Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In such matters, I'm a marathoner, not a sprinter

Americans will no doubt be glad to hear that earlier today Joey Chestnut set a new record for munching hot dogs while winning the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest. Joey Chestnut ate 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes, narrowly beating Japanese non-gourmand Takeru Kobayashi (who has been cleaning up in the Nathan's scarf-fest, and other competitive eating contests in recent years).

Here's the contest, as it was broadcast live on ESPN!

And the exciting (?!?) finish:

[I'm just amazed that the ESPN colour commentators can treat this so seriously, while even managing to mention Paris Hilton. Did she practice inhaling hot dogs in the stir?]

[My personal best is 5 1/2 in 15 minutes. Back to training! :) ]

This reminds me of an interesting book that I read earlier this year Eat This Book, by Ryan Nerz, which is all about the world of competitive eating. Believe it or not, there are all sorts of events for competitive eating, where "gurgitators" eat everything from onions to cheesecake to test themselves against each other and the stopwatch.

Mr. Nerz's book is great fun to read, if a little dismaying. Aside from all the odd characters and their stunts (such as eating their way out of a phone booth full of popcorn, he reveals that there is an overseeing body for the "sport", the International Federation of Competitive Eating or IFOCE. Their website has videos of competitions and tables of records.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the scarf-meisters often have obscure technical details in mind. There's the "Belt of Fat Theory", which tries to explain why skinny fellows (such as Mr. Kobayashi) can out-eat stouter types. (The answer seems to be that the stomach muscles and diaphragm can stretch more when they are not encased in fat.)

Since, er, not keeping one's food in is a constant worry, there are handy euphemisms for that sort of thing on the IFOCE trail.

There's "a Roman incident."

There's "a reversal of fortune".

And, my personal favorite, "urges contrary to swallowing".