Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Friday, June 23, 2006

Eat This Book

When I first spotted Eat This Book (yes, that really is the title) in my local library, I didn't even bother to pick it up. As someone who eats with a glacial slowness, I really didn't think I'd be interested in a book about competitive eating. The book, a trade paperback, is rather eye-catching though, owing principally to its plasticized cover, a marketing move that more publishers should probably consider. Design-wise, the cover is effective but hardly inspiring -- three hot dogs in buns stretch across the cover with the title written in mustard. Since the subtitle is "a year of gorging and glory on the competitive eating circuit," I think there should definitely be at least one exclamation point after the title.

On my next visit to the library the book was still there and I took it out figuring I'd probably only read a chapter or two. Author Ryan Nerz had me hooked after a few pages though and I found the book pretty easy to breeze through. After reading the first chapter which details Nerz' introduction to the "sport", you can pretty much turn to any chapter and find something interesting.

At the back of the book is a list of the 83 foods for which IFOCE (the International Federation of Competitive Eating) is keeping records. Amazingly, two people hold 35 of the individual records. Even more amazing is that the number one record holder, Sonya Thomas, is a diminuitive waif-like woman who can't weigh much more than 100 pounds. Here's a list of a few of the records she holds:

Baked Beans 8.4 pounds in 2 minutes and 48 seconds
Cheesecake 11 pounds in 9 minutes
Chicken Wings 167 in 32 minutes
Oysters 46 dozen in 10 minutes

For me the most amazing achievement is Oleg Zhornitskiy's downing of 8 pounds of mayonnaise in eight minutes! You'll be sad to find out though that Cool Hand Luke really isn't so cool anymore since Sonya only took 6 minutes and 40 seconds to down 65 hard-boiled eggs while ol' Luke took the better part of a couple reels of film to do a measly fifty.

In the best tradition of modern reportage, the author dives into the world of competitive eating himself with quite painful results. Yes, this book is a gut-wrenching literary feast and while you may be able to put it down, you won't soon forget some of the characters and their oddball achievements. The book even sports a great blurb on the back cover by Takeru Kobayashi, who at only 131 pounds seemed to singlehandedly ignite this sport when he shattered the hot dog eating record at Nathan's annual 4th of July contest (53.5 dogs and buns in 12 minutes):

Using my own patented dunking technique, I ate this book in two minutes and thirteen seconds. It should have been faster, but the cover did not masticate easily.

Lest you think the actual eating of the book impossible, at one point Nerz recounts the story of a man who started out eating glass and worked up to some other truly strange items -- bicycles, TV sets, supermarket carts, a coffin, and (get this) a Cessna airplane (a two year long labor of love which evidently got him in the Guiness Book of World Records).

Oh yeah, I forgot one great achievement (kind of forgettable after that Cessna though) was Kobayashi's performance after eating Japanese buffet food for 45 minutes -- the 131 pound man gained a whopping 26 and a half pounds. After reading this book you may never feel nauseous again.


Blogger Bill said...

And to think that I didn't even know there was a "competitive eating circuit" until I read this post. You should now read Harry Crews' Car.

6:45 AM  

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