Picks and Pans Main: Pages

updated 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST


If you want to learn how to stab a fork in your eye so that while gunk splurts out, trick your friends into paying for your dinner, make a heart-shaped gelatin dessert that bleeds profusely—or if you just have an appetite for reading about such food foolery—then you'll find this latest offering from the comedy-magic; team of Penn & Teller all-consuming. A wickedly funny collection of 50 antics and anecdotes involving edibles, it comes scaled in plastic with a grab bag of impish ingredients: a sugar packet that looks normal but that can't be torn open, phony fortunes ("The chef spit in your food") and fake labels ("Meets FDA Guidelines for Allowable Filth").

At times, though, the book bites off more than it can chew: Some tricks, like the Great Egg Drop, may intimidate the beginner, while others, such as the exposé of spoon bending, may bore the hard-core magic enthusiast. Nonetheless, even a casual reader can't help but be impressed by the lengths the authors will go to make a gimmick work. For one trick they actually convinced 16 restaurants worldwide to assist pranksters by slipping a three of clubs into customers' meals. More than a manual, the book takes every opportunity to poke fun: Even the safety warnings are overdone. Ultimately any adult who enjoys pushing the boundaries of good taste will find Food suits his palate. (Villard, $20)

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