When does a little public policy research on the web become a revolting confrontation with borderline fetish pornography? Somewhere between the competitive eating and the the slip-and-slide covered with chili.
Inspired by Burger King's refusal to go along with the UK's food police, I did a little looking around to see what other companies are being mau mau-ed by the public health nannies of the Western world. There was, of course, the story from last year about Hardee's 1,420-calorie Monster Thickburger and its 107 grams of fat and from earlier this year a profile of Burger King's own meat-tastic Enormous Omelet Sandwich, which weighs in at a mere 730 calories and 47 grams of fat. Faced with generalizations in these and other stories about the alleged gluttony of that elusive creature known as The Average American, I thought I'd check up on the real gluttons among us, the proud competitors of the International Federation of Competitive Eating.
The IFOCE, as far as I can tell, is run out of New York by professional PR man and genius event promoter George Shea. He finds food companies, restaurants or localities who are willing to sponsor an eating contest in return for getting their product promoted and, like magic, a new eating event is born. Thus the asparagus-eating contest is sponsored by the city of Stockton ("The Asparagus Capital of the World"*), the waffle-eating contest is sponsored by Waffle House and the grilled cheese sandwich-eating contest (15-city championship series actually) is sponsored by the eBay-addicted reliquarians at GoldenPalace.com. As it turns out, the second most prolific corporate sponsor seems to be Krystal, a chain of fast food joints selling sliders, unofficially the White Castle of the Deep South. They're sponsoring another championship series called the Krystal Square Off (the burgers are square - get it?) with the World Championship to be held in Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 19. Investigating this sponsor further was the mistake.
Upon arriving at the Krystal website, I checked out the tour details, and some fine photos of preliminary contentants stuffing their burgers holes with as much meat and bun as they could handle. Returning to the main page, I noticed a banner alerting visitors of the many menu items which can be ordered covered in chili and chesse. The link implores customers to "get chili-cheesified!" Normally a fan of both items, I click through to chili-cheese central.
Upon being impressed by the realistic sounds of chili and cheese splattering against the screen as the page is loading, I notice a video that has begun to play in the upper right-hand corner. Backed by kitshy, frenetic hillbilly/disco music I see four attractive young folks in bathing suits engaged in what could only be described as recreational sploshing. A series of brief video clips features our nubile foursome engaged in chili-cheese slip-n-slide action, cavorting in a plastic swimming pool filled with chili-cheese, playing chili-cheese covered Twister and playfully battering each other with long foam tubes drenched in - that's right - chili and cheese. Somewhere in Alabama right now there is a chili-addicted splosh freak who can't believe his amazing luck. That man, and only that man, is happy that such videos have made available (free!) to the web-surfing public. I have learned a very important fact from watching these videos: even the most fit, attractive young men and women are rendered significantly less attractive when their bodies are liberally smeared with what, from a distance, looks very much like liquid shit. Call me a prude. After such a traumatic visual experience, I ask you, where's John Ashcroft when you really need him?
*Note - in addition to Stockton, the German city of Schwetzingen also claims the title of Asparagus Capital of the World, as does Oceana County, Michigan. According to some sources the town of Hadley, Massachusetts - which is in Lapeer Couty - claims to be just the Asparagus Capital of the United States (although according to the eCommunityGuide site for Hadley it was also a World Capital claimant, but only until the 1950s, "when disease wiped out much of the crop.") Humble Sunnyside, Washington is apparently content with merely being the Asparagus Capital of the Northwest.