Monday, November 21, 2011

Boss Hog

I began my training with a pot pie.

Last night in Portsmouth, Ohio, a couple hours from home, plus a biscuit and whipped butter. I figured a 9:30 dinner would satisfy, enough of everything to pull me through a morning without Honey Bunches of Oats, a mid-morning without apples, a late morning without granola bars, and a midday without ham sandwich.

I denied myself those daily treats in preparation for The Boss Hog Challenge, a savory pile of meat offered by Kiser's Barbeque in Athens. In order to defeat this challenge, and win election into the Kiser's Hall of Fame, here is what I had to consume:

Two Half Pound Angus Burgers
3 pieces of bacon
4 oz of cheese
1/2 pound of chopped pork
Lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles - 4 oz of sauce--all on a couple buns.


One pound of french fries, all within 30 minutes.

For most of the day, I felt mystical. Though I used to intentionally and unintentionally fast--for semi-religious and semi-absentminded reasons, respectively--I'm now on a regimented schedule that has me Pavlovian for cereal at 7:16am. So, missing a meal felt weird. I was equal parts woozy and on edge, growing less and less patient with the remaining work I had to do, and more and more pumped for game-time.

Joe and I pushed it back to two, so that we could get really hungry. This felt foolish, a mockery of real hunger, and we decided we'd donate some money afterwards (we haven't yet, but we'll figure out a way to make up for our gluttony).

I felt the same way today that I remember feeling when I had a play to do at night, when I couldn't really focus on anything else the rest of the day. Boss Hog beckoned. I had to go on stage. It had reordered my day.

Please stand-by for a moment of postmodernism as I compare my eating challenge to the poems of Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska in a Smörgåsbord-mixing of low and high culture.

She has a poem called "Clochard" which, to me, describes the feeling of a singular day better than just about anything else. Here she's talking about a guy dozing in public, underneath a cathedral:

"He sleeps with the air of an inventor of dreams,
his thick beard swarming toward the sun

The grey chimeras (to wit, bulldogryphons,
hellephants, hippopotoads, croakadilloes, rhinocerberuses,
behemammoths, and demonopods,
that omnibestial Gothic allegro vivace)

and examine him with a curiosity
they never turn on me or you."

The word "unpetrify" is the one I've remembered for awhile and the one that got me out of my chair to scour my Polish poetry section (one book) tonight. She's saying that there are certain people, events, phenomena that reorder the world such that even the stone creatures on a cathedral seem to be altered, to take notice.

This is a ridiculously lofty way to talk about an eating challenge, but it's a good way to describe the misguided feeling of importance the eating challenge gave me, the feeling, as I said, of a singular day--to wit, the strip mall parking lot, the Used Chevy Dealership, the cineplexes and the duplexes and the stoplights seemed to unpetrify and take notice--that's Dave Wanczyk, they said, and he's about to do something stupid.

But before that stupid thing, still waiting in my apartment, I peed my pants a little while zipping up.

In a rush to get out the door to meet Joe, in a rush of excitement, a rush. So there I was, about to demand the attention of the whole inorganic world, and I had to change my jeans, trip over my shoes, misplace my keys--

But off I was at last. We sat--Joe, James, Zach, and I--for 20 minutes, uttering thinly-disguised boldnesses, as men will do. We were scared of the food-pile.

I felt pressure. I've wanted to do an eating challenge since Man Vs. Food came out a couple years ago, and maybe before that. I pride myself on my pigging abilities and on accepting the rules of arbitrary games (Megan and I are trying to get through November without turning the heat on, just cuz). So, I was pacing a little bit, maintaining my stone-face, the main defense I have against the creepy-crawly, bangy-boomy terrors of the world--and the world's voluminous pork.


We'd been in Portsmouth, Megan and I, because she was talking to Ohio teachers about good ways to educate minds, and I was talking to myself about taming my stomach. Could I meet my limits and say rudely to my limits, Excuse me, but I have a previous engagement with sauce?

Could I make this eating challenge not so much a measure of manhood as a measure of strength in the face of fry? Megan was on my side. She knew what this meant to me. She had tea at Bob Evans.


So flashing forward again to Kiser's. Finally, I saw the sled-ful of food I was set to decimate: 9-inch tall sandwich, acre of potato.

And this is where the story gets hard to tell, because I actually did it, I won, despite the disgusting size of the challenge (and I mean disgusting as it originated--from Latin dis (expressing reversal) + gustus 'taste.') That is, afterward, I was quite concerned that I was about to reverse everything that I'd just tasted, if you take my meaning--and please do. I'm tired and meat-heavy, and I need you to understand without me putting forward too much effort.

My secret to eating: I didn't chew. And, on the first bite, I purposefully got a lot of sauce in my mustache so that I'd feel properly primal. Add to that my aversion to leftover food, my Polish eat-more heritage, and my occasional ability to ignore future pain. . .

17 minutes and the food was all in my upper-gullet, where it still happily(?) resides, churning and churning in the widening gyre.

But I'd done it. I tried to take it in stride, act like I'd been there before. I'm not even impressed with myself, that's how boss I am. I'd made top ten of all time (no one's going to challenge the nine minute record).

I'd gotten a couple claps from some of Southern Ohio's Barbeque fans. I'd accepted kudos from my co-competitors, claimed my free t-shirt, had my picture taken for the wall--I'm sure I'll look my bloaty best.

And when I got home, it was raining, I'd lately urinated on myself, I'd lately eaten an anvil of animal, and I found that I was locked out of my house.

"Boss Hog's Revenge," Zach called it. Yes. And it's the revenge--worth it--that keeps on exacting.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Four entered, but only one left with the glory and the T-shirt. R-E-S-P-E-C-T David. To not just complete the challenge, but demolish it, mock it, undermine it with your effortless engorging.

As for me, dear readers, I shaved my tray down to a few handfuls of fries and an eighth of the meat pile. But I alas, I couldn't close. When my all or nothing moment came and went, I found myself staring into an iridescent pool of sauce, catching the tangy reflection of my mortality. And heartburn.

Still not hungry in the least.