the yard's safe for kids. Poe can watch him while we talk.'"
Poe stopped, interrupted by snorts and giggles from everyone else at the table except L'ulo, whose eyes were twinkling with amusement. "What?"
"You're in your thirties and still landing yourself life-threatening trouble on a regular basis; we know that by the end of this story, 7-year-old Poe is for some reason going to eat a live frog, and your dad thought it would be a good idea to put you in charge of some stranger's even younger kid?" Karé was wiping tears out of her eyes.
"He was smaller, not younger." Poe shut his mouth before he could follow up that ridiculously unconvincing defense with anything sillier.
"He was smaller than me. Not younger. The Mandalorian said he was, like, 50." He looked at the three blank stares across the table. (L'ulo was trying to hide his laughter behind his glass and not doing very well.) "He wasn't a human kid. I don't know what species he was. I guess they age slow."
"Wait," said Jess, "so the Mandalorian wasn't—"
Poe sighed in exasperation. "The Mandalorian was human. I think. At least he was very humanoid—couldn't see anything under the armor, but he had the right proportions, number of fingers, etc. His kid was," he gestured vaguely, "not."
"The child wasn't the Mandalorian's offspring," supplied L'ulo, apparently realizing that Poe had hit the limits of his ability to explain half-understood childhood events while drunk. "They are known to adopt foundlings."
That point clarified, Poe lurched forward with his explanation. "So the kid and I went to go play in the yard. He really liked our Force tree in the back, and the tree was still pretty small and low to the ground back then, so we climbed around in it for a while. And like I said, it was summer, so once the sun started going down, the frogs were all over."
"Yavin's got..." Poe made a sweeping gesture, some of his drink slopping over the side of his half-full glass. "Tons of frogs, you know. They sing. In the evenings. And I guess the kid got tired of climbing the Force tree, so we started chasing the frogs instead. He was really good at it, considering he walked pretty slow."
He paused to take another swig. "So the kid nabs one of the bigger frogs—must have been almost half the size of his head. Not counting the ears—"
"Waaait…" Jess lifted her head from where it had been propped sleepily on her hand to squint at Poe. "Yavin frogs have ears?"
"No, not the frog's ears. The kid's ears. He had big ones." Poe set his own glass down to waggle his hands illustratively on either side of his head. "Giant ears. Dunno how they're going to fit 'em in a helmet when he grows up. But his head was little, 'side from the ears."
"So he's got this big frog, and he kind of giggles like it was just the best thing he'd gotten ahold of all day, and then he just…" Poe gestured as if popping something into his mouth. "Gulped it right down head first."
The other human pilots sluggishly shook their heads and produced suitably impressed murmurs about the weirdness of swallowing frogs half the size of one's head.
"Looked pleased as could be, too. So we started chasing the frogs again. I helped him head some of them off, and he nabbed a couple of 'em. Littler ones." Poe gestured with his fingers about an inch and a half apart. "And he walked over and kind of babbled at me, like usual, and offered me one of the frogs. He was pretty insistent about it, and he really seemed to have enjoyed the first frog, so…" Poe shrugged.
"It tasted disgusting. And slimy. Would not recommend eating Yavin frogs."
L'ulo chimed in, dryly. "As I have heard the story, Kes found out what was going on when the very calm, very reticent, very heavily armed Mandalorian bounty hunter he had just finished negotiating with abruptly dropped the crate he was carrying and went sprinting flat-out across the yard, sending frogs leaping out of his path in every direction and shouting 'No! Spit those out! Both of you!'"