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GOURMANDISE

Shaping up the pyramid

Remember the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid that diagrams the foods we're all supposed to eat? (Who could blame you if you don't?) After 13 years, the pyramid is undergoing a makeover. So, while all the officials dither and dally, a Web site called KidsHealth decided to get another viewpoint. The site asked its online kid visitors what shape they would choose for the new guide. Here are some typical answers:

The Food Guide Lava Lamp. "All the lava bubbles that are at the bottom will show which foods are more healthier and the ones near the top are what you should stay away from." - Skye, 11

The Food Guide Human Body. "The human body reminds us of the fact that you are what you eat." The heart would be vegetables, because they're heart-healthy foods. The brain would be fruits. The legs would be grains. Bones would be dairy products, which "keep your bones in tip-top shape." The arms would be meat to "keep your muscles strong." And the tongue will stand for sweets, fats and oils, which are "a good thing in small amounts." - McKinzie, 11

The Food Guide Dog. "I really like dogs and most people also like dogs. The old pyramid is boring." - Alexandra, 9

The grill guru

Results of the 16th annual Weber GrillWatch Survey have just been released, and you will not be overly surprised to learn that most respondents prefer outdoor to indoor grilling three-to-one.

You will also not be overwhelmed to learn that gas grills continue to be the most popular type of outdoor barbecue grill in the country, though charcoal grill ownership is increasing.

A few other results are a little more quirky though - trot them out during a conversation lull at your next barbecue. (The study was conducted by an organization called Greenfield Online and is said to be balanced to represent households across the country.)

The most popular day to grill, it turns out, is the Fourth of July, followed by Labor Day, birthdays and Memorial Day. But a full 20 percent of respondents said they grill on Thanksgiving (lucky them!), 12 percent on Christmas and one percent on Hanukkah.

When asked what famous person they would invite to a barbecue, 18 percent voted for George W. Bush. But 9 percent would invite Emeril, 6 percent Oprah and 6 percent Bill Clinton.

When listening to music while grilling, Americans rank rock 'n' roll as their favorite. But 38 percent opt for classical, 30 percent for jazz and 7 percent for opera.

The Top Five foods grilled most often: hamburgers, steak, chicken pieces, hot dogs and bratwurst.

And how do most Americans tell if their grilled food is done? A full 57 percent said they cut into it, and 29 percent said they poked it with a fork. Only 18 percent used a thermometer. Incidentally, the Weber Grill-Line still stands ready 2 4/7 to answer your burning questions (bad choice of adjective, perhaps). Dial (800) 474-55688.

Down and dirty

The obvious title of gossip columnist Liz Smith's new book is "Dishing," of course. Published by Simon & Schuster, it's subtitled "Great Dish - and Dishes - from America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist."

"People are always eating, have you noticed?" she says. (Well actually, yes we have.) Smith doesn't pretend to be a cook, but she likes food all right and the book is a fun read. Interestingly, she's a little edgier here than she is in her syndicated columns.

Plenty of recipes here. (Deep-Fried Snickers Bars, Chicken Fried Steak); plenty of stories, too. There's a funny tale about a Smith interview with Elizabeth Taylor and the late Richard Burton at the Plaza Hotel:

The group had been discussing a friend's surgery, and Burton jokingly orders "Polyps on Toast."

"Sorry, sir, we have no scallops at this time of year," says the waiter.

Quotable

"It happens that while putting a milk carton or ketchup bottle on the table is a high etiquette crime, disguising the wine bottle is considered excessively genteel. Go figure."

- Miss Manners, Judith Martin, as quoted in "Dishing."