We need this like the Clark Fork needs another million cubic yards of arsenic-laden silt… Once again, the national mainstream media has sat and taken notice of the Garden City, including it on the latest of its national “best of” lists. This week, it was the CNN/Money magazine Web site that selected Missoula as one of the seven best places to live, sharing the digital pantheon-of-the-hour with such urban powerhouses as Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., Austin, Texas, Ann Arbor, Mich., Sarasota, Fla., and New York City. What was it that secured our inclusion on the list with the Rose City, the Big Apple and the live music capital of the world? Certainly, it wasn’t our livable wages, pristine air quality, discount air fares or ample supply of affordable housing that won them over. Actually, what drew their praise was the fact that “Missoula issued bonds to buy and preserve 2,703 acres of land, including much of Mount Jumbo.” Curiously, Missoula was the only one of the seven cities for which they neglected to include a hot link to the city’s Web site. Guess they figured the telegraph lines still haven’t gotten out this far.

Oddly enough, Montana in general has attracted a brief flurry of national media interest for, of all things, our unique culinary offerings. Recently, the Independent received a fax informing us that the Food Channel is looking for “outdoor winter food experiences in the Rocky Mountains.” Though we’re not quite sure what qualifies as “outdoor winter food” in Montana, short of a huckleberry Power Bar and moose-flavored corn nuts with a pinch of bear spray (“One spritz and you’re south of the border!”), we’re open to suggestions.

Likewise, Golden West Publishers out of Phoenix is seeking recipes from Montana cooks and chefs for inclusion in its Montana Cook Book. As part of its “Cooking Across America” series, Golden West is seeking favorite recipes from Big Sky homemakers, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, caterers, chefs, or anyone else who enjoys slaving over a hot stove. All published contributors will receive a free copy of the book (retail price: $6.95) and one published contributor will be selected to receive $100… in free cookbooks, that is. The Montana cookbook joins many other already completed state cookbooks from Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Utah and Indiana, culinary hotbeds one and all. For more information, or to contribute your grandma’s recipe for venison and chokecherry stew, visit the Golden West Web site at www.goldenwestpublishers.com, or call 1-800-658-5830.

Add this one to our list of least favorite scratch-n-sniff ideas: Not long ago, we received a greeting card from the Montana Power Company which features a picture of a skunk and a small blue flame with the suggestion, “Scratch this flame with your fingernail and sniff the gas odor.” Seriously? Sounds like the housemate who calls you into the kitchen and says, “Dude? I think this milk’s gone bad. Here, taste it!” In fact, the Montana Power Company campaign of “making a big stink about safety” is especially important this time of year, as folks spend more time indoors with the windows closed and gas heaters on. Although natural gas is a tasteless, colorless, odorless and non-toxic gas, manufacturers add that stench as a marker to tip you off before your roof sails into the stratosphere. Likewise, the gaseous odor may also indicate a blown pilot light or the accumulation of the odorless carbon monoxide caused by the incomplete combustion of gas. OK, fair enough. Still, if we get a similar scratch-n-sniff card from the wastewater treatment plant, it’s going straight into the trash!

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