Thursday, August 13, 2015

"I Once Ate Ten Hotdogs"

Hardly “up there” with Cool Hand Luke’s fabled fifty eggs, but it’s the best in the category of literal “conspicuous consumption” that I can offer.  Concerning Luke’s accomplishment, I can’t even eat one egg.  I don’t like eggs.  Because of the texture, the taste, and the personally unappetizing word “albumen.” 

But that’s me.

At camp… wait.  First this.

A lot of people are categorized as “picky eaters.”  We have a current practitioner in our own family.  There are days when grandson Milo survives almost entirely on Graham crackers.  I can easily identify with the lad.  At camp, I ate virtually nothing whatsoever.  A slice of Wonder Bread folded in half, and I ate out the middle. 

I was not crazy about the crusts.

There is a “School of Thought” believing that picky eating is about personal power, the rationale being:  You cannot control anything else in your life so you demand unilateral control over what you will tolerate going into your mouth.  My response to this theory:  There are a lot of serious problems in this world.  Why devote an entire “School of Thought” to picky eating? 

The foods I refused to eat at camp?  I had a legitimate reason for avoiding all of them.

(You know, it could be a matter of hypersensitive taste buds.  I’m just throwing that out there.  Not suggesting an alternative “School of Thought.”  I mean, come on.  Do we not have enough stuff to worry about?  International terrorism.  World hunger.  A realm, by the way, which has little tolerance for picky eaters.  "Are you kidding me?"  Or overeaters, for that matter.  “Hey!”)

The milk at camp was always sour.  I was told that was caused by some chemical interaction between thunderstorms and the dairy cows.  That may not be scientifically correct – I don’t know.  I just knew what my reliable “shnozzola” told me – that the milk had gone bad.  Although that did not seem to deter anyone else in camp from drinking it.

The poached eggs – ignoring their previously mentioned deficiencies – were runny.  The oatmeal was lumpy.  The chicken was greasy.  The Freshie (Canadian Kool-Aid) was too sweet.  The tinned salmon had “bones.”  The Welsh Rarebit? – What the heck is Welsh Rarebit?  And the liver…


I have never seen food so viscerally reminiscent of what it actually is.  It’s like they extracted a steaming liver and dropped it unceremoniously onto my plate.  Bypassing seriously ill cattle that may have desperately require transplants.  

I have never seen shiny meat before.  Have you?

There was no chance that I would ever be eating that.

The entire week, there was but one reliable repast.  Saturday nights, we had hotdogs and chips.  (By which I mean French fries, not a bag of potato chips, which, by the way, I would have greatly preferred to the mushy concoction that was prepared hours beforehand, baked interminably in the oven until dinnertime, and then delivered to our tables as a mound of glutinous, carbohydratical nonsense.

The hotdogs, on the other hand, over-boiled to remove any semblance of residual flavor…

Were wonderful.

Though it is possible I was just hungry.

Craving sustenance – and attention beyond being the kid who could not swim, catch a ball and ate nothing whatsoever – I proclaimed loudly that night that I would polish off ten hotdogs.

(There was subsequently a heated debate as to whether I had also promised to eat the ten accompanying hotdog buns – which, by the way, were unpalatably soggy.  I believe, as with promise of States’ Rights, I had been deliberately ambiguous concerning the specifics.  As it turned out, it became “hotdogs only” after five. 

As the consumption count mounted, the word of my daunting endeavor spread further afield in the Mess Hall.  My audacious enterprise had gained me more than intra-cabin notoriety.  I was now a multi-table “Person of Consequence.”

Campers began gathering around me – even the ones who hated me, though they could have been waiting for me to choke – as I wolfed down “Hotdog Number Eight.”  Two unadorned hotdogs – I am no lover of condiments – now awaited my attention.  I had little doubt I could accomplish the assignment.  It helped greatly that I had not eaten for seven days. 

Save for the life-saving exception of the Wonder Bread middles.

With the experienced coolness of a professional hotdog eating contest participant, I cut my ninth victim in half, forked “Mr. 9-A” of it into my mouth, chewed with an air of casual disinterest, and then swallowed.  “Mr. 9-B” soon followed.  I dispatched the final tenth hotdog in a similar fashion…

And then I was finished.

There was raucous cheering and multiple congratulatory pats on the back.  It seemed like everyone was aware of my accomplishment.   I was celebratorially “The Man.”

That night, I departed the Mess Hall with a swagger and a smile.  I was unequivocally
“Standing Tall.”

Standing tall being no small accomplishment,

When you’re experiencing interminable stomach cramps.

At that moment, I recall myself thinking,

Attention is good.

But there has got to be an easier way of attracting it.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

My first acquaintance with that sort of cafeteria cooking was at Cornell as a summer session high school student. I lost two pounds a week all summer, and subsisted on milk and (awful) bread.

Hypersensitive taste buds is a real thing: look up supertaster, distinguished by the density of the taste buds on the tongue. Supertasters are particularly sensitive to bitter flavors, and the test for it is a strip of paper impregnated with a chemical. It's quite hilarious to get a bunch of these and pass them around a family gathering: the ones who can taste it *really* hate it, and the others can't understand what on earth they're tasting in these ordinary pieces of paper.

Is your grandson Milo by any chance named after Milo in THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH? If he isn't, could he be, retroactively? And if you haven't read the book, run, do not walk to look it up and read it to him. Written by Norton Juster.


Oscar said...

You ARE the big dog now!