Everyone’s got the “food fallout story”. You know, the kind that starts with “I used to love oysters” and ends with a fought-off gag reflex and a hollow-eyed “…never again.” Whatever nightmare sandwiched in between is traumatic enough to turn our most cherished comfort foods completely nauseating. Total fallout.
That said, I used to love watermelon. I’ve actually written about it a few times – from the Watermelon Rule I lived by these past couple summers (“Thou shalt always have it in the fridge”) to my very tasty Watermelon Gazpacho. It’s delicious, it’s iconic, it’s fun. I mean, common – it’s watermelon.
Recently, for better or worse, my love for the stuff went very public. On behalf of my grad program’s volunteer committee, I threw a “No-holds barred” contest to see who could eat the most watermelon for charity. It was the Ithaca is Gorging on Watermelon Eating Contest, and it was held smack in the center of downtown Ithaca. Obviously, my reputation as an eater, as a volunteer, and as a man was on the line, and I entered to win.
The structure of the contest was simple. 12 competitors, 2 rounds. The first round was all about speed. The competitors – broken up into 3 heats – would each eat half a watermelon as fast as they could. Whoever ate the most at the end of 2 minutes advanced to the final round. Essentially a slug-match, round 2 gave the three remaining eaters 5 minutes to eat as much as they could force down. The winner was whoever could do the most damage.
Now let me just say that the competition didn’t start out well for me. A bit too quick out of the gate, I forgot to chew my first two giant bites of watermelon and nearly choked to death on stage. Luckily, I managed to perform what can only be described as a feat of extreme regurgitation. Life-saving as it was, you could imagine more flattering heroics.
I somehow recovered from my slow start and ended up winning the heat. Unfortunately, the final round wasn’t any gentler on my ego. I had been eating so fast (“It’s all about the chew speed!” I remember thinking, like a maniac) I didn’t realize how much I was actually consuming. Once I’d eaten an entire watermelon, it hit me like a train. Ugh. The next quarter melon I put down was one of the most grueling eating experiences of my life. And from the look of the faces in the crowd (horrified and frozen in grotesque anticipation) I was clearly not hiding it well. In the end, I finished last in the heat. In my post-game interview, I remember woozily telling the crowd how disgusted I was at even the sight of watermelon. I was completely through with it. Total fallout.
Sounds familiar right? Your fallout may have not been so public, but chances are it wasn’t as contrived either. Maybe you ate Buffalo wings until you couldn’t see straight, or you finished off the week-old chili against your better judgment. Why do we do these things? Why do our mouths say yes when everything else is screaming no?
These aren’t rhetorical questions, but I’m going to make you wait for the answers (trust me, it’s worth it). If it’s any closure, I will say that I’m happily on the path to recovery from my own watermelon fallout. I had my first piece just this morning – a modest one, I’ll say 1/16 of the whole thing. To be honest it was a little underwhelming, but I’m just glad I swallowed it this time.