I am a big fan of Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and all the folks at MLE (Major League Eating to the uninitiated), I have been for a few years since I had setanta sports and they showed the July 4th hotdog eating contest from Coney Island on ESPN America. Of course, there is also Adam Richmond and his tv show Man versus Food which I enjoyed on Dave before he stopped being a mad fat eating machine after giving up doing the challenges, at which point you had seen all the episodes anyway. The combination of these two things resulted in me, like a whole host of men, fancying their chances in belly bursting challenges. Preferably one where the prize is you picture on the wall of the restaurant to show your munching prowess.
Enter stage left my next door neighbour Gary who took on a eating challenge to eat ten hot wings in the quickest possible time. He dismantled the record to the tune of shaving about 8 minutes off it and effectively retired the contest. He then went back to try the next incarnation of the wings challenge and got his arse handed to him and he bowed out of competition eating saying never again. Still proud of him though.
The connection is that he made me aware of the 2.5lb burger challenge in The Brooklyn Cafe in Shawlands, Glasgow, the place the wings challenge he was involved in was done and from there I said I fancied doing it.
But then didn’t do anything about it. Just talked about it for ages and ages until we went to give my wife’s cousin and her future husband (now actual husband) their wedding present, we chatted how they were going to go grub daft post wedding when no dress or kilt needed fitting into, it was now that the burger challenge came up and Alan the husband to be was well up for. Plans were made and 6 weeks after the wedding on Saturday the 7th of June we were booked in, man versus man versus beefburger. And that was that.
I have to say I was looking forward to it. I told people I would be happy if I could eat half of it but between you and I there was the image that played over in my head of me polishing up the remaining morsels and sauce with the last hunk of bread, dabbling the corners of my mouth with a napkin and throwing that on the plate amid the cheers and adulation of the crowd. Standing I would raise my arms in triumph.
In reality it ended ten minutes early with both myself and Alan sitting with our elbows on our knees, face in hands in real discomfort trying to avoid eye contact with the remaining burgers. In fact alan wasn’t even at the table. He had moved to another to keep away.
Of course I had done some training, the pre match build up for that first hotdog eating championship I watched gave me a few gems that have stuck with me, one was that slim folk have an advantage in such things as there isn’t as much fat on them which restricts the amount your stomach can expand to allow more in, plus the top athletes chew multiple bits of chewing gum in their mouth at the same time to build up their jaw power (apparently some of the MLE’s biggest names have the same pounds per square inch of power in their jaws as alsation dogs) so I did that for a fortnight. Not too much tho, didn’t want bug overdeveloped jowls looking like I had the mumps, but by the same token I didn’t want my quest to finish the burger hampered by a tired mouth when my belly was willing to take more.
So we sat down, and ordered our two extra toppings, I took fried onions and gherkins, Alan onions and sauteed mushrooms, apparently these were the best for attempting to finish the challenge, least eating involved and could act as lubricant for forcing down some bread or something. I don’t know really, at least they weren’t onion rings or chips which were other options. When the burgers came out it was effectively game over. I had nipped upstairs to the bathroom as I was worried that the thing that would stop me from winning would be that I would need a pee within two hours so I had a quick one before we started. Our table was at the bottom of the stairs and it looked enormous from the top step which I stopped on post pee. The pictures online hadn’t done it justice at all, it just got bigger and bigger as I got closer, no chance.
We kicked off, Alan opted for the tactic of eating the lid of the roll with the onions and mushrooms, getting that out of the way first, I ate it like a burger, roll and meat together, wee bit of tomato sauce. It was bloody brilliant (i would recommend the Brooklyn Cafe for a meal and in particular their regular sized burgers, it’s the same recipe they use for them and the monster I was eating and it was, as I say, bloody brilliant) and hopes rose that maybe just maybe it was acheivable. Alan was flying but i was making my own progress too. Then after fifteen minutes I was pretty much full. If it was a normal meal i would have been finished there I would say. But this wasn’t a normal meal so I battled on. Half an hour in though and the strain was showing, my chest had broke out into a wee stress rash and progress was slowing down. I would say I was about halfway through but a big chunk of the bun was sitting still to be eaten.
I say bun, it’s more like a loaf cut in half than a tradional roll. A brioche bun (or loaf) no less. Which seems to be all the rage in burger circles now. The seaseme seed bap a thing of the past.
Forty minutes in and we both had our phones out trying to do something that would take the edge off the discomfort. What has happened is that the idea of eating a whole loaf seemed like the real test in this when I fact it was the taste of the meat which was our undoing. After a point it became impossible to put in your mouth as it tasted like burger. Ordinarilly not a bad thing, as I have mentioned a really good burger served in here, but having ate so much of it in the short period of time a wee rest was needed.
Actually, Alan was pretty much done at that. He never went back to his. I kept going but very very slowly. Had a bit more meat and attempted the “dipping the bread in water” trick which you see on man versus food and the cometitive eating circuit. It actually works and I got through a bit more. Not a lot mind you, if all I had left was bread then I would have happily had aright good go at slurping away at soggy bread but since I had about a third or so of the rest of it, it seemed pointless to eat the sweet roll.
And, well, that was that I guess. We saw out the time and failed in our attempts. No pictures on the wall, not even a tshirt. It really is a mammoth task, a total ordeal. So repetitive. To eat the same thing for so long, that same taste. I ended up ordering Coca Cola toward the end to put some other taste in my mouth, even though i had steered clear so not to bag myself up on the fizzy juice. I actually felt delerious during it. Almost like I was drunk. Or maybe not so much drunk, more like an afternoon in the T in the Park campsite with a bottle of poppers. Every bite had me giggling like a wean.
Ach, it was a valiant attempt if I don’t say so myself, and like Gary before me I decided to hang up my knife and fork and said never again.
Unless of course one pops up where its amounts of packets of crisps in half an hour, I am up for that, or pot noodles in an hour, aye, pot noodles in an hour……….