Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The 'Wurst' Display Of All

Our little corner of the world became a bit more famous recently, during Sheboygan's annual Brat Days, which brought all the biggest names from the International Federation of Competitive Eating (it's true!) to Kiwanis Park to see who could stuff the most bratwurst in their faces in 10 minutes.

This display of gluttony attracted nearly 4,000 spectators, who stood on a hill and watched these superhuman eaters gorge themselves on what's probably a summer staple on most grills in our area, but is virtually an unknown menu item only a couple states away.

While a simple eating contest alone might not have drawn a whole lot of attention, the initials E, S, P, and N, and the best eater ever to stand in line at a buffet gave this year's event a little extra street cred. Yes, ESPN's cameras and reporters were on hand for the event, to cover Takeru Kobayashi, the IFOCE's top-ranked eater. Those two names brought the likes of eight more of the world's top 12 eaters to have a little lunch on the Lakeshore.

Yahh, hey!! Sheboygan's gonna be famous, en so??

While I should never admit here that I have so little couth that you'd find me smack dab in the middle of the cheering crowd at such a disgusting display of piggishness, I will say that the photos in this entry come from my very own camera, and not from the IFOCE's Web site. Hey...it was ESPN! And bratwurst. I wasn't gonna pass it up for anything.

The world's top three eaters appear to be a study in concentration as they start the competition. Joey Chestnut (from left) is ranked second, and Sonya Thomas is third. Takeru Kobayashi is the world's most famous eater, and the record holder at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest held every Fourth of July in New York. Earlier this year he ate 53 3/4 hot dogs (AND buns) in 12 minutes to hold off Chestnut, who ate 52.

The brat-eating contest was sans buns, and last year's record was 35, set by Thomas. With Kobayashi in the mix this year, though, no one really knew where the record would end up. My guess was somewhere in the 40-41-42 range, but as you can see below, he rather obliterated that modest total. He wolfed down 58 brats in 10 minutes, leaving Chestnut in a trail of brat grease in second place with 45.

When Kobayashi signed up to participate in this event a couple months ago, he'd never heard of a bratwurst before, but in his post-gorge interview, he said through his interpreter that he liked them and wanted to take some home with him. And that he also plans to come back next year to try for 60 or more.

I won't deny that I had a great time seeing the spectacle of it all, and while I don't understand how they can shove all that food in and where it all goes, I can't say that it turned me off of food for very long.

I found my way over to the food tent not too much later and got myself a double brat.

If you'd like to see some of the IFOCE's other records, check out this page. But be sure to do it on an empty stomach, because the baked beans and the hard-boiled eggs and the oysters and the cheesecake might cause a slight rumble.

"One of the most wonderful things about life
is that we must regularly stop what we are doing
and devote our attention to eating."

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