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"People seem to think there is something noble about being a vegetarian," Audette counters. "But vegetarians don't understand what the role of predators is--to prevent disease. Once they understand how the environment works, they would understand they are not saving animals by not eating them. They are causing more animals to die," through agriculture which sterilizes the land and kills off wildlife, he says.

It was Audette's missionary zeal that got him into trouble with Borders Books & Music in the Preston Royal Shopping Center. He sold 12 copies of the book between March and April before consignment book buyer Cecelia Williams told Audette to remove them. Williams says she spotted Audette preaching to browsers about the virtues of hunting and gathering and warned him to stop. On another occasion, Williams says, Audette and his carnivorous converts gathered in the store's cafe to loudly discuss Audette theories. "We tried to nip it in the bud before customers started complaining," Williams says. "It's too bad--we've had several people come in and ask for it."

If Stone Age man had to track game miles on foot to kill with stone-tipped spears to feed himself and endure the privations of the Ice Age, pickings may be even slimmer for the modern-day Neanderthal.

"When you go to the store as a hunter-gatherer, there are whole aisles that have nothing you can eat on them," Audette says.

On a lunchtime trip to Luby's Cafeteria near his home in Plano, Audette passes up a carrot and raisin dish because it has mayonnaise in it. And the pears and strawberries are soaked in sugar-laden syrup, he points out. Finally, he orders a dry tossed salad and recommends draining the cucumber salad of its vinegar.

He scans a whole steam table full of appetizing vegetables--corn, baked potatoes, parsley potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, green peas--all off limits. "The only thing here we can eat is the spinach and carrots," he says without a hint of remorse.

Upon reaching the meat section, Audette scans the selection for permissible meats--there are three: broiled fish, hamburger patty, and roast beef--and orders a hamburger patty and a plate of broiled fish. A woman in a hairnet behind the steam table eyes Audette warily as she serves him the fish and hamburger patty. "When you eat like I do, people always notice you," Audette says.

Then inexplicably, he scoops up three deviled eggs, which contain the dreaded mayonnaise, a processed food with such no-nos in it as soybean oil, corn syrup, modified food starches and vinegar. When the Neanderthal faux pas is pointed out, Audette is happily oblivious: "Oh, do they have mayonnaise in them?" The caveman finally admits to cheating. But he can afford to, he says; after 10 years on the diet, he knows what his body will tolerate and what it reacts violently to. The refined flour and cheese in pizza, for instance, zaps him of all his energy, he says, but "a little mayonnaise won't hurt you."

At the table, Audette waxes philosophically--and loudly--about the virtues of hunting and gathering and points out that corn and peanuts, according to Science, a journal on scientific issues, are two of the most carcinogenic foods you can eat.

A businessman at a nearby table looks up at Audette from his plate of corn and mashed potatoes. A few minutes later, the man picks up his tray and moves his lunch to a table on the far side of the room. Audette chatters on, happily oblivious.

When the conversation turns to Haagen-dazs ice cream, Audette's eyes light up. Haagen-dazs. He seems to be savoring the words slowly in his brain. He smiles. It's obvious this is an area of struggle between Stone Age and suburban man--one that the Neanderthal usually loses. Audette grins. "I'm only human."

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Rebecca Sherman