Making great bagels takes patience and Phil Collins

I'm not ashamed to say I like to cook. I rarely do cook, though, because I never seem to have enough time, or enough energy, or the dog ate my homework.

Some of the stuff I cook, I make up as I go. Other things I've borrowed from my mom, and the rest I pull out of my cookbook. I never thought of looking up recipes on the Web, because if I had time to do that, why wouldn't I just pull a recipe out of the cookbook?

Now I have a reason. A friend and I recently made a dish I've since named The Greatest Possible Item You Could Ever Eat. You may know it as a bagel. We used the recipe out of my cookbook, and although they didn't turn out perfectly (one bagel looked just like Phil Collins), they were the best bagels I've ever eaten. I may not be a bagel connoisseur, but I'm fairly certain we could do quite well opening a bagel shop/bar/dance club/petting zoo.

The thing is, the only bagel recipe in the cookbook was pretty bland, and to have a bagel shop, we need more types, toppings and spreads. If not, we'll probably be feeding a lot of animals.

I found a few recipes on About.com's Home Cooking area. There I learned about the bagel's history, how the first one was created by a Viennese baker in honor of a Polish sausage -- er, king -- Jan III Sobieski. I'm still a little miffed that I was not invited to join the International Beigel Bakers' Union, founded in 1907 in New York City, but it has since disbanded and is now known as the Phil Collins on Starch Fan Club.

I looked at a few of the recipes, but some of them didn't even call for boiling the bagel, the most crucial element in making the food of the gods. I did find a simple recipe similar to the one I used at homespun-ideas.com, but there wasn't a trace of other bagel flavors.

Like all good cooks, I'll probably have to experiment, but these things take forever to make. If you go wrong, you just wasted two hours you could have spent actually doing your homework.

I must have a chocolate chip bagel, or maybe a pizza bagel or at least just a poppy seed bagel. It would be nice to go into it with some knowledge of how much stuff I should add.

Then I found the mega bagel listing on the Internet. Cal-Berkley's Bagel section gave 59 recipes for the hard bread. I had to stop writing because I was getting way too hungry.

All right, I'm back. Maybe you aren't into bagels as much as I am, but surely there's something you like to eat. Visit All Recipes to find plenty of ways to make good grub. There's even a rating system so you can fix things other people have approved. About.com has a Cooking Basics &amp Terminology page, which includes simple instructions, a glossary, conversion tools and ingredient substitutions. If there's something in particular you want to create, do a search on Google, and you'll be able to find some type of recipe.

Of course, you will still have to make a trip to the grocery to get the materials. One thing you cannot find on the Web is a fun person with whom to cook. Trust me, I've tried. There are some ingredients you can never truly substitute. Speaking of which, have you seen my Genesis CD? I've also misplaced my sign reading "Don't feed the Phil Collins." Once I find that, the bagel shop/bar/dance club/petting zoo will be in business.