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Mr. Chowder Scorcher Loser Man learns to cook

Not that it's any of your damn business, but I've been on vacation the past two weeks.

I know you missed me. My Tempo editor further stoked my bloated ego upon my return by telling me that she received calls from concerned readers wondering if I had been fired or murdered by an Insane Clown Posse fan in a Faygo/meth-fueled rage.

Turns out, my life outside this weekly screed is not as interesting as some might think.

I stayed home to confront a fear I've had since college.

It was my goal over the past 10 days . . . to learn how to cook for myself.

A representative cooking story from my past:

It was my sophomore year in college. I was in the middle of a terrible break-up with a girl from St. Louis. For privacy protection reasons, we will refer to said girl henceforth as Helga.

Helga and I were riding a flaming roller coaster on the way to Nowheresville. Both of us knew it. All that was left was to play out the last days before we said our final good-byes in that familiar cycle of sobbing, recriminations, passive aggressive mind-pummeling and bouts of depressing break-up sex.

As part of my Last Supper with Helga, I agreed to make clam chowder. From a can.

I popped open the can and dumped the quivering, chalky sludge into a pot to cook. I even added some pepper, you know, for taste.

As the ooze heated up, Helga and I adjourned to the living room and had our final argument, during which time we agreed that we were, in fact, toxic to each other and that, of course, we would remain in each other's lives.

Helga, probably horrified by the idea of chewing rubbery clams as she criticized my inability to communicate my feelings in a way she found meaningful, jetted before the chowder was done.

With her gone, I decided it was a good idea to head to my friend's house to pound some Miller Lite and celebrate my ill-gotten freedom.

When I returned a few hours later, the smoke from the tarred clam sludge was just reaching the door. I had swiped the batteries from my smoke detectors earlier that summer to run my cordless Playstation controllers.

I rushed to the stove and threw the chowder holocaust into the sink. It hit with a thud, as the chowder had solidified into a hardened black mass.

I saw this as a bad sign and swore off cooking.

At least until recently, when I've come to believe that cooking good, healthy-ish food might improve my life.

As gifts for my new apartment, I recently received a solid set of knives, a cutting board and mixing bowls. I purchased a mid-shelf box of anodized aluminum cookware from Macy's. What is anodized? Hell if I know, but the bald dude who hocked them to me assured that I would transform overnight from Mr. Chowder Scorcher Loser Man to Bobby Flay because of these pots and pans.

The need to cook at home settled in for good a few weeks ago when I assessed my bank statements from last year and did a informal calculation of my eating-out bills over that period.

You don't want to know the unofficial total. And if I told you, I think you'd get on the phone to the nearest Insane Clown Posse fan with my work address in hand.

So my life this past two weeks has consisted of turkey burgers, soups, muffins, pork chops, spinach and feta scrambles, mac and cheese from scratch and other easy-bake items made by the hands typing what you are reading.

It's not much to crow about in our foodie culture, but I am making strides.

I've been sampling brews from Beerworks, which I use as rewards for food-making time. Each time I prepare a meal, I open a bottle of Cascade Lakes Cyclops IPA or Southern Oregon Brewing Co. WoodShed Red or another fine brew and go to town with blade and spatula.

The microbrews guarantee that I will have at least one quality taste experience during a cooking adventure.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com/crimefinder.