Good Eats

Good Eats
Mama to the Rescue

Brendan Main | 9 Feb 2010 12:27
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A couple of years ago, I bit off more than I could chew. I had been offered a spot in a brand-new doctoral program in a nearby city. That was the good news. The bad news was that it would start almost immediately, leaving my wife Colleen and me scrambling to find a place to stay. After a whirlwind tour of the city, we met a landlord that seemed like an all-right sort. He showed us a beautiful apartment right in the heart of downtown and near the campus.

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After agreeing that it was the place for us, he casually explained that that particular apartment was not actually up for rent - but he was offering a room next door that he was currently renovating to be "just like this one." Once renovation was done, he claimed, there would be no problems - and when we moved in, he would even sit down with us over a celebratory glass of Glenfiddich to toast our arrival. It was a risk, but we decided to give him a month to get the work done. After all, I thought, a guy who treats his tenants to his selection of single-malts can't be all bad.

This is life lesson No. 1: A person can have an appreciation for fine scotch and still be a total wad.

A month later, we arrived after a long, tiring move to find that none of the work had been done. The place was a disaster. There were cracks in the walls, plaster and sawdust strewn across the floor, snarls of wire jutting from electrical sockets and piles of broken glass lying in the corners. Behind a boarded-up door, we found that a stairwell to the attic had collapsed upon itself, creating a twisted doorway to nowhere and a gaping hole in the roof. This wasn't a fixer-upper so much as a tearer-downer, the kind of place you renovate with a wrecking ball. Meanwhile, we had a rental truck full of boxes and no landlord in sight. With no other options, we moved in on top of the filth, stacking boxes throughout the already-cramped space.

After the move, Colleen and I sat among our towering piles of boxes, letting it sink in how badly we had been screwed over. We decided against unpacking much - we knew that we had to get out of there as soon as possible. Tomorrow, we could call a housing inspector and the landlord/tenant board, but until then all we could do was wait. Time crept along as we sat in the dark - cold, tired and bored out of our skulls. I cracked open the corner of one random box and found my DS. Inside was Cooking Mama 2, a cutesy cooking sim in which you prepare meals through a series of culinary mini-games.

This was dangerous. There is something about cooking games that always leaves me unsatisfied. I can play most games without a desire to emulate them in real life. After playing Tony Hawk, I'm never seized by a gripping desire to rush out and kickflip to the nearest railing, and I've made it through a decade's worth of Grand Theft Autos without punching a single prostitute. But all cooking games seem to do is make me hungry. Not "I had a big lunch but I guess I could have a salad" hungry. The real deal: full-bore, lip-smacking, "look at your companion and suddenly imagine them as a T-bone steak" hungry. But it was Cooking Mama or nothing. We figured we were in no spot to complain.

This is life lesson No. 2: The only thing worse than cold, tired and bored is cold, tired and hungry.

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