I stood outside my house dancing a jig to the redundantly hypnotic trance beat of my fire alarm waiting for Ithaca's finest to come over and save all of my earthly belongings. Luckily, I live across the street from the fire station so it only took a few minutes for half a dozen men clad in protective gear to run into my living room and hose down one of my surprised housemates who was playing Xbox on the couch. Our alarm often goes off accidentally and since he could see clearly that there was in fact no fire in the kitchen, the sudden burst of high pressure water being shot at his face caught him off guard. The firemen continued to shoot their Super-Soaker 5,000,000 at my housemate until they could see through his white T-shirt.

Water-logged and sufficiently thirst-quenched, my housemate stood up only to be bum-rushed by the officers of the flame. Quickly, they carried him up to the third floor, opened a window and threw him out. He tried to scream but instead made a loud, uncomfortable gurgling sound until he landed in a safety net held by other firemen who wanted to get in on the action. Then, another group of men grabbed my housemate, gave him mouth-to-mouth, secured him to a stretcher, told him to hold on, told him that he was going to make it -- confided in me that they didn't know if he was going to make it -- and then signaled the ambulance to take off.

As I watched the ambulance lights speed towards Cayuga Medical Center, I slowly began to consider the consequences of trying to prepare my own food. Perhaps cooking for myself isn't the smartest and safest alternative to having another goddamn calzone delivered.

It all started when my grandfather encouraged me to cook my own food.

"Brad," he said, "right now you should cook for yourself. Before you know it, you'll have a woman doing it for you, and after that, eight-year-old volunteers from the local elementary school will be spoon-feeding you apple and asparagus pudding. Seize the moment! Cook, clean and wash for yourself before …"

I shoved another spoonful of apricot and cheddar pudding into grandpa's mouth and thought about black culinary magic. Cooking is a dangerous practice only studied and understood by wizards who are subtle and quick to anger. "Could I wield this dark power?" I wondered. Oil splatters, sauce spills and cut-off appendages all threaten to ruin a perfectly good pair of pants at any moment. Still, Grandpa struck a chord with me and, after a quick stop at Yogurt & Such, I dropped by Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought Guacamole, Pico de Gallo & Stuff: A Beginners Guide to Cooking Three Things.

Now I was sufficiently prepared to live on homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and "stuff," (loosely defined as "grilled chicken breast with Cheeze Whiz."). First, I popped the chicken breasts into the George Foreman grill, then went to work on the guacamole. Hungry and excited to try the second of my dishes, visions of Emeril Lagasse menacingly brandishing a steel ladle appeared in my head. I watched as Emeril plucked his ladle from a stone, and a bright light from the heavens shown down on him. All of a sudden life-sized nacho-flavored tortilla chips carrying suspiciously sharpened spatulas charged Emeril. As the war raged in front of me, I sunk to the floor with the jar of cilentro and realized for the first time where my housemates keep their home-grown nuggets. Now, I don't want to step on the cooking columnist's feet, but this is also a great ingredient to use in making a bitchin' pico de gallo.

Mine was so bitchin' that I ate it all and continued to finish the guacamole, a pint of Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk® Ice Cream, three Cheech and Chong movies, one Shelly Long movie, a Chinese Staircase with inverted Box stitch lanyard bracelet and my book, A Gumby Chump: The Autobiography of Pokey.

Cooking seemed like a viable new hobby until I smelled the burning chicken. I screamed like a sister in SDT seeing an old camp friend and ran to the George Foreman grill to find my poultry thoroughly blackened and charred. Under billows of smoke, the boneless breast of white meat coughed and convulsed and looked up at me as if to say, "It's cold." And then died.

This kind of stuff is supposed to only happen in a Mr. Gnu comic, but there I was, having accidentally killed my dinner, crying to the heavens and desperately grabbing for a take-out menu. Still hungry from my lack of protein, I picked up the phone and began to dial. In retrospect, I guess I should have removed the chicken from the grill and turned it off first -- because smoke rarely ever stops its own billowing, and the cloud made its way towards my fire alarm and interrupted my housemate's game of Xbox.

Still dancing a jig to the catchy beat of my fire alarm, I have come to a conclusion about food preparation: cooking can be a pain in the butt. Often, it tastes that bad too. While the intrinsic rewards of making a delicious meal are immeasurable, nothing spells waste and failure like spending 45 minutes to make an authentic confit de canard that ends up tasting more like a beet borscht tzimmes without the raspberry vinaigrette tang. Besides giving firemen a reason to break down your door with a pick ax and randomly vandalize one of your housemates, cooking ultimately causes eating and eating causes obesity and obesity causes heart disease. Thus, cooking causes heart disease, so I suggest you avoid the heartache, load up on bars of NASA space ice cream, and keep spooning yourself the apples and avocado pudding … someone is bound to order you a pizza.


Bitchin Pico de Gallo
•2 diced tomatoes
•1 Spanish onion
•2 tablespoons of lime juice
•2 tablespoons of finely-chopped, home-grown marijuana