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Download Meals from Your Refrigerator Computer

Is your kitchen a throwback to the 70s? Pick up the high-tech appliances shown at the recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Microwave your lunch in a drawer; rapid roast a whole chicken in 30 minutes; and e-mail your shopping list right from your refrigerator door to your grocery store for home delivery. It's not as far out as it sounds. Very soon, some of these products will be on the market and installed in new model homes and remodeled kitchens.

Perhaps the most fanciful product is Frigidaire's "online" refrigerator with a flat-screen computer monitor on the door. Computer nuts will be able to digitize everything in the kitchen. Your bar code reader will scan your food for freshness dates and tell you when to reorder via e-mail to the grocery store. And forget about recipe books. Download your favorite recipes from the Internet and display them on your frig.

Frigidaire's "tekkie toy" may not be ready today, but for many other appliances, the future is now. Start with General Electric's Advantium, a new speed-cooking system that combines heat from halogen lights with microwaves to zap, bake, roast or broil your favorite food four to five times faster than ordinary ovens. Coming in October, 1999.

Maytag has come up with a double-oven that piggybacks a convenient mini-size unit on top of a larger oven. At waist level, the 1.2 cubic foot oven works better for everyday meals than bending over for the typical conventional oven, while the four cubic foot oven below is the workhorse for bigger, holiday-sized jobs like turkey or pot roasts. The Gemini Range is available now.

Soon your microwave won't have to sit on the counter or over the range anymore. At the Orlando trade show, Sharp unveiled a prototype, top-loading "microwave in a drawer." A new space- saving twist for microwaves, the drawer microwave follows the lead of dishwashers and refrigerators that pull out from under the counter. But the food goes in from the top instead of the side.

Finally, there's the interactive kitchen computer from CMi Worldwide, available now. With different size screens to choose from, you have the capability to watch cable TV, surf the Internet, listen to your CDs, watch a video or do your shopping and banking online.

For basic necessities such as cabinets, the fashion continues to be good old hardwoods--maple, cherry and birch, for example. That trend will tilt slightly toward vibrant, contrasting hues for trims, panels and appliance fronts. Stainless steel, metallic finishes and concrete dyed in a plethora of colors are on the cutting edge for countertop materials.

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