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Web Noshing

With the plethora of food-related sites littering the Internet these days, it's little wonder that I was hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Should I go for the vaguely fun but useless, like Name that Candy Bar (http://www.sci.mus.mn. us/sln/tf/c/crosssection/namethatbar.html)? Cross-sections of well-known bars are on display to stump the chocolate-challenged, but they aren't much of a mystery for those of us who spend at least one weekend a month dreaming about the wonders to be found within a Mars bar (girls, you know what I'm talking about).No, Name that Bar may be entertaining and drool-inducing, but it's a one-hit wonder.

Or maybe I should write about the site where lucky visitors can cast their votes for a favorite Dum Dum flavor? (http://www. dumdum pops.com/ DDPVote/ ddpvote.htm). To tell the truth, I've never much cared for that brand of lollipop. Dum Dums are like the dirty orphans of the hard candy family. Flimsy paper wrapping and pale color, and one good bite sends them to lollipop heaven. So who really cares whether or not they've added chocolate?

And then there's the gag-worthy wonder of the cuisine to be found in American suburbs of decades past (http://www. catesgarage.com /food/food.html). The site owner, Cate, has explored the sometimes-frightening world of garage sales in order to find the most unappealing dishes once served by good 1960s housewives. Take, for instance, the mock chicken legs or the chilled "Glistening Beef-O-Mato Soup" (made with canned beef broth and tomato juice) and topped with "lemon floaters". Every recipe is accompanied by Cate's running commentary. Some of those photos — yowza.

And the fabulous, uber-site of all Web-savvy food lovers — Epicurious (http://eat.epicurious.com/)? Well, I love them with every beat of my gourmet heart, but let's let the St. Pete Times kiss their butt, shall we? Here at the Planet, I've got other fish to fry.

Or at least, other cephalopods. That's right, dear reader. I've found the most innovative, amusing and slightly subversive food site on the World Wide Web: the Flash cooking show, Deep Fried Live! starring Tako the Octopus (http://www.8legged .com/). Tako might be the most charming cartoon cooking show guru ever. His personality is a little bit Emeril and a whole lotta Adam Sandler. Our pumpkin-colored host, unfortunately, has a bit of an anger management problem. Did I mention that his cartoon kitchen is full of cutlery? And that he can also be rather accident-prone? And that his animal products have an unsettling tendency to come back to life during the cooking process?

Chef Tako's shows are entertaining and informative, including clickable recipes, links to useful websites for machinery and specialty ingredients, and the 8-Legged Food Science Lab — where visitors can learn the physical, chemical and sometimes biological reasons that food works the way it does. If you're as big a dweeb as me, you've seen the show Good Eats on the Food Network, where a dorky-looking humanoid uses protractors and beakers to cook standard favorites. Well, Tako's all that and a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies. His recipes are down to earth (pumpkin pie, deep-fried turkey, meatloaf) and his shows deliver not only a good meal, but the promise of at least one severed limb. After all, it's hard to keep track of all eight at once. Whether he's solving mysteries, escaping from radioactive prawns, battling the infuriated members of a nearby turkey farm or suffering through the diatribes of his wine-marinated and meddlesome mother, Mrs. The Octopus, Tako is one catchphrase away from chef superstardom! Not bad for a guy with little experience other than crab-cracking at 40 fathoms.

Tako the Octopus might not be ready for prime time, but the fun to be found in his show (and his food) can be measured in megabytes. And I'm hungry. Sayonara, savvy surfers.

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