July 23 was National Hot Dog Day.
I know this only because “Todd,” my tubular meat-loving friend, alerted me to the date.
While I’m not sure how many hot dogs “Todd” has recently consumed, I regret to share that Joey Chestnut, the national hot dog-eating champion for eight consecutive years, was dethroned in the annual July 4 contest at Coney Island. His successor: Matt Stonie, who placed second to Chestnut in 2014, but took the title this time around by downing 62 hot dogs and buns.
Doesn’t the simple thought of that make your intestines rebel in unpleasant ways?
But eating massive quantities of one type of food and/or engaging in competitive eating are neither rare nor recent phenomena.
A few months ago while researching antiquated Daily Globes for my weekly “Looking Back” column, I uncovered the gem of Jim Vogelaar.
Fifty years ago, Vogelaar was a 22-year-old father and husband from George, Iowa, who happened to love bananas. He made the mistake of boasting to a friend that bananas were, in fact, his favorite fruit and that he could “probably eat a whole box of them in 10 hours.”
Is it surprising that when Vogelaar’s friend bet he couldn’t do so, Vogelaar accepted the dare? Vogelaar proceeded to begin stuffing himself with his “favorite fruit,” ultimately eating 41 pounds and 10 ounces of bananas over 10 hours.
When Vogelaar returned home, his slyly humorous wife asked him if he’d like a banana.
Vogelaar apparently declined that offer, but otherwise seemed to suffer no ill effects from his banana binge–and continued to contend that bananas were among his favorite foods.
Last year we attended a firemen’s pancake breakfast following church one fall Sunday and were happy to tuck into our hotcakes aside our friends and fellow parishioners Steve and Anita Leach.
It’s important to know that Steve and Anita are an incredibly fit, trim, active couple–indeed, they each won titles in their respective age categories at the Tri For Health in Jackson late last month–but they also enjoy eating.
Steve (a 6’2 male who works hard and additionally excels at hunting, fishing and storytelling) kept loading up on pancakes that forenoon, so conversation naturally turned to “how much.”
It became clear that Steve could be as dominant in a pancake-eating contest as he is in a triathlon, and I began asking him what other foods he could pack away en masse.
The list was mouth-watering and savory: onion rings, mashed potatoes (“with gravy, and only REAL potatoes,” Steve specified), chili–and skim milk and coffee (if beverages count).
And although Steve didn’t win any awards with these meals, he revealed he had once chowed down 50 mango-habenera buffalo wings at a sitting, and on another occasion he chewed through nine eight-ounce sirloin steaks.
“I leave the bones so clean the dogs would be mad at me,” Steve declared. “Fat seems to be where all the flavor is, man.”
Whether or not dogs are aware Steve is depriving them of good lickings, other humans might be jealous that he can polish off so much good food without wearing the physical evidence of excess calories.
But it’s all in a day’s eating for certain lucky people, like banana man Vogelaar or hot dogger Chestnut.
And if you happened to miss celebrating National Hot Dog Day, never fear–National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (Aug. 4) is right around the corner.