There has been a long tradition of eating competitions in this country — like that Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest that I don’t ever watch because I like hot dogs and I think it will make me not like hot dogs.
Some restaurants have their food games, serving up massive steaks that you get for free if you can break the laws of physiology and ingest like 8 pounds of beef in less than an hour.
I’ve taken on many a food dare in my day. Mostly my younger days. OK, probably up until about seven years ago, which is, you know, younger than I am now, but still well into my 30s — my mid-30s.
Anyway, food dares kind of go with the territory of having two competitive siblings. For us, it was usually along the lines of who could eat the most spicy peppers. It was the kind of dare I rarely, if ever, backed down from.
One early family food dare I remember came the first time my father made pasta with calamari. It wasn’t deep-fried calamari; there was no breading to cover the suckers on the, you know, squid tentacles.
I dove right in, if not for anything other than to show up my brothers. I recall purposely dangling a tentacle in my mouth just to get a reaction.
I don’t do that anymore. I grew up — mostly.
There was another family food competition when my father took me to a Yankees games.
Look, I’m an Orioles fan, so we don’t need to get into any of that. We once went to a Yankees game and that’s OK.
Anyway, we went to a Yankees game and my father suggested we try to eat one hot dog per inning. I didn’t say no — until I think the fourth, maybe the fifth inning. Ultimately, there’s just nothing good about the idea of eating nine hot dogs over the course of an afternoon.
I remember a college challenge involving eating a certain number of saltines or some other super-dry and salty cracker with no water. The laws of physiology prevailed there. It could not be done by anyone in that dorm room.
In my post-college adulthood there was a spicy tuna roll challenge. We were at a restaurant that apparently had been featured on the television show “Man vs. Food.” It turned out there were varying degrees of spiciness for this particular tuna roll — some requiring a waiver be signed.
I opted for the level just below legal documents needing to be exchanged. My throat closed up when I swallowed the first bite. I still finished the whole thing.
Just like I finished an entire shot glass full of hot sauce one New Year’s Eve. My partner in crime in this dare was a professional firefighter. We drank all the milk in the fridge immediately after.
Nowadays, food marketers have certainly upped the ante on such friendly bets.
Perhaps you have seen a coffin-shaped box at the counter of your local convenience store for a super spicy chip. Just one chip in the box. Eat it — or try to it eat it — and then post your reaction on social media with the recommended tags.
Back in my day, we didn’t record and post any of our spicy food shenanigans in hopes of going viral. Maybe we should have. Maybe we would have landed an influencer deal hawking hot sauce or squid-based pasta dishes on Instagram.
But we were just making childish bets, really.
Plus I really hate getting heart burn these days, so I guess my opportunity for viral spicy food stardom has passed.
Daniel Divilio is the editor of the Kent County News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.