- There is a column called Milestones in the news magazine The Week, which informed us that a certain Spandan had eaten nine hotdogs in 10 minutes. The contest was organised by the All American Diner at India Habitat Centre in Delhi. Some milestone that!
- Some days back there was a flier in the newspaper where a fast food chain invited people to try and eat six burgers in three minutes – free of cost.
- The other day I was watching this idli-eating contest hosted by the popular Kannada actor Sihi Kahi Chandru on Suvarna TV. It was a live show where the number of idlis being consumed kept increasing as a new record emerged after every round. When I began watching, one had to eat 16 idlis in five minutes to create new record. Hundreds of people cheered as five men stuffed their faces with idlis dunking them in sambar and washing them down with water. One man ate 19 and created a new record for that round. Now it was time for a fresh batch of guys who had to eat at least 20 to beat that one. By this time, I was so grossed out that I changed the channel.
There is something about getting into the record books that make people try all kinds absurd feats. There are some monumentally weird ones like swallowing 200 earthworms in 30 seconds and watching TV for 72 hours straight and even squirting milk from the eyes — that are official entries in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Silly as these may look, eating contests are worse. I find them actually obscene. Are we so far gone in gluttony that we have to eat mountainous quantities of food to create a record? What are we proving by this? That we have a bottomless pit for a stomach? That we have such great digestion that we can eat and survive 20 idlis in five minutes or 200 earthworms in 30 seconds? The Guinness Book also has records for eating stuff as varied and wide as hotdogs, marshmallows, oysters and even glass and metal. Some eating categories have been dropped for ‘ethical and safety’ reasons, which include stuff like bicycles and furniture. I find that most thoughtful on their part, don’t you?
If you have watched Man vs Food, on TLC, you will know what I am speaking about. If I happen to linger there even for a second longer than it takes to change the channel, I feel like puking out my roti and subzi, which I am most probably eating at that time.
You can watch some eating videos and decide if they are enjoyable or even worth the effort, just for the sake of creating a record. In order to do the feat, the contestants practice eating huge quantities for months before they attempt to beat the record — much like athletes going through their training before a meet! Just imagine the waste of food, the health risks involved and the long term effects on the system. I wonder if I would eat 7 hotdogs in 3 minutes to beat the existing record of 6, to get into the Guinness Book. I would rather do something more constructive even if I can’t create a record, wouldn’t you?
Why are we promoting gluttony in the name of records? For that matter why are we promoting gluttony at all? I don’t remember such eating contests in India even a quarter century ago. Advertisers and marketers are directly responsible for turning us into gluttons.
They began by offering more and extra in every pack at no extra cost. It does make sense when the product is detergent or toothpaste, but with the cola drinks being served in bigger and bigger bottles, chips being sold in jumbo packs, and the 300-500ml of coffee and tea cups, the long slide towards gluttony began in good earnest. In addition, they peddle harmful cola as a lifestyle drink, sometimes even using it for social advertising like the Coke ad. They tell us our ‘Dil maange more,’ and quickly increase the size of their cola bottles and make it cheaper to buy the largest one. And since these have limited shelf life before their quality deteriorates, they need to be finished fast, and thereby hangs the tale of gluttony. We have restaurants offering all-you-can-eat meals and buffets that stoke the greediness to eat as much as possible to get full value for money.
I remember the 250 ml bottle of Mangola, which was shared between five friends in the college canteen (if we managed to put together the money between us, that is!). Today, the larger the PET bottle of Pepsi or Coke, the cheaper it is, making it the preferred drink of even the poor. After all, if they can’t buy milk, they can always buy Coke or Pepsi. Employers find it easier to gift their workers with these huge bottles, without a thought about the harm they are doing. I remember my maid struggling to carry home half a dozen 2 lts cola bottles during Diwali. I wonder if she thought I was a cheapskate for giving her a box of mithai and some fruits.
Back in our days, food was served by our mothers or other elders while we ate our fill. It was very satisfying to be so fed and even when we all ate together with the food in the centre and everyone sitting in a circle on the floor, it was mother who served everyone with one hand as she ate with us. Today, in most houses the food is served by the eaters themselves, except maybe in the case of the very young and the very old, thus resulting in faulty eating habits of both under and overeating.
However, the practice of serving food had its downside too, especially during weddings and feasts in those days. The food was often served in disproportionate quantities resulting in huge wastage by the well-fed guests who couldn’t/wouldn’t eat it all. The wasted food then was thrown in the garbage and picked up from there by the hungry and homeless, along with the dogs and pigs. The shocking and inhuman spectacle has made me turn away from many a banquet without touching a morsel and with the heaviest of hearts. When the buffet system was adopted by wedding hosts, I was happy, till I saw that gluttony had been added to the crime of wasting food. With a variety of foods to pick and choose from, the greed increased. Wastage still occurred because greed doesn’t have any limits. And binge eating – any wedding feast can safely be called that – is more harmful when indulged in frequently, as happens during the ‘wedding seasons.’
There is this show called Band Baja Buffet which I happened to watch one evening. There was a spread of more than 100 dishes in one meal at the wedding! I thought it was a record in obscene ostentation and monumental waste. All to pander to the well-to-do guests who might well be struggling with various diseases, some directly connected to eating heavy food.
Is this the price of development and upward mobility? A price that makes us behave like wild beasts as we try to demolish obscene quantities of food in the shortest time. Whatever happened to genteel eating, savouring each morsel and thanking the Lord for the food on the table? Do we spare a thought to the hungry millions who would be happy to get the 6 hotdogs and share it – creating a record maybe, of the largest number of people eating ONE hotdog?
If this is what affluence is reducing us to, then maybe we are better off being poor. In a country where millions are living below the poverty line, it is a cruel joke on them to even show such programmes on TV, leave alone call forward contestants who can eat the largest number of burgers/idli/hotdogs in the shortest time. It is insensitive on one level and promotes gluttony on the other. But what can we expect with a government that says that inflation is good for the farmers and is also going to give away mobile phones to the BPL families – maybe so they could keep abreast of such ‘records’ and salivate at the thought of all that food, which is the closest they might get to it.
Pic on Homepage Courtesy: theaustralian.com.au