The “Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating cContest” is major league eating and naturally takes place on the 4th of July. What better way to uphold the Constitution of our country than to pig out.

For eleven out of the last 12 years Joey “Jaws” Chestnut (his real name) has won. This year he downed 74 wieners and buns in 10 minutes and thereby earned the coveted “Mustard Belt.”

“I found a vicious rhythm,” said Chestnut as some saliva and stray bits of wiener dripped from his chin. “There was no way I was going to let Cincotti win,” a rival who could only get 64 dogs and buns to stay down.

One of the rules is that the dogs must stay down—no puking allowed, for at least two minutes after the 10 minute contest. One year a contestant ate 75 dogs and their buns but gave them all up on the 11th minute. It created a mess and led to a new rule: all dog-eating contestants must leave the eating area immediately and proceed to the back of the tent and wait at least two minutes. If they vomit before the two minutes are up, the contents are held in large plastic bags and weighed. Honorable mention goes to the man who barfs up the heaviest sack of contents.

This rule is under review because some contestants have been suspected of eating broccoli beforehand, letting it settle and later mix with the dogs. It would then explode as a formidable green and brown missile into the plastic bag and of course add to its weight.

Women have contests as well and this year Miki Sudo (her real name) consumed 37 franks and buns to win handily, although she fell short of the 41 she consumed last year. Her closest competitor, Juci Supo (not her real name), could manage only 25 before she turned bright green and spewed the contents of her enormous stomach into the watchful eyes of a judge. The judge was not pleased.

Each contestant—and there are usually at least 10—has two judges watching. One stands slightly above the eater and to the left; the other well below the eater and to the right. Neither is in a direct line in case the guzzler belches and lets fly with gastronomical gusto.

This year there was controversy over the judges not really watching what was going on, being prone to duck and move whenever a contestant was having trouble stuffing the dog and bun in his mouth.

Dogs and buns are stacked on a plate and the judges must carefully watch that the contestant actually takes his ingredients from his own plate and doesn’t shove one of his over on to a competitor’s. But this year the 91 degree heat kept the judges sweating and there are claims that the sweat in their eyes kept them from concentrating on the plates, dogs and buns.

The contest is shown on national TV and dozens of viewers called in to claim that the jurists who were supposed to be measuring Chetnut’s and Cincotti’s intake were not counting accurately. Of course both men were adamant that they had not cheated and the New York District Attorney has promised a thorough review of the case. It could end up in the Supreme Court of the United States.

America is the land of the free and the home of ridiculous contests. For example, each year in New Orleans there is a “Oyster Eating World Championship.” In 2011 Pat Bertoletti (his real name) ate 468 oysters in 8 minutes and set a New Orleans record.

In June there is also a ”Pudding Eating Contest,” with rounds for children and adults, with winners getting additional free chocolate at the Winter Park Festival. Banana pudding has been the winner for the last three years and the Hershey’s chocolate company is not pleased.

There is also “The Mattituck Lions Club World Strawberry Eating Championship” and this year Carmen Cincotti—who came in second in hot dogs—won by eating a 22 pound shortcake in 8 minutes.

Joey Chestnut doesn’t just eat dogs. This year he also won “The Baked Bear World Ice-cream Sandwich eating Championship” by eating 25.5 sandwiches in 6 minutes, earning the pig’s share of the $4,000 total purse.

In Ottumwa, Iowa, the “World Championship Canteen Sandwich Eating Contest” took place and Gideon Oji won it by consuming 18.5 sandwiches in 10 minutes. The sandwich features “loose meat,” perhaps moose—although the exact nature of the beast is never revealed.

Another great American eating event is the “Salvation Army National Donut Day World Donut Eating Championship,” which was won by Matt Stonie, who got 48 of them down in 8 minutes. A historical note: the Salvation Army website claims that the donut was their “World War One battlefield improvisation” and helmets were used as deep fryers, with spent shells as the dough cutters. These are plain donuts—nothing jelly filled, glazed or covered with chocolate.

I should mention Joey Chestnut one more time. This year he won the “San Pedro Fish Market World Famous Shrimp Eating Championship” by sliding down 7 pounds of them in 8 minutes and the “World Hostess Donettes Eating Championship” by downing 257 of them in 6 minutes. A “donette” is a mini-donut. Carmon Cincotti—no surprise—came in second by eating 244 of those little guys.

Now it that doesn’t make you want to register for one of America’s great food eating contests, I don’t know what will. Cabbage heads? Horse flies? Zucchini?

July 4th, 2018