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Sunday, April 25, 1999

JAPAN LITE

Shake and bake with Guido's kitchen aerobics


There's a little man inside my oven. I call him Guido. He lives in the LCD display on my new Sharp convection oven. Guido can do all sorts of things, such as juggle apples, chop giant radishes and do aerobics. Guido has become my kitchen aerobics partner.

Want to try kitchen aerobics with Guido? First, put on a cooking apron and chef's hat. For the warm-up exercise, set the oven to preheat.

For this preheat exercise, you will take off your chef's hat with your left hand then extend your left arm up into the air. Then bring your hand back to your head and put the hat back on. Repeat over and over until you've got it down. Next, kick out your right foot each time you take off your hat, just like Guido does on the display. Do "The Chef" until the oven is done preheating.

Now that you're warmed up, put the food into the oven and set the timer. It's time to start the aerobics routine. The first exercise is called the "Skillet and Spatula." Hold a skillet in your right hand and a spatula in your left. Do jumping jacks, pushing your arms straight up over your head. If you want to do high-impact kitchen aerobics, bend your knees and squat at the end of each jumping jack (Guido does high impact).

The next exercise I call "The Waiter." Hold a round waiter's tray in each hand. Alternate lifting the trays up over your head. For high impact aerobics, jump and turn 180 degrees in the air every time you lift the left tray. Don't worry that Guido can do this much faster than you -- work at your own pace. More advanced exercisers should put glasses of wine on top of the trays.

For the next exercise, it helps to have karate skills. Hold a giant radish in your left hand and hold it at arm's length out to your side. With a sweeping motion, cross your right hand over in front of your body and use your hand to karate chop the radish into three pieces. Do the "Karate Chop" until the food in the oven is done.

If Guido's kitchen aerobics don't appeal to you, I recommend a diet and exercise book called "Fit to Cook: Why Waste Time in the Kitchen?" written by nurses Denise Hamilton and Jakel Chantel. The book combines four weeks of healthy recipes with an exercise program. The book is so user-friendly even the Completely Clueless (like me) can use it. For example, the recipe for a baked potato is "bake potatoes on oven rack for 60 minutes." The recipe also reminds you to pierce the skins "to prevent bursting." No more scraping off potato from the sides of the oven for dinner.

Have you ever wondered which is the smartest vegetable in your refrigerator? Those who have accounts at Japan's Tomato Bank know the answer. If you're as crazy about animated vegetables as the Japanese are, you'll love the "Hot Tip Tomato" in "Fit to Cook." This intrepid tomato appears in the book's margins to advise you on meal planning, time saving and nutrition. That's one smart tomato. But it sure looks like he lacks exercise.

Perhaps that's why the authors included a fitness program and a workout video by Cynthia Kereluk. Cynthia, who looks like she's never ingested a Girl Scout cookie in her entire life, encourages you to breathe deeply and drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. In the video, she always talks to me and compliments me on my posture. (Guido never does that.) Cynthia will lead you through her aerobics workout in the living room of a beautiful Canadian house with sturdy hard-wood floors and Oriental rugs. I highly recommend buying such a house to use with the video. Otherwise, the walls of your Japanese house will shake so much you'll wonder who is getting more of a workout, you or the house.

In the video, Cynthia also teaches you how to count to 10 in languages such as Swahili, Hawaiian, Finnish, Italian, French, Cantonese Chinese and Ukrainski, all of which mysteriously share the same Canadian-English vowel sounds. This is Cynthia's sixth workout video, so I'm hoping her next will be an ESL workout video.

All in all, the "Fit to Cook" combination cookbook and exercise book is perfect for those who want to keep their weight down and adopt a healthy low-fat diet.

Or you could just eat Japanese food.

E-mail your comments and questions to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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