It was through sheer audacity, cleverness and skill that I was able to procure the job as the Mercury's food editor. As such, I am not only eating for free, but getting paid to do it. All that's required of me is that I write a few lines of, what one fan of my Last Supper column lovingly referred to as, "mediocre drivel." Easy!

But I know not everyone is as fortunate (or talented, or handsome) as I am. So, I understand how difficult it must be for "regular folk" to not only get free food, but get paid for eating it. Outside of working for a snarky, local, alternative infotainment weekly, you've got to get pretty crafty to pull off a paid-free-meal.

There are lots of ways to do this. You can pull the old fake vomit/lawsuit trick, or the old finger in the chili/lawsuit trick, or the old rat in the lunch/lawsuit trick. But if you opt for the rat in lunch, may I suggest you do your research. Here's an example of what not to do from Appleton, Wisconsin:

Miller wanted the restaurant to pay her $500,000 or she would alert the media that she found a rat in her lunch April 17, according to the criminal complaint.

The owners of the restaurant kept the rat and turned it over to their insurance company. Insurance investigators sent it for testing and determined that not only was it a white rat, the domestic variety, but that it had been cooked in a microwave.

The restaurant does not use microwaves.

Well, there you go. Unless you want to be prosecuted for extortion be sure to know your local feral rat varieties. Also, be sure to kill and prepare your rat in a manner consistent with the restaurant that you are dining in. I imagine that the placement of the rat would also be crucial, you don't want to eat so much that it looks like you ignored the rat for most of meal. On the other hand you want to eat enough to be satisfied.

Here's wishing you good luck in all your free-paid-meal adventures! And, as an added bonus the best dead animal lunch to ever be featured in a film with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.