Stuff Your Face

Via The Washington Post

Joey Chestnut once again won the annual 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest, downing 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Over the years, the performance of the professional eaters participating in the annual Hot Dog eating event have shown a remarkable level of improvement (if you want to call it that), starting when Takeru Kobayashi burst on the scene in 2001.

On July 4, 2001, Takeru Kobayashi, a newcomer at the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, systematically swallowed 50 hot dogs and soggy buns in 12 minutes, doubling the contest’s previous record.

Six years later, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut dethroned Kobayashi at the Coney Island showdown and in 2021, he set an all-time record of 76 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes.

In the 20 years before Kobayashi’s debut, the average champion had to eat about 16 hot dogs and buns to win the contest’s “Mustard Belt” prize. Now, they have to eat more than that just to qualify — typically 20 dogs in 10 minutes — and at least triple that to have any hope of winning.

The Washington Post

The article goes on to talk about what is the ‘perfect body type’ for extreme competitive eating and how much more a body could take to surpass Chestnut’s record of 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes (spoiler: Chestnut thinks someone could push 90 hot dogs!).

I’ll stick to what I had yesterday at a neighbor’s 4th of July celebration: a hamburger and a chicken slider, a few beers, and some great desserts.

The Half Life of A Twinkie

All the stories and legends about the half-life of Twinkies are a lie. The perception has always been that when global warming renders the world into a barren wasteland, or when a massive asteroid hits the earth like in the movie Armageddon, the one food product that would survive would be the Twinkie. With the level of chemicals and artificial sweeteners and flavors contained within the iconic snack, why would you think otherwise? Back in 2012, the Twinkies brand was on life support as Hostess was going bankrupt and people were starting to hoard the snack for posterity and to ensure their supply did not run out, as one does. And that is what Colin Purrington did, unaware that a real life pandemic would take hold of the world and drive him to search his basement eight years later for that old box of Twinkies. They’re Twinkies. They will last forever.

Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. He removed a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped it — it looked fine — and took a bite. Then he retched.

“It tasted like old sock,” Purrington says. “Not that I’ve ever eaten old sock.”

That’s when he examined the other Twinkies. Two looked weird. One had a dark-colored blemish the size of a quarter. The other Twinkie was completely transformed — it was gray, shrunken and wrinkly, like a dried morel mushroom.

Enter some scientists from West Virginia University who did a full on scientific study of the 8 year old Twinkies and the fascinating dichotomy between some of the specimens, who on the outside looked as fresh as if you would have bought them today at your local 7-11, and others who had been completely ravaged by a fungus that had transformed the Twinkie into a shriveled mess, while sucking the air out of the packaging.

They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out.

“You end up with a vacuum,” Lovett says. “And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus’s ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now.”

Lovett had expected a horrific smell to hit them when they opened the snack cakes. “I though the smell would possibly kill one of us, but because of the mummification there really was no smell at all,” he says, “which was really a pleasant surprise.”

Moral of the story. Your snacks won’t last forever, even those as artificial as Twinkies. Eat them when they are fresh.

Wither The McFlurry

People, we have an issue. I mean, even the Wall Street Journal is talking about it ($$).

It appears that there is a growing situation at McDonalds and it has to do with the McFlurry – that wonderful dessert combo of soft serve ice cream and Oreos or M&Ms or Rolos (yum!) mixed into an ice creamy combination that checks all the boxes. It appears that in McDonald’s nation, there is a rampant issue with the McFlurry mixing machine. It is not being used by McDonalds employees as they prep McFlurries. Now, soft serve ice cream with one of those aforementioned toppings is nothing to ignore, but when the expectation is that they will all be mixed together into the concoction that is the McFlurry, and that is not being done on a national basis, that is cause for grave concern.

According to UnderUnderstood, the McFlurry Index is currently at 41%, meaning that for every 10 McFlurries that are ordered, only 4 of them are actually getting mixed. Yes, there is a mechanism to track this – as there is a mechanism to track everything these days.

The core issue here is that the mixing machine for the McFlurry uses the uniquely designed spoon to actually mix the dessert. So when the mixing machine is ‘broken’ or actually, legitimately broken, the mechanism to mix everything is useless. So the McDonalds employees punt and just throw the ‘add in’ on top of the ice cream instead of mixing it together. Heresy!

So what can be done to rectify this national emergency? First, you can record the “McFlurriness” of your McFlurry here (the source of the above Flurry Index). As of this post date, we’re at a 41% ‘flurry index’. Absolutely unacceptable. If McDonald’s has any Six Sigma black belts in their employ, they would surely be freaking out at this defect rate.

Then, you can take these statistics and contact McDonalds corporate offices and vent frustration.

Do not take this lightly, people. The McFlurry needs to be ‘flurried’!!

The Soul Of A City Can Be Found In Aisle 5

Whenever I travel, it is inevitable that I will find myself in the local grocery store picking up some snacks, food, and other essentials to last me through my trip and/or vacation. Or, I’ll be picking up some of the local treats that are unique to wherever I’m visiting – think real Cadburys chocolate (oh, yeah…there’s a difference) or some scones when in England. Seeing Richard Morgan of New York Magazine talk about this in gave me a great big smile, only because everything he talked about was so familiar.

The secret museum in every city is a grocery store. It’s where you can grab and squeeze and not-at-all-weirdly smell indigenous produce. The fishmonger runs an aquarium. The butcher is a zookeeper. But groceries also hoard the culture’s guilty pleasures — its Netflix-and-chill snacks are in its potato-chip flavors (my native London favorite was a packet of sea-salt-and-Chardonnay-wine-vinegar crisps, and Marmite ones always hit the spot, too). Its childhoods are in its confections (I loved Icelandic Prince Polo chocolate bars, which are actually imported from Poland). I am constantly on the lookout for jars of gently tart zarour jam, so freely available in my mother’s hometown of Bethlehem, in Israeli-occupied Palestine. It’s the last tree that still bears fruit in her abandoned childhood home.

Richard Morgan – New York Magazine

On top of the great local vittles you can acquire – or horde up on – in the foreign grocery store, you get to people watch and observe locals live their lives like a voyeur peering through a window. Are they going for the sausages or the salad tonight? Beer or wine?

And honestly, it is not just a practice for a foreign country. The people watching allows you to pick out who are the locals and who are not. A few weeks ago I was on a family vacation in Maine, and my wife got stuck behind a millennial – slash – wannabe yuppy couple at a local Maine supermarket. They were so out of place, and so not local to Maine, that my wife texted me complaining how they were so disorganized that they held up the line for a good 15 minutes (I was sitting in our car). Now, we obviously are not from Maine, but these folks in front of my wife stood out so distinctly that a few minutes later I saw a woman and her husband walking through the parking lot – the woman wearing a loud bandanna on her head. I immediately described her to my wife via text, asking “Was that her?” Yeah, I nailed it.

So next time you are in Iceland, or Paris, or Germany, take a walk out of your AirBNB and pay a visit to the local grocery store. You may discover a treat you would never have found in a restaurant.

I’ll Have Fries With That

A definitive ranking of french fries from a wide variety of fast food franchises (national and regional) from the Los Angeles Times. I am in staunch agreement with the top ranking that they gave to Five Guys french fries. They are just the best.

Not only is Five Guys No. 1, but it’s also so far ahead of everyone else it’s almost unfair. You get a generous heap of hot, properly salted, natural-cut spuds, with a good balance between crispy fries and the odd one that’s pleasingly soft. Five Guys fries in peanut oil, which imparts a milder taste than more industrial oils that mask potato flavor. These were the fries that tasted most strongly of tuber.

Lucas Kwan Peterson – LA Times

While the list is comprehensive and very well researched, there are a few items and omissions that need to be called out.

  • Chick Fil-A’s Waffle Fries were ranked very low (#14) and I have to respectfully disagree with that assessment (and, we’ll ignore CFA’s polarizing political stances) as, well, they are waffle fries! When they are a little well done, there are few choices better.
  • It is a crime that they did not include Nathan’s Hot Dogs Crinkle Cut Fries. The Nathan’s fries have substance, they are crunchy on the outside with all sorts of potato goodness on the inside. They are big, thick fries and they are such a great complement to a pair of Nathan’s hot dogs.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go get some dinner at Five Guys.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

Pancake Lovers Rejoice

Canada’s long national nightmare is over.

Back in September, about 10 million pounds of Canadian Maple Syrup, worth an estimated $30MM, had been stolen from Canada’s national strategic reserve in Quebec (USA has a national strategic reserve of oil, and Canada has a national strategic reserve of maple syrup. Which one has it’s priorities in order? :P).

I am happy to report that all the stolen Maple Syrup has been recovered and returned to Canada’s national reserve:

We can all breathe a sweet, sweet sigh of relief: authorities may have recovered the syrup. They discovered somewhere between 600 and 800 barrels of unknown origin with an importer in New Brunswick. The investigation continues, but the syrup is safe. It’s currently under police protection.

via The Consumerist.

Cow Appreciation Day

Today at Chick Fil A restaurants around the country, its Cow Appreciation Day.  Simply show up at one of their restaurants dressed up as a cow and you will get a free meal.  For those of you not so adventurous, if you just show up wearing a cow related t-shirt or other piece of clothing that references a cow, they’ll give you a sandwich. If you are not familiar with their marketing and advertising campaign, they have cows as their “pitch men”, asking consumers to eat more chicken.  Except, the cows can’t spell (ex: Eeet More Chikin).

Later on in the year, around September, they have similar offering where they give away a sandwich if you are wearing a team logo to honor the start of the fall sports season (when football, basketball, hockey start, and when baseball gets into the stretch run).

The Five Second Rule

Ah, the Five Second Rule. You know, the urban legend of college campuses and teenage basements, where its widely accepted that if you drop food on the floor, its OK to pick up and eat it if you do so within 5 seconds of it hitting the floor. Building on an initial analysis done at the University of Illinois in 2003, Clemson University has conducted a follow up analysis and it was discussed in the NY Times today. The key takeaways:

Quick retrieval does mean fewer bacteria, but it’s no guarantee of safety…the five-second rule, version 2.0: If you drop a piece of food, pick it up quickly, take five seconds to recall that just a few bacteria can make you sick, then take a few more to think about where you dropped it and whether or not it’s worth eating.

And there you have it.

Tea For Two

Here is a nice article in the NY Times about how the venerable tea bag is getting an industry makover. As part of the article, it notes that Lipton will be making over its tea bags to use nylon instead of the mesh/paper it currently uses, and it will also use longer leaf tea.

As an avid tea drinker (can’t stand coffee), I think that its about time! I regularly purchase teas like Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, and other brands from the U.K. because brands like Lipton are not as robust, strong, or tasty. Now if we can teach restaurants in this country how to serve tea properly (lose leaf, in a pot, instead of in a crusty mug with an unopened tea bag and lukewarm water. Hell, I’d take just a pot of hot water and tea bags), we’ll be making real progress.

Cat In The Hat

Every year, there is one movie that is marketed at a nauseating frequency with its own marketing, and the marketing of the numerous product tie-ins. And this year, it is The Cat In the Hat starring Mike Myers. The number of product tie-ins is just insane, and this is coming from someone with a marketing degree. As a marketing manager, I would have to question the true value of such a program for the simple reason that the public probably gets so saturated with the Cat in the Hat messaging that they lose track of who or what products are sponsoring/partnering with the movie and therefore, your product gets lost in the clutter.