April 16, 2008

The Cheeseburgers from Hell

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I’ve made some bad decisions in my life. There are two types of bad decisions: decisions that you know are bad, and decisions that seem bad only in retrospect. I’m about to make a very bad decision. I’m going to attempt the Pinesburger Challenge. The Glenwood Pines’ world famous Pinesburger is delicious, but the Pinesburger Challenge is eating four of these gigantic hamburgers in one sitting. I’m a fool.
I wrote the first paragraph before I left for the restaurant. I thought this was going to be a column in my traditional tone, light, happy, self-centered and featuring slightly exaggerated accounts of disgusting food I eat from time to time. I’m sorry loyal readers, but this is a dark chapter in my life. I technically succeeded. I ate the four burgers in 50 minutes, 10 minutes under the limit. But I learned an important life lesson: you can win, and still lose.
The world record for the Pines Challenge is eight minutes and 30 seconds. I finished three burgers in nine minutes. Then, for 40 minutes, I slowly packed meat and bread into a gullet stuffed to the gills. I whimpered, I rolled around in my seat, I begged my friend Becky to let me lay on the floor. I considered dipping the bread in water as Jenny Hollenberg ’08 suggested. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t throw up. But I thought about doing both.
People often say, “Do you really eat like that all the time?!” and I always say yes, and I’m usually lying. In reality, I pride myself on the fact that I stop eating when I’m full. If it wasn’t for the lovely Becky Wolozin ’08, I wouldn’t have finished. But Becky coached me, cajoled me and tortured me until every last bite was crammed into my gaping maw of a mouth. We’ve been best friends since we lived across the hall from each other freshman year. She knows me really well. She knows I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt and some fame, so she helps me out when I get in way over my head.
And let me be clear: the Pines Challenge is not fun. It’s not for little guys and girls, it’s not for the weak willed. I finished those four gigantic burgers, yes, but a part of me is now dead, and will remain forever behind at the Glenwood Pines.
I had big plans for this column. I was going to write a glowing review of the Pines, boast about how great of an eater I am, take a picture of myself and put it next to the column in a frame and give it to the Pines. I was going to hang in the Pines, a favorite son of Ithaca, a local eating celebrity. Now all I want to do is make my deadline, go to sleep and never eat again.
Which is not a slight against the Pines. I love the Pines. I go there frequently. If you are a really big eater and love t-shirts and local fame, by all means attempt the improbable. (Not impossible: I did it. I am proud of myself … in a twisted way.) Just don’t think it’s going to be easy. Don’t expect it to be any fun. Expect to feel like crap, and expect to crap a lot.
I thought this contest was going to be easy. I ate three hamburgers for fun on Saturday. Competitive eating is in my blood! One time my dad tried to eat more than a bulimic woman he didn’t know was bulimic! (He still ate more than she did.) I’m not just genetically inclined to participate in eating contests, I’m socially habituated to. My best friend Jason Levee Florida ’08, who owns a flavor ice machine, once participated in a “gallon challenge” that I officiated. (He drank one gallon of milk in one hour. Gross.) But I’ve learned that eating is no joke. There’s nothing funny about the Pinesburger Challenge, unless …
… Unless you find the image of me, rubbing my stomach with my eyes closed, drinking diet Pepsi to make French bread mushy and burping full pieces of hamburger into my mouth, funny. Unless you think the waitress and chef saying “You don’t look so hot,” and asking if I need a bag to throw up in is funny. Unless you think laying down on the floor of the restaurant in triumph is funny. Unless you think moaning and comparing the experience to giving birth is funny. Unless you think changing into sweatpants with an elastic waistband is funny. Unless you think instantly getting tomato on the free shirt and staining it forever is funny. Then it’s hilarious.
Dear Pines: please hang this up on the wall anyway?