Anyone who has cable and a little free time – or a debilitating procrastination problem like me – knows about the food fad that has become our society’s obsession. While I usually like to enjoy every delicious bite of every succulent meal I consume, my interest was sparked by the food challenge mania.I love watching the Food Network. When I left home for college two years ago, my mom sent me packing with a cookbook she used when she was in college. While I cherish the little orange sun-stained page book, sometimes I need a visual. In these instances, I turn to the beloved Food Network and take a cue from my personal favorites Paula Deen are Giada De Laurentiis.
But the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” takes the love affair with food to a whole other level. Adam Richman, the host of the show, spends his career gorging his face with all sorts of crazy feasts.
Richman’s show inspired a group project I was involved with, and that is where my journey begins.
The group consisted of four girls. Our mission was to make a website related to something in the Valley. We decided to try our hand – or mouths, rather – at food challenges. Each of us would try to complete one, and we would feature those four on our website. I was picked to attempt the challenge at Chompie’s in Tempe.
Richman had a go at Chompie’s Ultimate Slider Challenge on one of his episodes, and it took him prisoner.
The Ultimate Slider Challenge is five pounds of food. It consists of 12 Jewish sliders, onion strings and gravy for dipping. (Because you really need some optional add-ons for it.) All of this has to be consumed in less than 30 minutes.
“Are you serious?” the waiter said after I told him I would be trying the challenge.
I was so nervous. I didn’t even know if I liked Jewish sliders, and I was about to eat – well, try to eat – 12 of them. I was feeling jealous of my colleague: what I was really craving was the funnel cake-inspired French toast.
The restaurant was packed like every other time I had eaten there, which added to the nervousness and mixed it with embarrassment. I guess I didn’t care that much. If I conquered the beastly amount of food I was about to receive, they would think of me as a hero. And if I failed miserably, I would probably never see them again.
My thoughts were interrupted when the waiter returned with a piece of paper.
“You have to sign this,” he said.
The waiver said I was doing this challenge out of my own free will, and Chompie’s wasn’t responsible for any health problems stemming from my gluttony. My friends argued over who could sign it as the witness, and we all shared a nervous giggle.
A women’s water polo team sat at a long table behind us. I remember wishing I could be one of them. I didn’t know how much food my 5-foot, 4-inch, 115-pound frame could hold, and I definitely didn’t work out enough to burn off the gigantic number of calories the waiter was carrying in on a tray.
It was that corny moment in movies when everything starts happening in slow motion, and even if people are talking or music is playing, you suddenly can’t hear anything.
I was now face-to-face with my nemesis. It smelled good, and I was hungry, which caused my confidence to spike just a little.
“Start when you’re ready,” the waiter said. He took a seat at our table. He had to stay there for the duration of the 30 minutes to make sure none of my friends were sneaking bites along with me.
I hesitated, thinking if I never took the first bite, then I would never have to start. But then I dove right in, taking the first bite out of a slider.
Instantly I knew I was doomed. The roll and the potato patty were so dense and called for a lot of chewing. The sliders were delicious, though. I got through the first two pretty seamlessly. I was eating so fast that I couldn’t feel the food settling in for its stay in my stomach.
I moved onto the third and finished it. I then went for a different approach and started eating the meat out of the middle of the sliders. What was I thinking, though? There was no way. I could feel every bite congealing in my stomach, and I knew it was over. I picked up my napkin and waved the white flag.
I finished a total of four sliders plus some of the meat from the others, no onion strings and no gravy. I packed up my leftovers and left too, along with my friends, feeling defeated and slightly ill. I wondered how Richman must have felt.
The bright side was I finished more than the waiters bet me I would, we got good footage for our website and I had enough food leftover to feed me for the next three days. The down side: I didn’t win the prize T-shirt and I had to pay $40.
After that episode, I thought I was done with gorging myself … I was wrong. For reasons unknown to me, curiosity got the best of me again. Hopefully everyone is familiar with the chain Buffalo Wild Wings. Chances are, if you know about the wing mogul, you are familiar with their Blazin’ Wing Challenge.
This time I couldn’t pin it on a school project. The truth was I just wanted to see if I could do it.
After the mass amount of potatoes and meat I ate at Chompie’s a while ago, I was feeling oh-so-very confident. I knew that the "Blazin’" sauce was the very hottest they offered, and I also knew a dozen wings in six minutes would be challenging. But I didn’t feel fazed. It sounded easy in comparison. Plus, if I was victorious, I could put all of this nonsense to rest.
My boyfriend had a class, or else he would have jumped at the idea of dinner at B Dubs (as I like to call it). So, instead I called in some trusty friends. The vision of myself sitting at a table shoving my face alone was not acceptable. I had skipped lunch, and I surprisingly couldn’t wait to eat some wings.
We sat in the back, but at a table in the middle of the restaurant and those feelings from Chompie’s resurfaced. This sauce was probably going to make me cry, and I would be the show with dinner to everyone within seeing distance. The waitress came over and we ordered. To my surprise, my brave comrade ordered the challenge as well.
Great, I thought, now I can make it into somewhat of a competition.
The waiver came next — a step I had now grown accustomed to. But then the waitress said something that caught me off guard.
“You’ll go blind if you get it in your eye,” she said.
Thanks, lady. How comforting of you to say. After that, I couldn’t control it any longer: I was terrified.
She brought out the sauce-drenched wings, took a step back and announced to the whole world that we were about to embark on a spice-filled journey.
Once again, thank you for that.
She readied us and started the timer. My poor friend inhaled the hellish fumes and was sent to a coughing frenzy. My lips made contact with the steaming surface, and I thought, “This isn’t that bad.”
I finished the first wing. I was sweating now, and I reluctantly picked up the next. I took a bite, but I made a fatal mistake. Sauce spread over my lips. I looked down at the napkin on the table. I wanted so badly to stop the burning and wipe off the acidic substance blistering my mouth. But that was against the rules, and I had already signed the waiver.
I treaded on and took yet another bite. My body was going into some sort of shock. I was sweating, but I felt chilled. At the risk of throwing up, I threw in the flag and grabbed my water. I lasted a total of one measly minute and two tiny wings.
It took about an hour for the burning to completely stop, but it took less than a second for me to decide that my run with food challenges was over.
The next day, I woke up sick with a terrible sore throat and a head cold.
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