Man about town: Man v Food v Obesity

Over here the punishment, sorry challenge, appears to have moved to fashionable restaurants

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After last week’s pet hate, a guilty pleasure: Man v Food.

For the uninitiated, Man v Food is the TV show which sees perma-hungry host Adam Richman travel across America taking on the various eating challenges. These are not the sort of eat-a-worm trials on offer on I’m a Celebrity, but the one person eating a meal under a time limit, that could feed family for a weekend.

He once ate a four and a half kilo, 55 cm pizza, on another show he consumed a five and a half kilo burger, and at one place he had to eat 180 oysters. It’s like the Marco Ferreri movie La Grande Bouffe (where a group of men resolved to eat themselves to death) relocated to the Boondocks.

But while Richman’s spots are often in the middle of Hicksville, over here the punishment, sorry challenge, appears to have moved to fashionable restaurants.

This week I was invited to The Diner restaurant in London, where they were launching the Red Hot Chili Dog Challenge – in honour of this weekend’s Superbowl. I had half-thought of entering, but when I realised the size of the test involved, I was quickly disavowed of that notion. It wasn’t the spiciness involved (the dogs are covered in chilli peppers and chilli sauce), but the size – four big sausages in buns, a total of 2,500 calories and 1.8kg. I had one – so spicy you had to wear protective gloves, and delicious – but I pity anyone who tries four.

The next night, over at hip table tennis nightspot Ping, customers were being offered the Man vs Pizza trial. This involves one of two exams: one to eat a huge (40cm by 75cm) pizza in under 10 minutes, the other is a normal-sized but chilli-slathered pizza, in under one minute. Do it and you earn a t-shirt and the respect of your peers (possibly).

The growth has seen the arrival of a new website devoted to the trend (TheFoodProject.co.uk), which lists ways and places you can do damage to your internal organs from Bolton to Bristol and from Bloomsbury to Berkshire, usually in up-market fast-food joints.

Some will point out the country’s problems with obesity, and others the issues of gorging while others go hungry, but with a slowly-rising number of these eye-opening and stomach-turning challenges seem here to stay.

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