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17th April 2013

Manchester vs. Food: an unhealthy marketing ploy?

James Griffiths asks if it is wise to borrow food habits from across the pond

Adam Richman is a living legend. Man v. Food was a brilliant show, a view into the gluttonous and testosterone fuelled world of American competitive eating, replete with raucous handle-bar moustached rednecks, raunchy cheerleaders and rotund rapacious cooks.

Richman, a magnetic food-stuffing maestro, was also appreciative of good American food, which he canvassed with trips to secret little eateries from Rhode Island to Reno, Montana to Miami. Bizarrely, Richman was also an athlete, working out before challenges to get his metabolism and his appetite stoked. Afterwards he would then ‘cleanse’ with a session on the treadmill.

Despite such athleticism, Richman was ultimately a fat git. This is because he attempted to eat excessive amounts of food in short spaces of time. As much as I love food (I am a carb addict), I would never seek to enter into one of these ridiculous challenges.

One would have thought that sensible minded Brits would avoid bigger portions and indeed eating challenges. Instead we seem to be embracing them. Indeed, in our very own Manchester, where an intriguing ‘redneck revolution’ of American food has taken place, there are several eateries pushing out puke-precipitating amounts of food.

There is much to be said for this famed American grub, with great burgers, beef brisket and pulled pork. There is a danger however, in encouraging eating challenges in a country with already bulging waist sizes. Several years ago, such challenges were non-existent in the UK, now they are cropping up everywhere.

For example at Southern Eleven they have the £25.99 ‘Chicken & Waffle Tower’ of fried chicken, waffles and creamy white gravy served with extra spicy battered chicken, home-made ‘slaw’, parmesan truffle fries, BBQ beans and bourbon mayo. If you neck it in 45 minutes, you get the meal for free.

One guzzler remarked however that the whole challenge was weighted in favour of the establishment since the chicken was seasoned with excessive amounts of salt, whilst the waffles had more sugar than a Jamaican plantation. Great, real healthy. Am I also the only one that finds the combination of chicken and waffle a bit screwed up?

Secondly, at Manchester’s new and mouth-watering Luck Lust Liquor & Burn, you can order the £30 ‘Tapout Burrito’. The burrito is packed full with crispy beef, BBQ pulled pork and shredded beer-can chicken, with accompaniments including fries, cheese, spicy rice, grilled onions & peppers, and salad ‘lubed’ with secret taco sauce, sour cream and ‘guac’.

Even corporate chains are having a stab at stuffing you with saturated fat, as Revolution in Fallowfield has launched ‘The Fallowfield Challenge’, the MANchester v Food epic burger.

Beyond Manchester and more foolish Brits are embarking on this foolish course of action. Take the ‘Kidz Breakfast’ at Jesters Diner in Great Yarmouth, which includes an 8-egg cheese and potato omelette, 12 rashers of bacon, 12 sausages, 6 fried eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, 4 hash-browns, 4 bits of black pudding, sautéed spuds, 4 slices of toast, 4 of bread and butter, and 4 of fried bread. That’s 14 eggs. Each egg contains 210mg of dietary cholesterol. Recommended intake is 300mg a day. Jesters thus provides you with a whopping 2940mg of dietary cholesterol, which is 10 times the daily intake. In other words, you’re likely to have a heart attack whilst heaving on the toilet to get over crippling constipation. Interestingly, the meal also weighs about the same as a healthy newborn baby

Further examples include a 3ft long hotdog served in Walsall, containing enough calories to feed a grown man for a week, the ‘Judgement Burger’ in Argyll, the ‘Munchy Box’ of Indian food in Glasgow, and lastly ‘Ray’s Pizza’ (26″) in London. Brits are that buzzing about the whole affair, they are even mapping the mammoth eating challenges around the country.

The trouble is that these food challenges set a very dangerous and unfunny precedent. They are contributing to a negative alteration in attitude towards food quantity. Restaurants need to ignore such profiteering in the interests of our nation’s health. I’m not saying 90% white plate, 10% food: just decent portion sizes for meals like fry-ups and burgers, which are already indulgent.

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