As enthusiastic of a glutton as Paimon could be, she would really eat just about anything so long as it was mildly edible, and to be fair that never posed a problem for her.
Aether, though, had to be more careful with what he ate. In some worlds, even the most basic of foods was deadly. Since losing his powers upon reaching Teyvat, Aether had worried about the food here, but it seemed to be near identical to the foods he grew up eating in his homeland, and with some experimentation he discovered that just about anything the people of Teyvat could eat, he could eat.
...He’s not sure about slime condensate, though. That might just be a Paimon and Xiangling thing. He kind of does wonder what it tastes like though.
Cooking for his team swiftly became a hobby. Before, it had just been him and Lumine and he’s been told the two of them eat like birds. His teammates, though?
Paimon eats enough to fill the stomach of a dragon if they let her eat until she’s full, and with Amber’s athleticism and constant field work she’s always up for a bite to eat. Kaeya has a hearty appetite as well, and Lisa (though she claims to be on a diet) eats quite a bit more than Aether and Lumine combined (only healthy foods, though. Otherwise she’d be breaking her diet rules.) Barbara is a growing girl so she eats a lot, and Bennet is a glutton in the way that suggests an impending growth spurt. Xiangling likes to join him in his self-imposed duty whenever she’s there, and he has fun concocting the most exotic dishes with her, and they make a lot . Beidou definitely enjoys it, and she can easily drag along Noelle for a feast. Noelle is quietly quite the food-lover herself, after all. Zhinqiu and Ningguang eat less, but they have far more refined palates and it’s fun to have them judge their work.
So his team tends to eat a lot.
Him, not so much, and as a result he generally can’t handle the spice of Xiangling’s cooking, so there are quite a few dishes that he can technically cook but not eat . He doesn’t know much about the oddly-shaped jueyun chilies, but he knows they can’t be healthy for him to eat.
Which is why, he stands here looking down at the rather toxic-looking concoction prepared by Xiangling, who smirks evilly nearby.
“...Why?” He asks, tone pleading.
“Since you didn’t help with dinner, I figured whatever I made went.” There’s fang in that smile. “So Jueyun Chili Chicken it is.”
“Xiangling, don’t be a bully,” Barbra scolds lightly, thwacking the chef with a wooden spoon. She swipes the dish out from under his nose and replaces it with… an even more toxic-looking iteration of what appears to be a cream stew gone wrong. “Here. I know you don’t like chilies, so I made some of this instead. It’s my specialty!”
...No offense to Barbra, but she liked spicy drinks.
He doesn’t trust this at all. In fact, it’s probably even more spicy than whatever monstrosity Xiangling made.
“It’s okay, Barbra,” He says, trying to be as sweet and kind as he possibly can, “I’m sure I can handle a little spice every now and then.”
“Yeah,” Bennet teases, “a little .”
“All things in moderation, Barbara,” Zhinqiu says wisely, taking a bite of his chicken.
“Including moderation.” She snarks back.
Before the argument can continue, Aether takes back his chicken and stares at it.
For a moment, he feels like it’s staring back. This does not at all look healthy , he thinks.
And with that, he takes a bite.
It hurts , and not in the “ooh, spicy!” way.
He chokes it down anyways and takes another bite, tears in his eyes and nose streaming, face turning bright red from the effort of not spitting it out.
“Oh my god is it that bad.” Xiangling’s face is actually pale with shock.
“Wow,” Zhinqiu pipes up again while Bennet laughs, “I had no idea Aether’s spice tolerance was so low. Shall we limit your diet to sourdough?”
Beidou snorts. “Nah it’d be too spicy for him.”
“Wow, I’ve only ever seen that look on Diluc’s face,” Kaeya teases with his usual smug air about him. Beside him, Ningguang watches with wide eyes.
“Is he… alright?”
“Oh, I knew it! You should’ve eaten mine instead!”
“I’m pretty sure that would have made it worse, Barbara.” Amber says as she disentangles herself from where a hooting Paimon has latched onto her hair to avoid falling, moving to Aether’s side. “Hey, are you alright?”
It’s on the third bite that the real feeling of wrongness seeps in, and he thinks mainly it’s because of how spicy it is.
“Debatable.” He groans, and then he lurches, nausea kicking in. What the… He barely forced down vomit, choking.
“Oh dear.” Lisa’s at his other side now, eyes swimming with a sort of motherly concern. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I knew I shouldn’t have left those two to it,” Noelle frets, passing him some water. “From now on, I will make sure that you have something that isn’t spicy to eat.”
His throat and stomach burn from the spice, but he suddenly feels a pit of alarm when he gets lightheaded, limbs leadening and haze creeping in on his vision.
No you have to be JOKING.
“I need to be sick,” He gurgles, lurching to his feet. He needs to puke that up right now before it kills him. It may well already be too late.
I got so used to eating the food here that I forgot there was a danger.
“Wait, WHAT?!” Xiangling cries, aghast. “But I did it perfectly!”
“Aether that’s rude!” Paimon scolds him.
He lurches away from the camp, staggering gracelessly, then faceplants in the sand. All at once the toxic sludge roars out of his stomach undigested.
“Oh hell.” Kaeya’s instantly up, a cold hand on his back. He lays it on Aether’s burning forehead and curses. “Shit. BARBRA, poison control NOW.”
“Wait what?! You have to be joking, he’s always been fine before!”
His vision swims in dark spots, and he feels like he’s simultaneously burning and floating away. He passes out to the embrace of water magic surrounding him, carrying him off into the dark.
He wakes up in a bedroll, feeling sick and sore and feverish but otherwise alive, two hands gripping his arm fiercely. He sleepily turns his eyes to see Xiangling at his side, asleep but clearly miserable even in her dreams.
He ate something that he shouldn’t have and it nearly killed him off. What a wonderful way that would’ve been to end things: Killed by his own stupidity before he could so much as lay eyes on a single hair of Lumine’s.
He sits up, still feeling woozy, and instantly two wide yellow eyes are on him.
“Ohmygodyou’reawakeI’msosorryIalmostkilledyou PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!!”
“Wait, wait,” He croaks. “Stop, too fast.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine, you didn’t know.” He replies, then hesitates. “Actually… I didn’t know either, so it’s nobody’s fault.”
“Barbara did some tests with your blood, the food, and her magic to see what made you react like that. It… was the chilies. I’m so sorry for making you eat that.”
He feels an itch on his arms and looks down, mentally bemoaning the hives that are obviously still being treated. This is going to be fun to deal with.
“Like I said, nobody knew until I ate them. In the future I just have to avoid eating them, right?”
“Eating?” She scowls. “No, you don’t even get to touch them from now on. Barbara says food allergies can kick in from skin contact, especially when they’re as severe as yours.”
...It was less an allergy, more ‘don’t eat that because it’ll kill you’. But people in this world didn’t have that problem, so he supposed ‘Allergy’ was the closest thing to it. “Right…”
“We went ahead and tested all the other ingredients too while you were asleep.” She informs him. “No Tofu, Lotus heads, or calla lilies for you, got it?”
“Wait really?” He asks. If he’s not mistaken, most of those were from Liyue. I guess that means I need to be cautious when I eat anything that comes out of Liyue from now on. “I guess that means I don’t get to try Calla Lily Soup, Qingce Stir Fry, Jewelry Soup, or even Jade Parcels.”
“ Or stir-fried filet.” She says.
“Aww, a lot of those smelled really good.”
“If you try and eat them I’ll do what Zhinqiu suggested and put you on the sourdough diet,” She threatens, glaring. “You scared the hell out of us! Barbara tried her best but we thought we were going to die! If we didn’t have enough medicine on hand to make a counter to the oils in that pepper we wouldn’t be having this conversation! ”
“R-right.” He looks down. “I’m sorry for not being more self aware.”
She sighs and looks down. “It’s okay, just… from now on, make sure you know what’s in every meal before you eat it. Everyone will help make sure what you eat is safe, but you reacted to that chili really badly . If you have any other problems with foods that you know about, you have to say something.”
He looks down again, thoroughly scolded. “I used to be a lot more cautious when I first arrived in Mondstat, but all the food in the area was so similar to what I was eating at home that I let my guard down. I thought it’d be safe, but I guess I was wrong.”
“So that’s how it is.” She nods. “Alright, from now on if you don’t recognize an ingredient don’t eat it!”
“Understood.” He thinks after that he’s learned his lesson.
“I’m going to go tell the others you’re awake now.” Xiangling says, “So don’t you dare move, okay?”
And with that she’s gone, and Aether has all of two minutes before he’s swarmed by his worried friends.
... From now on, I really SHOULD be more careful with what I eat.