Thursday, 3 December 2009

Standing on the Shoulders of (Big Fat) Giants

'Movement and life are the cause of continuous wastage of substance in every living body; and the human body, that complicated machine, would soon break down if Providence had not equipped it with a device for warning it when its strength is no longer equal to its needs. This warning device is appetite '.

This is how Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin defines appetite in his classic The Physiology of Taste (1825. This translation is the Penguin Classics edition and is available here). He then rattles off some heroic feats of large appetite; a man that drank 8 bottles of wine everyday at breakfast, a friend who could eat a whole turkey, and another chum he watched polish off a soup with boiled beef, a large salad, a capon and a whole leg of mutton a la royale. The most impressive, in my opinion, was his lunch guest who managed to eat 3 or 4 dozen oysters. I have a friend who has a peculiar gluttony of his own that only really stretches to oysters and I'd be curious to see if he could manage this, some how I think probably not (though if he wants to try I think it would make for a great post).

But not to let the past outshine the present there is plenty of evidence of truly staggering feats of modern-day eating. The world hot-dog eating record currently stands at 59 in ten minutes, jointly held by Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut (US) and Takeru 'Tsunami' Kobayashi (Japan). There's also the 72oz Big Texan challenge and a list of finishers to go with it. So have all the great mountains of gluttony been climbed, apparently not. I came across this post that indicates a new Everest of greed here. Its good to know that there are still challenges out there.

(P.S. I wouldn't actually advocate anyone actually try and replicate any of the above feats, I think if I did my stomach would fall out).

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