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Posted on March 28th, 2013, by

In the second article, Jason Fagone tried to find out the essence of regularly held eating contests. To do so, he even partook in competitive eating by himself given a chance to explore the insights of the aim of his research. Throughout the article we can contemplate the changing of author’s ironical mood to understanding the feelings of the competitors and the reasons of their participation.
The idea of eating contests is an old as a world. Ancient Greek and Norse myths, and even one of the first novels in the world history, Apuleius’s Golden Ass, prove that suggestion:
Last night at supper, I was challenged to an eating race by some people at my table and tried to swallow too large a mouthful of polenta cheese (Apuleius 43). Lavish Native Americans potlatch feasts, rice competitions in Japan, beefsteak contests in Britain, mango events in India all of these facts have historical evidence. The speed and the power of our jaws anytime and anywhere was the excellent catalyst to hold such arrangements.

Maybe because of the nature of subject, it’s difficult to find a boring of eating contests in the USA. But even if we go back to the beginning, to the forming of the independent state in the end of XVIII century, we can find a great number of mentions in media about settled jaw bets throughout the country. Contests attracted chowhounds from the most dignified institutions (the church, the military, academia) serving like a natural icebreaker for picnics, summer camps, and country fairs (Fagone 227). Its inimitable merit was in swallowing people’s differences, though there was a certain breed in contest that heightened it on the contrary. Maybe only in the USA are unabashedly married the public-gorging impulse to our most sacred rituals (the catching of the greased pig followed by the pie contest followed by the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth Of July (221).

Eating contests lost their swagger at the middle of the XX century by adults ceding the competition table to the kids and frat boys. The idea was given a second wind by the Shea brothers, George and Rich. They formed the Federation in 1997 with a goal to make a gluttonous empire and now we can state they had succeeded in it. Today eating contests sanctioned by the Federation are the web of national arrangements including hundreds of eaters-members, thousands of gawking and screaming spectators, lucrative sponsor contracts and live broadcasts on ESPN. Like in the other kinds of show business eating competitors can easily run into well known human foibles as slander, hubris and envy.

For a lot of eater-member the bottom line is What am I doing this for? Many of them try to understand for what purposes they put thousands of calories into their body and risk to get hurt. For most of them answers on this question was the possibility to complete, to travel, to make a little money, to obtain a relative publicity eventually. Eater-members, failed to become an American, do this for support, for a pat on the back, to make their family proud. Citing one of them, I don’t know it’s just neat to see people believe in you, for anything, really (229).

So, together with Fagone we can also wonder if there is something nourishing hidden within American trash culture? Or maybe should we agree with the Federation’s critics calling competitive eating a sport for our degraded times and connecting its rise to an unprecedented boom in the American economy fueled by rampant consumption? (224). Is it sign of societal decay in a row with a corporate greed and congressional gerrymandering or is it a real contest with deserved rewards and true athletic grace as Fagone insists in the end of his research?

Works Cited
Apuleius. The Golden Ass. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009. Print.
Fagone, Jason. Horsemen of the Esophagus. New York: Crown Publishes, 2006. Print.
Lyman Stanford M. The Seven Deadly Sins: Society and Evil. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978. Print.
Prose, Francine. Gluttony: The Seven Deadly Sins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Shaw, Teresa M. The Burden of the Flesh: Fasting and Sexuality in Early Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. Print.
Wolman, Benjamin. Psychological Aspects of Obesity: A Handbook. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982. Print

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