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Should or shouldn't you eat your words?

Well, which is it? TV producer, documentary filmmaker, and human guinea pig Morgan Spurlock says you shouldn't. Celebrity chef, star restaurateur, and Food Network heartthrob Tyler Florence says you should. (So does Klutz: see below.) At issue: to eat or not to eat "this book."

Spurlock's the guy who force-fed himself a diet of McDonald's - three (happy?) meals a day for a full 30 days - in the movie Super Size Me, and guess what: Spurlock had a gut reaction. His innards cried foul. His private parts started tingling. His head went haywire.

Now he's an author with Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America (Putnam), and guess again: If you're among a big chunk of American men, women, and children, you're right there with him - chowing down and fattening up on the processed junk that passes for mealtime in today's number-one fast-food nation. But why beat up on McDonald's? You deserve a break today. Just try "passing" this:

Hardee's "Monster Thickburger" - two 1/3-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese, and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame-seed bun. That's 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat in a single sitting, and that's without fries to further gum up your works and a half-gallon of sugary soft drink to wash it all down. But wait. There's more. Have some hard facts to go with your order, the same facts that open Don't Eat This Book.

According to one fat-tracking medical association, obesity figures for Americans went from 12 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2001, and according to the Associated Press, America's widening waistlines are hurting the bottom line. A case in point: Heavier fliers have created heftier fuel costs. In 2000, that translated into an additional $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of airline fuel just to get U.S. asses off the ground, which in turn sent 3.8 million extra tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Take a breath. Read on.

According to Spurlock, everybody's doing their part: from the fat cats who run the fast-food megabusinesses, to the fat cats who dream up the false advertising, to the fat cats who lobby in Washington, to the fat cats in Congress who turn a blind eye, to the fat cats who head the FDA and the USDA, to the fat cat (you?) who swallows all of it.

Spurlock's advice: Don't buy into any of it. Spurlock's book: top-heavy with good reasons why.

For a refresher course in fine dining, see Tyler Florence's scrumptious Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors (Clarkson Potter), a cookbook with photographs by Petrina Tinslay that are good enough to devour.

An easy(?)-to-prepare case in point: Florence's recipe for "Grilled Octopus from a Small Restaurant in Nice," which calls for the following: some garlic, some lemon zest, some kosher salt, some celery, some fennel sauce, some olive oil, a grill, and a five-pound decapitated octopus. (Takes one hour and 45 minutes to fix; serves six; discard octopus head.)

Sounds icky? Try "Grilled Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala, Sausage, and Fresh Tomatoes." Start by making your own dough from scratch. Then make a mess. "Crush" the tomatoes using your hands. "Rip" the mozzarella into pieces. "Crumble in" the Italian sausage. Add a "glug-glug" of olive oil. (Takes two hours to prepare; serves four to six; and don't worry with the buffalo. You're free to buy the mozzarella, made from the milk of said beast.) Then sit yourself down.

Your guests too - according to your table's placecards made out of the pages of Eat This Book! by the people from Klutz Press, a children's-book publisher. The paper is edible. The ink from the marker provided is edible. But one word of caution: One reader on Amazon reports that guests ate their placecards as a first course, but the ink stained their lips and tongue something awful.

Recipe to do something about the stains and make your guests feel right at home: Arm & Hammer's "Shake 'n Shine" baking soda - the handy "Sink-Side Shaker" in the plastic container with "Resealable Lid."

"Not for Antacid Use" reads the product's fine print, however. Not for use as a dentrifice either. Or for baking. Not for consumption, period.

What the hell's it for? A fresher, cleaner microwave, refrigerator, pot, or pan, we're told. And here I've been brushing my teeth with this stuff for years. Now, I learn, it's not fit to eat. It and my routine meals, in spite of Spurlock, never mind Florence, at McDonald's. n

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