When I got confirmation that I would compete in the bacon-eating contest at the fourth annual Bacon-Fest, the prayers and concern for my arteries came in waves. My editor told me to avoid going into cardiac arrest. My mother called and warned me about high cholesterol and blood pressure.
I began wondering if this were such a good idea. I attended last year’s Bacon-Fest, a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City, and witnessed the bacon-eating event in all its splendor.
I signed up for the 2012 contest, reasoning with myself: How bad could eating loads of bacon possibly be? Bacon strips are not hot dogs. It’s BACON. Soon enough I was at a table with about 20 other contestants on Saturday afternoon on the northwest corner of 31st and Main streets with about 2 pounds of bacon staring at each of us.
The contest rules instructed us to not touch our pans before it started, but curiosity got me. I picked up my pan to gauge its weight. Then I tilted it diagonally to find a burgeoning puddle of thick grease at the pan’s bottom.
I gulped. That grease looked like it could lube a car engine. I couldn’t reason with myself how one could eat bacon like french fries. But there was no turning back. It was too late. I was front and center with a good portion of the estimated 2,000 Bacon-Fest attendees awaiting the spectacle.
I caught eyes with the guy to my left.
“Are you ready for this?” I asked.
“No way,” he said, his voice loaded with anxiety.
“Me either,” I said.
We chuckled for a moment, relieved that we weren’t the only one with second thoughts. Within two minutes, the countdown began, five minutes of nonstop bacon-eating in our immediate futures.
I picked up my first full strip and shoveled it in my mouth. Then another. And another. Soon enough, my jaws swelled like Dizzy Gillespie’s. I chewed and chewed and chewed some more, but the bacon wouldn’t break down.
I couldn’t eat as fast as I’d hoped, so I started taking in the scene. I found my friends in the crowd, laughing heartily while snapping photos. I looked down the table at Saturday’s eventual winner, Randy Santel, the defending champion (in 2011, he finished 1.5 pounds in three minutes). This year’s bacon was chewier, harder to break down, said Santel, who did not finish his pan. As of Sunday night, my stomach still agreed with his sentiment.
When the five minutes were up, I had eaten about 20 strips total.
My fingers felt like an adequate substitute for WD-40. My mouth, despite drinking nearly a gallon of water, tasted of salt four hours later. I felt like a sloth.
My resolve: Too many bacon strips don’t make an epic meal. They’re an epic fail. Yes, I’ll say it, Bacon Nation, too much bacon is too much of a good thing.