Our beautiful America was built on the promise of golden mountains, golden opportunities and Golden Arches, the latter being a big reason why the rest of the world thinks we’re a nation of excess. And for the most part, they couldn’t be more right.
Consider the Bacon Explosion, a recipe developed by competitive ‘cuers from Kansas City: Two pounds of bacon, two pounds of sausage, some barbecue sauce, more bacon, all smoked and sliced like it’s a Christmas ham. It caused quite the Internet stir, resulting in The New York Times dedicating journalistic manpower to produce a full-length story on the meat beast. And on the BBQ Addict’s Web site (where the recipe originated), there are hundreds of comments.
Competitive eating is also gaining popularity (Joey Chestnut, photo above). Eating contests were once events reserved for backyards and drunken parties, but lo, they boast a global headquarters for all those worldwide who want to take excess to a professional level. Blogs have popped up with schedules of contests small and large, and many of them document their own, non-IFOCE-sanctioned contests.
Like many Americans turn to a tub of Haagen Dazs when we’re feeling blue, it seems the rest of the world is right there with us. This may have something to do with denial for the current economic state – though we’re down, we’re not out, and we’re going to eat heartily to prove it. Cost will not stop us. A lot of cash was funneled into that two-ton cheesecake, and bacon is not cheap. Though the cost of butter, sugar, flour and chocolate have risen substantially, people still stage cookie-eating contests at dinner tables and festivals across the nation. Excess used to be frowned upon, but as a nation we’ve wrapped our arms warmly around the concept. It’s a form of comfort. It’s not a bad thing.
Those against excess will think this is an appalling shift in the way we’ve been eating. It’s body-taxing to sit down and eat 3 days’ worth of calories in a single bacon roll, and it’s unpleasant to watch a body react by rejecting 50 Oreo cookies or hot dogs or what have you. For the naysayers, I offer a glimmer of optimism: Aren’t we always saying that things get worse before they get better? Maybe we’ve hit culinary rock-bottom. Maybe there are better things to come.
For the enthusiasts, I say that this is your time to shine. There is no other time I can think of — save for these historical occasions — where excess is as accepted as it is now. The human body is resilient. Do your thing, as I will do mine. (Click on “Read the rest of this entry” for recipe)
CHOCOLATE CHIP CONTEST COOKIES (NEIMAN MARCUS COOKIES)
Adapted from e-mail forwards and urban legend message boards
Some cook’s notes: Cookies are perfect for eating contests because you can double or triple a recipe with little to no problems. There are two versions to this cookie, one on the Neiman Marcus Web site that doesn’t use blended oatmeal, and this one, which does. Both are equally good. If you don’t have a mixer, this is one of those thick batters that you’re gonna have to roll up your sleeves and really dig into.
- Yield: 112 cookies (recipe can be doubled or tripled)
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 5 cups blended oats (instructions below)
- 4 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 24 oz. chocolate chips
- 1 8 oz. Hershey bar, grated
- 3 cups chopped nuts of your choice (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until blended. Add vanilla.
2. Place 5 cups of instant dry oatmeal in a blender. Blend until oatmeal resembles a fine powder (almost flour-like).
3. Put blended oats to a large bowl. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.
4. Working in batches, add dry ingredients to mixer on low speed. Mix until flour is just incorporated, scraping down sides of mixer as needed. Do not overmix.
5. Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey bar and nuts, if using. Mix well.
6. Roll batter into 2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly.
7. Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheet and place on wire rack to cool.
– Cynthia Furey