I fought the meat and the meat won

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Here it was, my destiny right in front of me. My adversary, my enemy. Good versus evil. Hatfield to my McCoy. Bluto to my Popeye.

Actually, it was none of those things. It was me versus my lunch, all 72 red and heart-clogging ounces of it. It was my gut against the clock. It was me attacking -- and nearly defeating -- the biggest steak I have ever seen in my life.

How ridiculous is that?

But here I sat, fork in hand, with the consternating task of becoming the first person at Sidetracks Steak and Rib House in Jackson to eat the 72-ounce porterhouse steak, part of their new, ongoing promotion that promises if you eat the equivalent of 22 quarter pounders and two side orders in a scant 60 minutes, then you get the $50 meal free.

Intimidating, isn't it? Not to mention that I had just watched the first person who tried fail. But I had studied the situation. After the meat, bone and fat were removed, it looked doable. I became optimistic.

My friends and co-workers had faith in me too.

"Bring back the leftovers," said a certain newspaper editor.

"I believe that you believe you can do it," said Laura.

"With all that protein, you probably won't have to wear a coat the rest of the winter," said my hopeful friend, Carl.

My wife also had shown support the night before. "What about me? I don't want to be the wife of the first man in Cape County to eat roughly the same amount as his head."

So you can see why I was confident.

But then they brought it out and sat it in front of me. My stomach sank and my confidence fizzled. It was a literal mound of meat. If there wasn't a bone jutting out of it, I would have sworn it was a 4-1/2-inch thick cake of some bizarre and unappetizing flavor.

What was I thinking? Sensing my horror, manager Dave Dickmann, who had invited me, gave me this advice: "I hope you ate a big dinner last night and a big breakfast this morning to stretch out your stomach."

Whoops. Actually, I chose the starve-yourself approach, thinking that an empty stomach would hold more food. Oh well. Too late now.

Dave sat the one-hour timer in front of me and told me I could begin. My first bites were delicious ones. The meat was very tender. I ate quickly, but in small bites and without steak sauce. I thought I could eat so fast that my stomach wouldn't know how much I had ingested.

At first, things went well. While I had read that others who tried this get cramped hands and tired jaws, that didn't happen. I ate about two-thirds of the meat with no trouble.

Those watching began talking about how I was going to do it, walking by and wishing me luck. It was like I was headed off to war. I began to fantasize about victory and the $106 I was going to win from a local radio station as the first person to do it.

They would call me the Meat Master. I would be famous. In fact, I was already on my way after announcer Cousin Carl interviewed me for the radio. I was wonderful.

"So, do you think you can do it?" he said.

"Yes," I replied.

But my mastery of meat was not to be. After about 40 minutes of constant eating, I began to sweat, and I became light-headed. My stomach began to do slow, lazy rolls. I began to feel that there was so much steak inside me that I may now be related to it. I began to eat slower and slower. With five minutes left, I threw in the towel, a failure.

I half-heartedly bragged that I had eaten all but 4 ounces. My friends said that it was a great attempt.

But I'm not so easily deterred. I've decided this is not my last battle with Mr. 72-ouncer. I'm going back into training. I'll be back. And next time I'll win. I don't care how many double bypass surgeries it gets me.

Scott Moyers is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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