MAN VS. WAY MORE FOOD THAN HE CAN HANDLE
by Todd Hartley
I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty impressive glutton. Back in high school, when other kids were cruising through calculus and physics, I considered lunch my best subject. I couldn’t figure out a derivative if my life depended on it (and I just had to look that up to remember what the hell calculus was about), but I could inhale a ham-and-cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, an apple and four Oreos faster than anyone I knew.
Given that, it might come as a shock to some of you to learn that I’m not filthy rich. I mean, if a man can’t get paid handsomely for making food disappear at an alarming rate, what has the world come to, right? Unfortunately, in my case, that’s not the case.
You see, somewhere along the line, someone mistakenly convinced me that I could write well and thus consigned me to a life of abject poverty. If only I’d had a mentor like Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi to take me under his wing and show me the benefits of life as a competitive eater, I have no doubt that I’d be rich and famous by now.
Alas, I never contemplated a career as a man who stuffs as many hot dogs as possible into his pie hole — which seems odd, considering I routinely do just that without any hope of monetary gain — but I’ve always wondered what my gullet and stomach might be capable of if I put them to the test.
As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to find out the other night. My wife, a successful writer, got us invited to the Westin Snowmass resort to sample the menu at one of the restaurants there. The specialty of the house, we were informed, was something called the Mammoth Burger, a heaping helping of beef and assorted accoutrements normally intended for two or more people.
The idea was that we were going to sample some appetizers and then split one of the burgers three ways to share with the PR woman who would be dining with us. It seemed a sensible plan, but I’ve never been one to give in to sensibility when faced with the opportunity to make an ass of myself; I demanded my own burger.
The rewards of completing the Mammoth Burger challenge are still ill-defined at this point — someone hinted that one might get one’s name on a plaque or something — but the challenge itself is pretty cut-and-dried: Eat everything on the plate. That sounded fine to me, so I ordered the New Mexican-style Mammoth Burger and did some stretching to prepare.
(You may wonder why preparation is necessary when all I would be doing is eating, but I’d just read a story earlier in the day about a woman who dislocated her jaw trying to eat a triple burger. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t suffer a similar fate.)
The burger arrived, and it was, indeed, mammoth. It was a pound of beef topped by a pound of cheese, green chilies, pork belly, lettuce, tomato and tortilla strips (it’s supposed to have onion rings also, but that would be disgusting). Next to that, there was a pound of Parmesan-truffle fries, and just for good measure, the plate also included four large tempura-fried pickle spears.
I’ll be honest: The burger, which was delicious, stood little chance against a guy like me. I had no problem finishing it, but the pile of fries was so large that I didn’t even make a dent in it, and I made no attempt whatsoever at the pickles. I have little doubt that a more vigorous attempt to eat the fries and pickles would have resulted only in me vomiting long before the food was gone.
So, did I complete the challenge? No, and I wasn’t even really that close. Chestnut and Kobayashi might have made short work of it, but I can’t think of anyone else who could. Still, I managed to devour a pound of ground beef and a pound of toppings a little too easily, making me think I still might have a future as a competitive eater.
Actually, I take that back. I may have a future as a competitive eater, but I should probably hold off on making that my occupation until I finally finish the Parmesan-truffle fries. I figure if I can eat that many fries in the next couple of days, I’m good to go.
Todd Hartley invites you to help yourself to the fries. He’ll never finish them alone.