The Travel Channel’s 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, I’m looking at you), this New York kiddo actually understands that the best way to ensure a loyal audience is to make sure people don’t want you to choke to death during the pilot episode. Richman’s 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, he’s in the corner with the world’s hottest curry, or a plate of hot wings designed to bring on advanced coronary artery disease. But with a smile, of course.

Sure, there’s a gimmick – Adam tackles a few hot spots of a city’s local cuisine, as well as accepting a challenge (the hottest, the biggest, the greasiest, what have you) – but it’s a race you’d 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 won’t use a napkin and isn’t above a high five from the crowd, but when he actually sits down to a meal, he’s smart as a whip and all business. He’s like a crude, masticating hardhat at the egghead’s buffet. And it’s 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 ‘em. This is a low-brow, no-account, pigs-in-the-trough shitfest, and no one’s 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 isn’t a low fat menu in sight. If it can’t possibly send you to the emergency room, it’s best left in the freezer.


So far, Adam’s been to:
Amarillo, TX, where – expectedly – 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 hour’s time? As always, it’s less about the destination than the slobbering journey. Who hasn’t wanted to race against the clock and quite possibly vomit all over a few strangers to boot? To make matters worse, you’re set above and apart from the rest of the patrons, with all eyes on your disgusting, unholy self. When everyone’s a hero and merely showing up a cause for a party, thank fuck we’ve found a justifiable means by which to spotlight the gods in our midst. You thank the local fireman or cop on the beat; I’m shaking hands with anyone who can finish this fucking steak. And then there’s 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 ½ pound burger just about breaks the table, and it’s one of TV’s greatest moments when it’s brought out from the kitchen. We anticipate the damn thing the whole show, and when it finally arrives, it’s 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 ½ pound Dagwood sandwich; Austin, TX for the infamous Don Juan El Taco Grande Challenge; the Windy City to partake of dipped beef sandwiches at Al’s Beef; and Atlanta, GA for chicken n’ waffles (with Gladys Knight), as well as the insane Carnivore Pizza Challenge, which proves to be poor Adam’s 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. We’re all-you-can-eat with a bottomless stomach; always open, licking our fingers, and rounding it off with a sweat-inducing dump. Adam’s 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 “press conference,” 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 one’s name immortalized on the wall of some seedy rib joint. America, more than ever.