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WE'RE ALL EARS

It's time to revisit the lifestyles of the rich and ludicrous, this time to see what affluent Americans do in their kitchens.

Most of us use the kitchen for utilitarian functions such as cooking and eating. But this isn't the case with those earning $50,000 or more annually, according to a survey by Knapp Communications Corp.

Au contraire, mon frere. For the upper crust, the kitchen functions as the communications center, the survey finds.

"Because of the nature of today's lifestyles, with dual career couples juggling the demands of work and family, the kitchen has taken on the expanded role of communications center," says Cleon T. Knapp, chairman and chief executive officer of Knapp Communications.

Aside from the food-preparation aspect of kitchens, rich Americans use the room primarily to talk on the phone, according to the survey. After that, they leave notes for family members, open mail and catch up on correspondence, read newspapers and magazines, entertain guests and -- we love this one -- argue. The kitchen is also used for family conferences, to play games and watch television and to help kids with homework.

And you thought is was just a mess hall.