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And now, "Cooking with Dave!'

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Today's Practical Homemaker Topic is: Useful Cooking Tips and Hints. Cooking is one of the major cultural achievements, along with golf, that separate human beings from animals. Animals don't cook. When they encounter something that might be food, they just snork it down. My editor's dog once ate aquarium gravel without even heating it up.

Some scientists believe that ants might cook. The reasoning here is that if you look at the kinds of culinary treasures that worker ants are always scuttling off with, such as dead bees and worm heads and filth-encrusted Rolaids fragments, you have to say to yourself, as a scientist, "Surely they're not going to eat that raw?"

Unfortunately we cannot prove this, because ants are very difficult to study. I learned this last Christmas when my son got one of those educational ant farms, the kind where you put some ants inside, and they dig in the sand and educate your child until he eventually gets a full scholarship to Harvard. Finding the ants was no problem. Our house has received the coveted four-star rating from the Worldwide Ant Directory of Places to Infest, and we quickly attracted a whole squadron of them by using an old Indian trick wherein you smear a glob of Smucker's grape jelly on your patio, and when an ant gets into the blob, you simply grab it and plop it into your farm. Unfortunately, it turns out that the particular brand of ants we have on our patio does not respond well to being grabbed, so instead of being educational, they'd just lie on top of the sand, encased in jelly, twitching. My son was concerned about this, but fortunately I was able, as an aware parent, to explain the situation in sensitive ecological terms. "These are ants," I explained. "We hate them."

This is not to suggest, by the way, that I have anything against Smucker's products. Au contraire (literally, "I have nothing against Smucker's products"). Once at a bar mitzvah I met a man whose life was saved by a jar of Smucker's strawberry preserves. I am not making this up. He was returning from the store with the preserve jar in a bag stuck inside his coat, and a mugger attempted to stab him, and the jar deflected the knife, thus saving his life. He wrote a letter about this to the Smucker's company, which sent him a whole case of strawberry preserves. I bet he looks ridiculous carrying it around inside his coat, but at least he's safe.

And safety is always the No. 1 topic when you're talking about Useful Cooking Tips and Hints, which as you may recall is what we're doing here. According to the Institute for Consumer Alarm, your kitchen is one of the most fatal places in your home. The No. 1 cause of kitchen death, of course, is eating an entire tube of Pillsbury's chocolate-chip cookie dough raw. Nobody takes the time to heat it up. More than two-thirds of the total world supply is consumed right at the Pillsbury factory.

Also the odds are that your kitchen contains large quantities of microwaves, which, let's stop kidding ourselves, are deadly atomic radiation. Look at the evidence. Years ago, the electricity industry purchased vast quantities of deadly atomic radiation for use in nuclear power plants, many of which had to be shut down for safety reasons when nearby gardens started producing 400-pound zucchinis. So the electricity industry was stuck with all this excess radiation, and suddenly, conveniently, they come out with this new "miracle appliance" that doesn't get hot but can cook a hot dog in 30 seconds and cause an egg (Kids! Try this at home!) to actually explode. And we're supposed to believe that this is made possible by "microwaves," friendly, harmless Ozzie Nelson rays that we're not supposed to worry about even though they are capable of easily penetrating a convenience-store burrito that you couldn't cut with a machete.

Next time you're in the department store microwave section, take a close look at the salespersons' sports jackets, and try to think of a way you could obtain mutant colors (or, for that matter, salespersons) like those without exposure to atomic radiation.

This is why top home economists recommend that you limit your food preparation activities to the Two Basic Food Groups, namely (1) Takeout and (2) Delivery. And if you must go into a kitchen, you should carry a protective jar of Smucker's brand strawberry preserves, although I should point out, in case the Smucker's people thoughtfully decide to send me a gift in exchange for mentioning their name 10 times (counting these: Smucker's Smucker's Smucker's), that I myself am a boysenberry man.

Next week's practical homemaker topic is: Knit Right or Die.

1990 Miami Herald

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