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`Mexican Kitchen’ is a cut above other 1996 cookbooks

SHARE `Mexican Kitchen’ is a cut above other 1996 cookbooks

Rick Bayless' "Mexican Kitchen" (Scribner, $35) has been named best cookbook of the year by the International Association of Cooking Professionals last week. Frankly, the competition among 1996 books was weak, and the Chicago chef's entry was clearly ahead of the rest. It's worth adding to your cookbook library if you like authentic Mexican fare.

- ONE GOOD PRIZE - First came Godiva with the diamond ring in the candy. Now Campbell is offering a 10-carat diamond necklace and 100 one-carat diamond necklaces as part of its 100th anniversary celebration. The look of the soup can will change, with a diamond replacing the gold medallion in the center. Look under the lid of the can of Campbell's regular, Chunky, Home Cookin' and Healthy Requests soups to see if you've won.- ONE GOOD EXTRAVAGANCE - If you want the Benz of toasters, turn to the retro-chic Dualit toaster that's built to last for generations. Featured on the cover of the current Williams-Sonoma catalog, it reportedly has been used at Buckingham Palace for decades and is a favorite in European bistros. It costs $359 for a four-slot toaster, $269 for a two-slot and comes in green, yellow and white as well as stainless steel. To order: 800-541-2233.

- ONE GOOD VARIATION - A precise 100 years ago, legendary Parisian chef Auguste Escoffier of the Ritz Hotel created a thinly sliced piece of toast for a finicky but beloved Australian opera singer who refused to eat her pate on the usual thick slice of bread. The diva's name was Nellie Melba, and you know what food she inspired (more than 2 billion slices were sold worldwide in 1996).