Saturday, July 08, 2006

NATHAN 54:12

This 4th of July comes at a time when our country struggles with a war that has divided its people, a political crisis in the White House and growing racial and religious intolerance. But it’s comforting to know that even through these troubled times; the people of our great nation can put aside their cultural, political and religious differences and come together in unity to revel in one of America’s greatest pastimes; that of Competitive Eating.

And no, I don’t mean stuffing your face at the family barbeque, although I’m sure many of you were holding eating and drinking contests of your own. What I mean is the great, the history making, annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

I was tempted to enter myself, but as I’m working to restore my body to its pre-Caribbean luster, I’ve given up meat (temporarily, mind you), tobacco (permanently, god-willing), and alcohol (well, not really. I have to have one vice.). And despite my pleads and calls that the judges were being discriminatory, they weren’t willing to make an exception with zucchini’s and cucumbers in place of hotdogs for fear of inciting the already overheated, overweight, beer swilling, carnivorous mob that had gathered for this years event.

I did, however, make one exception to my newly adopted “healthy lifestyle” and sucked down a dog with onions, kraut and mustard while I stood among the unwashed masses and waited for the contest to begin. The hot dog hit my stomach like a rock and remained there the rest of the day as a gentle reminder that healthy living and highly processed meat byproducts just don’t mix.

Despite my inability to convince the judges to offer a vegetarian option for the contestants, the games went on… The crowd hopeful that 22-year old Joey Chestnut, of San Jose, California would break the 5-year reign of Japan’s Emperor of competitive eating, Takeru Kobayashi. The race was neck in neck as the contestants sucked down dog after dog. Chestnut was in the lead for the first half of the contest and the crowd roared, “Joey, Joey”. Kobayashi using the “Solomon Method” he developed in 2001, breaking each dog in half, eating the two halves at once, then dipping the bun in water and eating that, left Joey in the dust as Kobayashi downed each dog with Ninja-like precision and a nimble gullet. Once again, Kobayashi held on to his title with 53.75 hot dogs in 12 minutes. That’s roughly 10 lbs. of, ummm, "meat".

The average American consumes 115 lbs. of red meat per year. Kobayashi consumed 11.5% of the national average in just 12 minutes.

And the prize for winning the “International” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest? Two cases of Nathan’s franks.

On second thought, maybe I really don’t need to eat meat. Ever, ever again…

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