Zoe didn't cook. It was more appropriate to say she couldn't, but Zoe was never one for admitting she wasn't the best at something. Her culinary expertise was limited to the battlefield; she could heat up a ferocious can of beans when it was her turn to, and at some point during the war Mal stopped scraping the burned black crust off his portion of the day's protein.
"Mnph, no, it's good," he ensured her, sprawled against one of the bunker's soft dirt walls, "can't taste the mold this way."
She understood that cooking was the application of heat to food yielding delicious results, but she just didn't have the same skill with it that she innately possessed with, say, small arms and explosives.
Still, every morning she was up and in the kitchen before anyone else. She may not have had the preacher's way with actual foodstuffs, but Zoe ruled supreme the crew's coffee intake. Boiled strong and dark, the coffee's scent perfumed the entire ship within five minutes of her pouring a cup for herself. Mal drank his black, as did Zoe. Kaylee and Wash both mixed so much sugar into theirs the liquid could scarcely dissolve any more. Book let his sit until it cooled, then sipped slowly while reading. Inara preferred tea, and River liked whatever Inara poured for her. Simon rarely drank the stuff, but Jayne drank his share and Simon's twice-over every day.
When they'd had cows on board, those hellish three weeks were tempered only by the fact that cows, at least half of them, meant milk. Wash went a little overboard with it, tipping the little jug of boiled milk into his mug until his coffee was the color of Zoe's skin . He wrapped his arm around her as she sat next to him, he smiled that "just woke up happy" smile he had, and he sipped his too light, too sweet coffee.
"Sweet nectar of the gods. Or rather," he kissed her, his lips carried the warm aftertaste of his drink, "sweet nectar of my goddess."
They hadn't had milk again since they sold the cattle at Jiangyin. Zoe still brewed up coffee for the crew every morning, and every day Wash kissed her after his first sip and called her his goddess.