The Travel Channelís Man v. Food just might be the cure for what ails us. At a time when jobs are being lost by the thousands,†Wall Street is†in the shitter, and the housing market is dripping along with all the confidence of an exposed Ponzi scheme, what better way to feel that last twinge of pride than by watching a young man inhale ridiculously gluttonous piles of food, all for the sheer thrill of eating? His name is Adam Richman, and unlike other culinary aficionados whose personalities tend to range from suffocatingly pretentious to blindingly arrogant (Mr. Bourdain, Iím looking at you), this New York kiddo actually understands that the best way to ensure a loyal audience is to make sure people donít want you to choke to death during the pilot episode. Richmanís more than likeable; his attitude is positively winning, with a careful blend of charm, wit, and silliness that avoids the expected smug sense of superiority. While you dash about the globe sampling caviar and the latest overpriced wine, heís in the corner with the worldís hottest curry, or a plate of hot wings designed to bring on advanced coronary artery disease. But with a smile, of course.
Sure, thereís a gimmick Ė Adam tackles a few hot spots of a cityís local cuisine, as well as accepting a challenge (the hottest, the biggest, the greasiest, what have you) Ė but itís a race youíd actually like to see him finish, unlike other food/travel programs that tend to work hand-in-dull-hand with the Chamber of Commerce. Adam is blue collar without the aw-shucks idiocy; he wonít use a napkin and isnít above a high five from the crowd, but when he actually sits down to a meal, heís smart as a whip and all business. Heís like a crude, masticating hardhat at the eggheadís buffet. And itís standing room only. Though not a professional eater, he has held jobs at all levels of the restaurant business, a simple fact that means little, but might set the more high-brow at ease. But fuck Ďem. This is a low-brow, no-account, pigs-in-the-trough shitfest, and no oneís apologizing for the stained t-shirts. Remember when eating used to be fun? You know, before the calorie counters and protectionist scumbags interfered with a guilt-free bloodbath? Adam has resurrected the entertainment value of digging in face first, and there isnít a low fat menu in sight. If it canít possibly send you to the emergency room, itís best left in the freezer.
So far, Adamís been to:
Amarillo, TX, where Ė expectedly Ė he tackled the 72-ounce Big Texan at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Can he finish the massive slab of meat, complete with baked potato and salad, all in an hourís time? As always, itís less about the destination than the slobbering journey. Who hasnít wanted to race against†the clock†and quite possibly vomit all over a few strangers to boot? To make matters worse, youíre set above and apart from the rest of the patrons, with all eyes on your disgusting, unholy self. When everyoneís a hero and merely showing up a cause for a party, thank fuck weíve found a justifiable means by which to spotlight the gods in our midst. You thank the local fireman or cop on the beat; Iím shaking hands with anyone who can finish this fucking steak. And then thereís Memphis, TN, home to some of the best BBQ on planet earth, where the Sasquatch Hamburger awaits at the Big Foot Lodge. Jesus Christ, this 7 Ĺ pound burger just about breaks the table, and itís one of TVís greatest moments when itís brought out from the kitchen. We anticipate the damn thing the whole show, and when it finally arrives, itís like Harry Lime smirking from the shadows. Is it sick when people are starving? Damn right it is. And fuck
Adam also visits Pittsburgh, PA for a Primanti Brothers sandwich (and those hellish hot wings, served up at a Quaker Steak & Lube, to ensure maximum trashiness); Columbus, OH for a 2 Ĺ pound Dagwood sandwich; Austin, TX for the infamous Don Juan El Taco Grande Challenge; the Windy City to partake of dipped beef sandwiches at Alís Beef; and Atlanta, GA for chicken ní waffles (with Gladys Knight), as well as the insane Carnivore Pizza Challenge, which proves to be poor Adamís Waterloo. Between meals, he shows us a snapshot of the cities in question, all in the name of celebration. We rule the roost not because we lead the world in eating disorders or diet fads, but because we alone perfected adding bacon to everything not nailed down. Or extra cheese. Or stuffing with chili, deep-frying, and coating with whipped cream. Weíre all-you-can-eat with a bottomless stomach; always open, licking our fingers, and rounding it off with a sweat-inducing dump. Adamís too classy to end his adventures with a trip to the john, but understanding our hoo-ya lust for sports metaphors and allusions, he closes the book on each challenge with a ďpress conference,Ē where he responds to dippy questions from the crowd with earnest jocularity. A rousing finish for a grin-worthy event. Food, fat, and the need to have oneís name immortalized on the wall of some seedy rib joint. America, more than ever.