Food Challenges: An Excessively Oklahoman Means of Death

A few weeks ago, the boss sent me a text about a local food critic that was going to eat a ten-pound taco, or some other such heavyweight nonsense. It always seems as though Oklahoma food writers feel the burning need to turn themselves into a broad culinary joke—because I guess writing about a good (or bad) restaurant just isn’t deathly-extreme enough for their readership—and believe me, it’s something that I’m fully aware I was once guilty of too.

Oklahoma City’s food critics—be it daily paper, alt-weekly, blog or podcast—no longer try to find an eatery to admire and recommend; instead, they’re looking for the next dining freakshow to self-exploit, an upcoming sick gimmick to self-deprecate, or the fart-ready joke for the need to self-flagellate, completely open to a public ready to evenly cheer and jeer—and they’ve found them in this town’s perverse food challenges.

I made a resolution in 2019—and hopefully for the rest of my short life—to eat with a divine purpose and not a bloated goal. As I was lying in a hospital bed, a victim of my own poisonous way of eating and over-eating, I thought back to all of the food contests I won or, even worse, attempted and lost. And after every single one, there I’d be, over in the corner, vomiting on my shoes, all of that barely-nourishment inhaled-in for what? Approval? Applause? Accolades?

Alone.

Let me tell you something: when it’s three in the morning in the Intensive Care Unit and you’re paging the nurse to come and change your barely-there bedpan, you tell me where the cheering section is then, hoss. If you have a heart attack or, in my case, a stroke, those people egging you on in the comments won’t be there to high-five you for eating like a self-destructive glutton—they’ll be there instead, chastising you and saying they knew all along it would be your downfall. It happened to me. It still happens to me.

Point blank: no one will be on your side as they let you know how you royally fucked your life up.

These readers won’t do a food challenge—no one in their right mind would—but they know you will because they don’t see you as a food journalist anymore; no, you’ve taken a golden opportunity and turned yourself into an edible novelty act. As you’re there, shoveling the most inedible of food down your gullet, trying desperately to beat a clock—not even taking time to, at the very least, taste the mounds of mush—you’ve become nothing more than a mildly funny joke with a time-bomb ticker.

Save your comments—I know I’ve done a lot of damage to my heart and soul, hurting myself with three or four entrees at a time when all I needed to review was maybe an appetizer and a main dish. Who cares if I win a hot dog eating contest or an ice cream eating contest tomorrow? When did it have to become a fucking endurance run of a greasy Iditarod track for food writers to have to cover every food challenge that Oklahoma has to slay us with?

I only give this advice from the most painful of experiences, folks. As someone who’s been there, catheter on my dick and tube down my throat, having to learn to walk again, talk again, write again, eat again…all because it was “funny” to see a fat-guy fill his jowls with more chicken fried steak than anyone honestly could or should, I can tell you that I’ve seen the hungry side of Hell and, sorry fatty, but they don’t got a buffet there.

But I won’t tell you to change your life or even how to change your diet, but I can justifiably warn you: if you’re in this business and you decide to become a living fat-joke…you will get there. If it’s worth making a humiliating joke on Twitter about how much pizza you ate, taking a couple of embarrassing Instagram pics with a big plate of tacos in front of you and a nominally read article about your battle with a huge pile of hot dogs you wrestled to the ground like an angel today—if that’s worth the pain and suffering you’ll experience and, even sadder, what your loved ones will heartbreakingly go through tomorrow—then let your mom sign those “Do Not Resuscitate” forms now and just dig in, champ.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.