The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Vicarious Gluttony: Gorging Myself on Man v. Food

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageI love food.  Correction.  I LOVE food.  Absolutely LOVE to eat.  There's probably a parallel universe where a version of me that isn't so concerned with my health or body image over-eats consistently and weighs more than 400 pounds.  He'll probably contract type II diabetes and die of a heart attack before he's 50.  Alternate realities aside, I'm hoping to live to the ripe old age of say, 120 (come on, it's going to be the FUTURE; I'm sure we'll figure it out), so I watch what I eat.  I don't diet or count calories or forgo carbs, but I do avoid fast food as much as possible, have drastically curtailed my soda consumption, and make an effort to live a healthy lifestyle.  But I still LOVE food.  What's a guy to do?  Fortunately The Travel Channel debuted a new show last year that does what television does best: allow viewers to vicariously live through the lives (real or imagined) of the people in the magical box with the moving pictures.  That show is Man v. Food.

MvF is a glorious celebration of gluttony as host and star Adam Richman travels around the country exploring and enjoying the "big food" of various cities.  In each episode he takes on an eating challenge of a particular establishment, and additionally samples other famous, unique eateries of the city he's in.  In the premiere Adam ventured to Amarillo, TX to take on the 72-ounce Big Texan challenge at The Big Texan Steak Ranch.  Specifically, he had to eat a 4.5 pound steak, a bread roll with butter, baked potato, ranch beans, shrimp cocktail, and a salad all in under one hour (he did it in 29 minutes).  Then there was the 7 1/2 pound burger called "The Sasquatch" in Memphis, TN (he failed), the 30-inch, 11-pound Carnivore Challenge Pizza in Atlanta, GA (also failed even though he was allowed a partner), the 12-pound Eagle's Challenge Burger in Boston, MA (also failed), and his (successful) attempt at joining the "15 Dozen Club" (that's 15 dozen raw oysters) in New Orleans, LA, just to name a few.


I’ll admit it, this guy is kind of my hero.

Part of the appeal of this show (for me at least) is that Adam is presented as sort of an everyman.  In the opening credits of every episode he points out that he's not a competitive eater, which is evidenced by his winning percentage of only 65% (11 out of 17 challenges so far).  And the show isn't just about quantity, it's also (and I'd argue more so) concerned about quality.  Adam isn't a professionally trained food critic, but he knows enough about good food and quality ingredients that taste is celebrated far more than portion sizes (though often he finds the best of both worlds).  I can easily picture myself in Adam's place, and I often find myself saying "next time I'm in [insert name of city Adam is in], I NEED to go to [insert name of restaurant Adam is in] and try that."  The fact that I have no plans to go to whatever city he happens to be in doesn't stop me from saying it.  Though it does keep the pounds off.  So I've got that going for me.

Another thing I find endlessly enjoyable about MvF is that Adam's challenges aren't always about eating an insanely large amount of food.  4 of the 17 challenges were all about eating insanely hot and spicy foods such as the "Atomic Hot Wings" challenge, the Spicy P'haal (the so-called "hottest curry in the world") challenge, and as seen below the "Great Balls of Fire" challenge:

Why do I enjoy these challenges so much?  I don't know.  Maybe it's a bit of Schadenfreude.  Maybe (and I like to think mostly) it's about respect.  Sounds crazy, right?  But there's been more times than I can count where a couple of friends and I have considered ordering the hottest Hot Wings on the menu.  Invariably we back down from the challenge and opt for a more palatable option.  So yes, I can say I have more than a modicum of respect for Adam who not only has the guts (pun very much intended) to attempt to eat these things, but has it videotaped and broadcast nationwide only to be on the receiving end of anonymous, asinine criticism such as from YouTube user trischc who quipped, "this guy acts like such a sissy….lol. Dont get me wrong, I love watching Man vs. Food but that right there was some sad shyt! But funny sad shyt".  Would you be willing to put up with all of that?  I have to be honest, I'm not so sure I would.  BTW – you're a fucking douche nozzle, trischc.  Fuck. You.

Until science discovers how to allow me to upload my consciousness to that parallel universe version of myself that can eat whatever he wants, I guess I'll have to settle for more vicarious gluttony via MvF.  Season 2 will begin airing in August of 2009.  My stomach is already growling for a second helping.