If you wanted to make up a stereotypical satirical image of the worst aspects of US culture, you could probably do worse than depict someone stuffing his face with junkfood…and then calling it a “sport,” and then getting all serious about the “sport” by describing “training regimens” and the like. Of course, it would be redundant to make up such an image – since competitive eaters (who call themselves – and someone wasn’t listening to their inner 12-year-old, or maybe was – “gurgitators”) are all the rage.
How many ways is this phenomenon completely disgusting? We’ll start with the immediate and obvious: it’s beyond me why anyone would want to watch someone shove bratwursts or pies or creamed corn into their face (why not throw some hungry lions into the mix so we can have, in the immortal words of Lemony Snicket, “violence and sloppy eating”?), especially when no doubt not all of that food remains in its intended destination. Which brings us to visceral point number two: our “gurgitators” deny the aptness of their chosen term in its phonetic proximity to a more commonly known word…but I’d hate to witness the early days of a prospect gurgitator, and I suspect that no matter what they say for public, uh, consumption, gurgitators frequently re-g. backstage out of the camera’s sight after events. Contrary to what you’d expect, a lot of these folks are not enormous pigs (two famous competitors barely break 100 pounds), but when the champion at a recent contest downs nearly 60 brats in 10 minutes, what else can you conclude? A brat is nearly 300 calories; 60 of them is 18,000 calories, or nearly a week and a half’s daily caloric recommendations. But these folks can’t fast before events, because the stomach needs to be stretched (some describe guzzling diet sodas in mass quantities beforehand). Are we to believe that they simply do not eat for a week after each competition? I don’t: I think the Roman feather plays its role.
And taking the gurgitators’ word for their abstention from the vomitorium, I’d hate to think of what kind of traffic conditions prevail in their intestines following such a binge of bratwurst.
Are you disgusted yet? Or are you entertained by the thrillingly athletic derring-do of these well-trained sportsmen and sportswomen?
Then there are the social effects: in a nation where obesity is an ever-increasing health problem, with promises to lead to even worse problems in the future, it makes perfect sense to valorize gross displays of overeating, right? And to pretend that people can do this without blimping out to Wellesian proportions as well…
Finally, in a nation where 33 million people are unable to afford adequate food, the sheer waste of this spectacle is obscene, even aside from the grossness of the event itself. No wonder so many people in the world think of Americans as disgusting pigs.
Good thing we have comedians to distract us, right? Here are three food-related comedy bits: Patton Oswalt on the evolution of the modern menu, David Cross on chi-chi food choices, and the Firesign Theatre (oblique as always) addressing the perils of our addiction to “More Sugar!”
Patton Oswalt “Steak”
David Cross “When It Comes to Jews, Behavior One Might Perceive as Obnoxious and Annoying I Present as ‘Quirky’ But It’s Okay to Joke About It Because I, Myself, Am Jewish!”
The Firesign Theatre “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” (excerpted and edited)