Major League Eating. If you’re like me, you knew about competitive eating but had no clue there was an actual sports league, let alone a sports league with actual rankings. In my eyes, legitimate standings and rankings ups the ante to major league cool.
My first live exposure to all of this just happened yesterday in beautiful Corinth, MS. I went for the Slugburger Festival and World Slugburger Eating Championship not knowing quite what to expect. What I found was both awe-inspiring and coronary-concerning. (If you are a cardiologist, please continue reading at your own peril.)
What is a Slugburger?
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Um. Slug…burger? Eating? Barf?” Yup. Yup. Nope (hopefully). A wonderfully local cuisine, Corinth-area chefs created slugburgers in the early 1900s as a way to make meat go farther and be more affordable to people. Essentially, cooks added extenders like soybean flour or cornmeal to ground beef, flattened the partially all beef patty, and fried the burger to a nice and crispy golden color. Add condiments and a bun, and presto–slugburger. And the “slug” portion of the name? A nickel in those days was known as a slug which was the cheap price tag to dine on such a delicacy. Simple enough, and even today you can find a slugburger for a mere $1.25 as I did in my only restaurant stop in town.
World Slugburger Eating Championship
Like every noble food type, competitive eating has taken hold to bring slugburgers the gluttonous fame they deserve. In its fifth year, the World Slugburger Eating Championship already draws some of the biggest names in the sport. In the past, the governing body, Major League Eating (MLE), has been represented by current number 2 ranked and resultant world slugburger eating record holder Matt “Megatoad” Stonie at this contest. (Yes, MLE has rankings. Yes, his nickname is Megatoad. Yes, that’s awesome.) This year’s rendition included number 1 ranked Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and number 6 ranked Matthew Esper to my utter delight. In total, 11 competitors, 4 ranked in the top 25, marched on stage to compete. Just 10-minutes of high-speed all-you-can-eat separated them all from a top prize purse of $1,500.
I won’t ruin the conclusion; watch for yourself in my newest vlog which includes the full competition, pre-competition lineup announcements, and the final results. The entire show lasted approximately 30 minutes, but it’s an eye-opening view into this fascinating competitive eating world. One that makes me crave some chili cheese fries. Or pizza. Or some other stuff-your-face food. Or maybe I’m just craving them all, inspired by a better, more professional way of feeding myself.
Milk, Burgers, & Cultural Growth
Yet I’ve also personally seen the results of this higher path of eating. I once watched a friend try to drink copious amounts of milk as a personal challenge. He certainly couldn’t match Takeru Kobayashi’s 1 gallon in 20 seconds, but he held his own across 10 increasingly brutal minutes before releasing a hearty portion back to the world. Bolstered by his eating prowess (or lack thereof), I had an inkling of a thought that I could down a few slugburgers in this contest if I ever entered. I tested that theory at my only restaurant stop in Corinth where I dined on a slugcheeseburger (or cheese slugburger?) and fries. We will cover that experience in a future post; but I can say that based on that lone burger-n-fries meal, I’m fairly certain I would have a strong chance in this contest…of placing last by eating a maximum of 2 slugburgers.
My weak competitive eating nature aside, there’s something spectacularly inviting about watching others push through pain for Man Vs. Food-esque eating glory. It captures a piece of the heart of America and emboldens our stomachs to make room for just one more buffalo wing. And you can’t get more American than a regional burger specialty created by the innovative, can-do spirit of Northeast Mississippi turn-of-the-century homesteaders. This 21st century contest cultural upgrade undoubtedly broadened and deepened the rich heritage of Corinth to the delights of travelers’ taste buds from all over the map.
Passing through Corinth soon? Pick me up a trio of slugburgers, will ya? I’m going to start stretching those stomach muscles to reach 3. Just don’t tell my cardiologist.