Margaret Hair: Eat-off a sign of summer

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Margaret Hair

Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

For the upcoming July issue of At Home magazine, I am writing an article about ice cream.

And because I am unable to do anything on a relaxed deadline, I have put that article off until the last minute. This is detrimental to a healthy existence, considering the eight varieties of ice cream and other frozen desserts that have to be downed - for research purposes - in three days. Seeing as how, like everyone else my age in Steamboat, I have no money, and seeing as how I won't be reimbursed for any of this stuff until later, my diet now consists almost entirely of ice cream.

The last time I did this, with a feature on various flavors and thicknesses of coffee, it was possible. Uncomfortable, jittery and awful, but possible.

With ice cream, it's not. And it's not going well.

I know, they're really working us hard here at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "Oh, it's terrible. Look at my miserable ice-cream-eating existence. Maybe tomorrow they'll make me play with puppies all day. It will be the worst thing that's ever happened." But ice cream isn't exactly something you can eat a lot of without messing yourself up pretty bad.

I thought this assignment was daunting, right up until the guys at Beau Jo's pizza outlined to me the rules for their inaugural mud season pizza-eating competition. Now, competitive eating has never made a huge amount (or even a little) sense to me, particularly the high stakes brand that pits men with pliable bellies against one another in a bout that stands very little chance of ending well for anyone.

The exception to that hesitance for watching someone ingest unnecessary quantities of cherry pie, or Jell-o, or hot dogs, or whatever else, is the small town eat-off. Because these events are inevitably more about pageantry and bragging rights than they are about serious training regimens or hefty cash purses, they manage to transcend any initial disgust they might otherwise inspire.

Now that summer is (maybe, finally) on its way, that kind of event will be cropping up more often, whether it's on the level of a promotional stunt - which competitive eating almost always is - or community contest.

It's certainly a lot more impressive than tasting eight different kinds of ice cream for a magazine article that's mostly about the nutritional content of various sorts of frozen dairy.

For another look at consuming enough food to push well past full and into ill, see page 8 of this issue for a preview of Beau Jo's Inaugural Mountain Madness pizza eating contest. They're giving about a dozen contestants 10 minutes to get through as much of a large thick-crust pie as they can. The results probably will not be pretty.

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