Joey “Jaws” Chestnut extended his reign as champion eater at the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest, downing a record 74 wieners and buns
in 10 minutes to take home the coveted Mustard Belt for the 11th time.
For some, competitive eating contests are entertainment—maybe even a sport. Others see them as disgusting and possibly harmful.
During my college days, I attended two “eating contests.” I’d like to think they were fundraisers for charity, but I’m not sure. I was eighteen and living in an era when TV dinners were big, burgers were just becoming mass produced, and labels on food meant a silly rabbit or a cuckoo Cocoa Puff bird.
A classic movie called Cool Hand Luke had recently moved through the theaters, so somebody decided our small institution of higher learning needed an egg-eating contest. The favorite, a big dude who lived in the same dorm I did, sat with four or five others on a stage, and the fun began. We in the crowd cheered and “egged them on,” and it appeared the favorite was a lock for the championship. I think he squeezed in 30 or so, but before he could claim the crown, he bolted for the edge of the stage and “blew lunch.” Disqualification for him—a reason for senseless laughter and chatter for us in the peanut gallery.
The next year we were more sophisticated—a goldfish eating contest. Live fish and another loud spectacle. In this case, the winner was a small town kid who would try nearly anything. He turned it into a comedy routine—you don’t want to know the details. I imagine he still has the trophy in his closet, but I doubt he brags about it at social gatherings.
I’m not sure Nathan’s Annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest has anything to do with these events, but I have trouble watching people stuff buns and “tube steaks” into their mouths. In a time when obesity, waste, and malnutrition are so prevalent in our conversations about food, these spectacles seem counterproductive. On the other hand, I probably watch plenty of ridiculous things, and folks might have their own reasons to support reality TV about gluttony.
When it comes to playing with food, I shouldn’t preach either. I flicked peas across the dinner table at my brothers when my folks weren’t looking, and our elementary school lunchroom had plenty of John Belushi food fight wannabees. But nowadays, I’m not interested in a meal that includes a stop watch, a mountain of bland hot dogs, and an industrial-sized barf bag.
by dan gogerty (pic from mercurynews.com)