Part One: The Challenge
Last night I finally took on Zen Matt in the long-promised taco eating competition. My friends all said I was crazy to do it, and it's true, my reasons for doing so were sketchy at best. I've generally been responding to queries with: "Well I'm a Midwesterner. We like food. We like competitions. It's the best of both worlds." But secretly I was hoping I would be good at this, that there might be an untapped talent there. I've never been good at sports, and I've never had the smarts to be, say, a chess champion. I'm good at Scrabble, but not great. But eating, well, I've always been good at eating. Maybe this could be my thing. Maybe I would finally find myself a home.
I arrived at Taco Bell early to find my competitor and his girlfriend already waiting. He stood, and we shook hands, and then I began to ask him questions about the history of the event. It seems in his group of friends, one large, sort of jockish guy, once teased Matt about his appetite. Matt, who while not a large man is not the smallest man I have seen either, took offense - the insinuation of a small appetite is an assault on one's manhood - and he challenged his friend to an eating competition. I would be his sixth competitor, and the second woman to do so.
The reigning champion, Zen Matt
We agreed between the two of us to kick things off with a Gordita, and move into the 10 taco (hard and soft alternate) spread. If necessary, we would buy more. Now I knew going into this that if I wanted to get near him, I was going to have to eat at least 15, because that was his proven record, and he clearly wasn't going to back down. So I was certain we would have to purchase more.
Our first order arrives. The ceremonial kickoff Gorditas and the tie-breaking taco (which I also referred to as the "Spirit Stick" of the event).
We certainly made those Taco Bell employees earn their minimum wage last night.
Have you ever looked the devil in the eye?
As we waited for pick-up, my competitor generously gave me a back rub and instructed me to "shake it out." "You can't be tense if you want to win," he said. I had to admit I was a bit nervous, sometimes from excitement, and sometimes because I was afraid I was going to puke. I am not a known puker, but that doesn't mean there can't be a first time.