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So the Securities and Exchange Commission claims in a lawsuit that "America's prophet" Sean David Morton is a big, fat fraud, which brings us, predictably -- at least for the real psychics out there -- to In-N-Out Burger and, more broadly, to a question worthy of a modern-day seer: How far are you willing to go for a great meal?

At the tail end of a story on the S.E.C. case against "Heaven & Earth" guru Morton, The New York Times reports: "[A]s part of a 2009 lawsuit aimed at halting an S.E.C. investigation, the Mortons argued that they were the targets of 'two (or more) dishonest and incompetent S.E.C. employees, who apparently need to justify a trip to California in order to visit Disneyland and

.'"

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That struck a chord with Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, the Baltimore cheese- and hat-maker and owner the late Old Waverly History Exchange & Tea Room.

Just last month, she planned a trip to California. Her stated reason: visiting creameries, working in a bakery and taking a three-day millinery workshop. The real reason: scratching her In-N-Out itch.

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Shapiro had a taste on a trip a earlier this winter and had been dreaming about the burger ever since. It made her a "prisoner of In-N-Out lust."

This from a woman who rarely eats beef, and never eats fast-food burgers.

"My diet is seriously 98, 99 percent vegetarian," Shapiro said. "But for this thing -- I don't know what they did to it. I tried to eat it slowly, like when you investigate a new cheese."

But it was gone in no time.

Shapiro, forced by twin blizzards and sickness to cancel her return trip, will cling to a memento until she can book another flight.

"I kept the In-N-Out bag," she said. "I sniff it every once in a while."

Los Angeles Times photo

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