Steve's Blog of the Bizarre

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Competitive Eating???

Ok, I was just channel-hopping, seeing if there's anything not completely rubbish on TV on a Saturday night, and I came across something so disgusting that I feel compelled to write about it in my blog. There was a programme on ITV2 called "Diets From Hell" (info below) which I just caught the last couple of minutes of. This showed a man who ate, I think, 10 hotdogs in 2 minutes - a "competitive eater". Such a feat is in itself fairly disgusting, but this is not what I found so apalling.

This man is a member of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, a group who wish to promote eating large quantities in a short space of time as a sport which they hope will one day be accepted at the Olympic Games - an international sporting event with teams from all over the world, including countries where starvation and famine are not uncommon. We have to hope that the International Olympic Committee would not think about this seriously for even a second.

It would be in some way comforting to be able to generalize and give the usual bemused British response of "Only in America...", but while the IFOCE is based in New York (so the American version, "Only in California", doesn't work either) it is truly international: "The IFOCE coordinates members and affiliates in the United States, Japan, England, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Thailand and the Ukraine" [source]. It's interesting that it's not just us in the 'evil West' who participate.

I was also intrigued to notice that this programme (N.B. I'm not complaining about the programme itself, just annoyed by the apparently thoughtless participants in this 'sport' - I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to remove the quotation marks) clashed with a documentary on children in Africa orphaned by Aids and two charity Celebrity Fame Academy things, all in aid of Comic Relief (Red Nose Day '05 is "Big Hair and Beyond"), on the BBC. However, also on BBC1 at this time was The National Lottery. It's fascinating the weird combinations of programmes you can find. Wow, conspiracy theory fodder. Or something.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I'll finish soon, though. (You don't have to read the bits below if you can't be bothered, but hey - you've read this far...)

I'm not suggesting that we should subsist on a diet of two grains of rice a week because lots of other people do or something. We should, I think, learn to appreciate what we have as we are lucky to have it. Stuffing as much pre-processed crap down your throat as possible is not what I mean. We should not take food for granted - we should savour it, take time over it, appreciate it: make the effort to create food that we actually would like to eat. This does not mean slaving away for hours over a hot stove, indeed it's possible to create delicious food in only a few minutes (try my recipe for simple scallops with lime and ginger). This is not hard work, but the simple act of creating your own meals means that you appreciate the food far more than if you were to buy a greasy meal from your nearest McDonalds.

I am also concerned that while the main food worry for most of the world is when they will get some, the UK's biggest food scare is an illegal dye getting into food which may, in large quantities, cause cancer (474 products are known to be affected by the Sudan I dye - Source: BBC News). This dye is to be found mainly in processed ready-meals (list of affected products - Source: Food Standards Agency). There seems to be a different scare every week - many people will still not eat beef after the BSE scare, and it's practically obligatory to warn against eating raw or lightly-cooked eggs at least a dozen years after the last major salmonella scare. Do calls to make your own food, preferably with organic ingredients only, sound so stupid?

Rant over. For now...


"Diets from Hell. Investigating all kinds of eating habits, including websites offering dangerous diet advice, a young man weighing 60 stone, and a world record-breaking competitive eater." Summary from Radio Times.

End of crazy (crazed?) mammoth post. Congratulations on getting this far!


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