After winning the Battle of Asculum, the Greek King Pyrrhus is rumoured to have said, “if we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Some victories are not worth winning. While this was certainly the case for poor Pyrrhus and his ill-fated Italian campaign, it is equally applicable to the victors of eating challenges.
Giga Dragon Challenge
In the West End of Vancouver, Ramen Takanotsume challenges customers to face the Giga Dragon. The challenge is to eat the equivalent of five regular bowls of ramen, three hard-boiled eggs, five pork slices, and a smattering of garnishes, all served in a vessel better suited to a garden party salad than a bowl of soup for one. As if the dish wasn’t daunting enough, contestants have only thirty minutes to finish it. Should you fail the challenge, the cost is $50—there is no charge if you are successful. Contestants were selected from the Pacific Rim Magazine (PRM) staff, each picked for their superior eating abilities: Maho, veteran of a thousand bowls; William, “Broth Born”; Dmitri, autonomous eating machine; and myself, relatively well-fed student.
Thinning the Herd
Before any of us could face the Giga Dragon, there needed to be a thinning of the herd. A test was devised to separate the mere heroes from the legends. An enormous supply of packaged ramen noodles was purchased and a rotating team of ramen experts (students) were enlisted to prepare them in the PRM production room. Before the eyes of our peers, we were to consume as much as we could stomach in thirty minutes; the two to outlast the others would move on to the Giga Dragon challenge. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say that Dmitri and William were defeated by a phenomenon known in competitive eating circles as a “reversal of fortune.” With our friends fallen but not forgotten, Maho and I braced ourselves for the greater challenge: the mighty Giga Dragon.
The Final Challenge
At Ramen Takanotsume, we sat outside on a patio in the crisp spring air and prepared for the trial to come. By the time we saw the Giga Dragon up close, we had begun to envy our fallen comrades. We stared into the bowls before us, a timer was set, and our trial had begun. I approached the eating challenge with a mechanical aptitude born of sibling rivalry at the dinner table: fork to mouth, chew, swallow, repeat. It was this quiet drumbeat that carried me through piles of noodles, bite-by-bite, until I looked down to find the bowl half consumed. Before me, suspended in delicious miso broth, were more noodles than I had ever eaten in a single sitting. With hope dying in my heart, I glanced up at Maho to find my forlorn expression reflected back at me. Minutes later we had to concede defeat, though our hosts kindly assured us that we had eaten more than most.
Despite the prodigious size of our meals, both the miso and shio broths we tried were rich and flavourful and the toppings were exceptionally tasty. However, I can’t help but wonder: had we finished the bowl victoriously, would we have considered the price paid worth it? For myself it is enough to have fought and lost, knowing that I will never experience the bitterness of a Pyrrhic victory over my body’s natural limitations.