I must admit that I was rather late to the Man Vs Food party. Three series had been and gone before I became absorbed by Adam Richman’s never-ending trawl around America’s finest food havens, but once I watched one episode, I couldn’t stop. I was fascinated, not only by the randomness of some of the dishes he consumed but also the amazing challenges he tried to overcome week after week.
Over the years, the only food-related challenges I’ve taken part in have been low-key unofficial ones, such as seeing who could put Pizza Hut out of business by eating as much pizza as possible in their lunchtime all-you-can-eat buffet deal. I did 20 slices in 45 mins and was pretty sure I had cheese poisoning afterwards. I also like a good meatfest at Bem Brasil where you are brought a selection of barbecued meats on skewers until you place your red card on the table, thus admitting defeat.
I’m not very good with attempting short challenges such as trying to nail as many Jaffa Cakes or Ferrero Roches in a minute as is humanly possible, but I know I can eat relatively quickly and that I can eat a lot so when one challenge rocked up, I couldn’t possibly say no.
The mammoth task in question was at Southern Eleven in Manchester. Their creation, the Meateasy, is one messy monster sandwich featured a kilo of meat including three quarter pounders topped with melted cheese, Texas BBQ sausages, pulled pork, more pork, plus lettuce, onions, tomatoes and gherkins, all encased in a foot-long ciabatta loaf. And of course that wouldn’t be enough of a challenge by itself, so alongside it was a bowl of parmesan-topped skinny (!) fries and a small saucepan of coleslaw.
The challenge is simple: take this bad boy down to Chinatown inside 45 minutes and it’s free, plus you receive a winner’s certificate. Fail, and it costs £25.99 and your dignity. Don’t forget too, there’s no leaving the table throughout the task.
My strategy had to begin early; should I eat normally during the day or starve myself ahead of the gargantuan sanger? I chose to eat normally but didn’t snack, instead I made sure I nailed plenty of water throughout the day. When it came to crunch time, I chose a Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin as a nerve-calmer, rather than get gacked up on a pint, and then a glass of Pinot Grigio for the challenge itself.
When the four boards were brought out for my three friends and I, it looked terrifying but do-able. Once the stopwatch had been started I went straight for the meat, knowing that the sheer amount of protein could cause me issues if I didn’t meet the meat head-on right there and then. I finished the carnivorous cavalcade in around nine minutes, moving swiftly onto the fries.
It was here that the challenge really began. I knew I had to still take down the ciabatta. I knew as well I had to annihilate the tomato, something which I hate, and never, ever eat, let alone in a challenge situation. Suddenly, the texture of the gherkins wasn’t making me feel too good. As hard as I tried to hide the tomato in a bready coleslaw sandwich, it kept popping out to tease me with its gooey nonsense.
Halfway through I pretty much only had coleslaw, lettuce and bread remaining but each mouthful became such a chore. I’m no Olympic athlete but I believe this may be called “The Wall”. The lettuce eventually went. The top of the ciabatta was next to bite the dust, followed by about half the coleslaw as I desperately attempted to mix up the dry foods with the more moist.
There were about ten minutes left when all I had in front of me was three quarters of the bottom half of the loaf and half a third of a pan of coleslaw. Combining the two, I knew I had to go for it. But I couldn’t. Lifting the makeshift sandwich to my mouth I couldn’t physically fit it in. One last bite eventually went down, but I knew that I was done. I kept on trying until the final whistle but on this occasion, food won.
Could I have done anything differently? I don’t think so. The meat simply HAD to go, and go quickly. The fries were good, but the salad selection was a tad slippery. At the end of the day though, it was just the creaminess of the coleslaw after all of that other stodge that I simply could not take. A valiant effort but ultimately not good enough.
Is any of this big or clever? Probably not. I certainly don’t feel too clever today. But I am quite competitive. I definitely don’t like losing. So, despite the pain and agony of such a narrow defeat, will I be game again for another silly challenge like this? Let’s just say I don’t think I’m retiring from the sport just yet.