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As a college student, I had a next-door neighbor who was a fruitarian. A middle-aged man, he was stick-insect thin, so gaunt that it was almost painful to watch him walking down a snow-covered street. Still, he seemed to get along fine.

After graduation, I moved to California, where the milder climate and an abundance of fresh produce made non-traditional dietary approaches seem more manageable. It was there that I made my first legitimate effort to become a vegetarian. (A previous college attempt that centered on pre-mixed pancake batter wasn't successful or even, for that matter, vegetarian.) I lasted nearly a year before giving in to the sudden desire for a cheeseburger.

While living in Santa Cruz, a northern California beach town, I would hear stories about a "breatharian" named Wiley Brooks, who claimed to subsist on sunshine and prana (life force) rather than food and water. Legend had it that he was eventually sighted in the local 7-Eleven devouring a hot dog and Slurpee.

All of which makes today's raw food diets seem sensible and sane by comparison. In this week's cover story (which begins on page 17), we talk to both raw food advocates and detractors, who are united only in their blindness to the wisdom of my as yet unjustly ignored pancake diet.

— Bill Forman

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