Oh, the bandwidth that's been shed over Cheryl Cole being hired for the U.S. The X Factor, then fired, then fired overseas, then not fired on a technicality, then maybe not fired for realsies, then fired again. We can only imagine how much worse it must feel for Cole herself, given that about fifteen versions of her immediate future have existed then exploded in the span of about a week. Now comes number umpteen, and it's final: Cheryl Cole is out. Nicole Scherzinger is in. The official statement by Fox and X producers FremantleMedia and Syco TV:

“Nicole Scherzinger will be replacing Cheryl Cole on the judging panel of The X Factor. Nicole will join Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and Paula Abdul on their search across America to find the next global superstar or group to win the life-changing $5 million dollar recording deal. Nicole has previously joined Simon Cowell as a guest judge on The X Factor for the UK version of the show in 2010. Steve Jones will act as sole host of The X Factor.”

This isn't the end of every question, obviously. The statement doesn't give any reason why Cole was fired, not even the most glittering of generalities. It also doesn't mention what'll happen to the Cole segments that've already been recorded. So prepare for endless speculation on those points, until either The X Factor airs or everyone gets tired of the whole mess.

But personally, we're tired of it already. There are more pressing concerns: at what point will Cheryl Cole spool an inevitable comeback single out of this rigmarole? (To be honest, she deserves one after all this.) Will Nicole Scherzinger step up her judging from The Sing-Off's days, or at least step it up to Paula Abdul's level? What about her inevitable single--will it be solo or PCD? And why is The X Factor drama the biggest Girls Aloud-related story when "Beat of my Drum" exists? Go listen to that again and watch all your X Factor worries military-march away.

Table Talk.(Spotlight)

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO) January 24, 2007 | Meitus, Marty Byline: Marty Meitus, Rocky Mountain News I pledge to do my best INFOBOX Calendar whirl Today is National Peanut Butter Day, but just so you can plan, here's how the rest of the week is shaping up: Irish Coffee Day, Thursday; Pistachio Day, Friday; Chocolate Cake Day, Saturday; Blueberry Pancake Day, Sunday; Corn Chip Day, Monday; Croissant Day, Tuesday; Brandy Alexander Day, Jan. 31. Who comes up with these things? in our site lemon drop martini

tfdutch.com/foodh.htm ASK FOOD NETWORK Q: I love thick-cut bacon. The problem is, I like it extra-crispy and I smoke up the kitchen when frying it. It seems that if I lower the heat, it just doesn't cook like I want it. Is there any way I can have extra-crispy bacon without having to open a window? - Cameron C. Poe, Lexington, Ky.

A: The easiest way to cook bacon is to lay it all out on a baking sheet or in a few frying pans, and then bake in the oven. While it takes longer than pan-frying does, you have the added advantages of smoke containment and the ability to cook much more bacon at once.

BY THE BOOK The Seduction Cookbook Diane Brown, Innova Publishing, $15.95 Got romance? Brown's cookbook is all about kindling the fires with food. The introductions to each of the recipes are a bit over the top. Before the Honey Roasted Belgian Endives recipe, she says, "It is said that in medieval Germany, women used endive as a love charm." Whatever. The recipes are solid and give suggestions to the romantically impaired for menus including "A Late Night Fireside Supper" and "A Bewitching Bedroom Brunch." JENNIFER ROSEN'S WINE PICK Bodega Susana Balbo Crios Torront s 2006, $12.99 This enterprising white grape manages to combine the voluptuous body of chardonnay, the rose petal and peach of muscat and the citric crispness of sauvignon blanc - all in one glass. Drink it young. If you wait till you're older, you might be dead. site lemon drop martini

Drinks of prosperity Oprah Winfrey recently revealed her favorite drink to Rachael Ray: a pomegranate martini. Then again, she revealed to Ray that her favorite drink is - wait for it - a lemon drop martini. Then again . . . Until she changes her mind, here are Oprah's recipes. Honest, she mixed them up personally.

* Oprah's Pomegranate Martini: 11/2 cups pomegranate juice, 2 ounces Citron vodka, 1 ounce Cointreau. Shake ingredients in a shaker and put in chilled martini glasses. Put pomegranate fruit into glass as garnish. Serves 2.

* Oprah's Lemon Drop Martini: Juice of 6 lemons, 4 tablespoons sugar, 6 mint leaves, 4 shots of vodka. Mix lemon juice, sugar and vodka in a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake well and pour into sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with mint. Serves 2.

Meitus, Marty