Man Vs. Food.
The whole "going somewhere in America to eat something" genre of food show is my least favorite in general, but something about extreme eating just bothers me. Maybe it's contrasting images like this:
Maybe, as I try and make healthier choices in the way that I eat, I just don't like watching people gorge themselves. I don't care for milkshakes that come in gallon sizes, or hamburgers that don't fit on a regular dinner plate. It bothers me that my eight year old son thinks that people who can eat a four pound meal should be idolized. But I have to admit, there is one part of this whole spectacle that doesn't force me to turn away in disgust.
I've been a pepper belly as long as I can remember, covering my meals with my mom's homemade salsa, Tabasco sauce, and sliced jalapenos while I was still a small child. It took another step when a high school friend tricked me into eating a habanero pepper during church. It wasn't a pleasant experience at the time--not for about twelve hours, in fact--but after the burning finally stopped, I wanted more. Like minded friends and I started spiking our ramen with Dave's Insanity Sauce. The habanero pizza at Flying Pie became a yearly ritual. So when Adam Richman sidestepped the more gluttonous challenges to eat Hellfire hotwings in San Jose, it caught my attention. I could see myself doing that. I planned a road trip to San Jose in my mind until reality caught up to me. I have a "just above minimum" wage job, and there was no way Wife would let me plan our yearly vacation around food--especially food that she would have no interest in eating--when our friends are scattered around the Northwest. I tucked the idea into my bucket list, and moved on to other things.
|Morgan Freeman can't believe Jack wants to eat those spicy wings.|
That being said, I didn't have any intention of doing it alone. I placed a call to Newport, Oregon, home of Grasshopper. Grasshopper hadn't really been into spicy foods when we met, but while I was taming the heat of my spices to adjust to cooking for a family, he was eating raw habaneros with Mexican day laborers. It was a case of the student surpassing the master, but this was my chance to retake the banner. I told him what was up, and it was decided that when he came down during the summer, we would take on the Hotstreak. However, this call took place in the fall of last year, and that meant I had plenty of time to practice. Things were going great until a batch of unexpectedly hot jalapeno poppers on Super Bowl Sunday turned me off of spicy things for awhile. By the time I was ready to get back in the saddle, I had forgotten about the challenge, and wasn't going out of my way to eat anything spicier than sriracha. That's why I was surprised when Grasshopper gave me a call a couple of weeks before his visit. He'd just eaten a ghost chile. (Ghost chiles are one of the ingredients in Superb Sushi's death sauce.) He described the sensation as if lightning had removed the top of his head and the rest of his skin was crawling to get away. I was screwed.
Before you could reiterate that I was indeed screwed, two weeks passed and Grasshopper arrived in town. We had a lovely Fourth of July celebration over at his in-laws, drank a bunch of whiskey, and then the moment to test ourselves had arrived. By this point, however, the ante had been raised considerably. Instead of Grasshopper and I going it alone, with maybe our wives on hand to watch us crash and burn, word had gotten out and we found ourselves with a crowd of spectators, as well as two more foolhardy participants. While I had been excited to read about this challenge in the paper, I found myself nervous as I walked into the restaurant, my stomach already tight as I thought about the after effects of such heat.
The nerves would have an extra day to build on themselves, it turned out. Coming off of the holiday weekend, they didn't have enough peppers to hurt all of us. (So if this sounds like something you and your friends would like to do, call ahead.) Grasshopper spent the extra day drinking even more whiskey. I spent it eating instant potatoes, hoping they would build a protective shell inside my stomach.
When it came time for take two, I wasn't any calmer, although I don't know if anyone other than Wife noticed. Boy spent the day bragging on my behalf, talking smack like a pro athlete. Just as with horror movies, I had been waiting for a spice that could best me, but the thought of having that moment in public began to gnaw at me. Still, there was no backing out now, and I was still excited.
|Some waivers are mainly for show. This is not one.|
|This soup is definitely good for clogged sinuses.|
|The Demon's Delight.|
|So close and yet so far.|
I ordered this:
|Ice cream of shame.|
Does anyone want to go to San Jose for some wings?