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Food Challenges: An exploration with 60 nuggets

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | OCTOBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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Why stuff your face with mountains of cholesterol, housed in mulched chicken parts and artificial flavor enhancers, pressed together by a machine, frozen, and then warmed at your local fast food joint? As I drove home with my giant, greasy bag of chicken nuggets — 60 of them, $1.49 per 10 — I started wondering that exact thought. The answer: glory, sort of … maybe.  

Food challenges are nothing new, and they seem to show up in societies as soon as excess food becomes available. A quick search online shows that even a state as sparsely populated as Iowa has dozens of different challenges available. Locally, there’s the Airliner’s “Airbus Burger” and the Pit’s “Quadruple Bypass,” both of which I someday hope to conquer. 

But my plate was full with a different endeavor: a mountain of nuggets, 20 minutes on the clock. The Nugget Challenge has been floating around the Internet for a while, and it seemed like a good, cheap first challenge.

To prep for my inevitable gastrointestinal demise, I did what any educated millennial would do: I Googled how to eat a lot of food. The Internet advised I make myself uncomfortably pregnant — about seven months along — with 64 ounces of water in my stomach. Once that was gone, I was ready. 

I sat at my kitchen table and analyzed what approximately 2,820 calories (or 102 grams of fat) looked like in shaped-chicken form, and I contemplated everything that had led up to this moment: seeing the commercial the day before during the Packer/Dolphin game. Once that reflective moment was over, my roommate quickly and anticlimactically counted down to “go,” and I was off. 

Two nuggets in seven seconds. I was unstoppable. I furiously dipped the molded meat into sauces, consuming each medallion like a hyperactive T-Rex. By the two-minute mark, I was through 16, and by three minutes, I was through 23. The plate grew emptier, more than 2 pounds of food rapidly disappearing into my gullet. 

By about nugget 30, my jaw hurt from chewing, and the skin on my face felt stretched and uncomfortable for the same reason. My pregnancy had returned, and by nugget 40, I had been reduced to a zombie, mindlessly munching like a dairy cow. My stomach caught on, and what started as a plea to stop turned into a physiological demand to quit, an intervention of sorts. 

By 46, everything was wrong with my world. My shirt was too tight. The train was out of steam, and I was left flat on my back, concussed from running into the Wall, 14 nuggets away from my goal, four minutes left to go. I was only a human, a weak, senseless loser who had found nothing but grief and sorrow in food. I was done. 

Humanity is capable of amazing feats, possibilities that are difficult to acknowledge until you’ve eaten well past the point of hating yourself. In this health-food-crazed world, anyone with the guts to stomach mountains of disgusting food deserves massive respect, even if the act does stand to justify how overfed we have become. I plan on returning, attempting local challenges, soon. It’s quite the rush, at least until your pants stop comfortably fitting. 


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