Is America’s penchant for gargantuan portions rubbing off on its transatlantic neighbours?

I’m going to make a bold assumption. I would say a substantial amount of single, British males with far too much time on their hairy backed hands may have found themselves transfixed on the Freeview channel ‘Dave’ in the past year or so. There is one programme in particular I am talking about, the pinnacle of entertainment for every closet glutton. YesI am talking about ‘Man vs Food’. The show championed by Yale alumni Adam Richman squeezed its considerable frame onto our screens first through the ‘Travel Channel’ and later ‘Dave’. It was on the latter that the programme was truly able to capture the attention of the aforementioned key demographic of British males. Its success amongst our culture, based primarily on food envy for the treats on show could not have been foretold.

The premise is reasonably simple yet stimulating. Our chubby yet charming host guides us through the most fantastical American eateries visiting almost every state on a road trip Kerouac would envy. From the ‘Burger from Hell’ in Amarillo Texas to the ‘Moose Omelette Challenge’ of Oahu Hawaii Adam fearlessly engages challenges that either theme around spice or sheer quantity to a committed audience. In addition Richman samples delights from other equally exotic food outlets in the city that each episode focuses on. Never before has such a grand show of tantalising flavours and mammoth sized portions been so available to the British palate.

Such is the popularity of Richman’s escapades that we can now see a surge in competitive eating challenges appearing on our quiet shores. When on Channel 4’s ‘Sunday Brunch’ at the beginning of the year America’s own culinary answer to Spartacus spoke of food challenges sprouting up in Swansea in homage to all that ‘Man vs Food’ has achieved. You can find dozens of these ridiculous challenges in a few short clicks. Through researching this very morning I encountered the ‘Mr Spice Guy’ challenge in York and the ‘Bourbon Badboy Burger’ of the Revolution Cornerhouse in Nottingham. It seems no coincidence that both challenges name-drop ‘Man vs Food’ in the description of these seemingly unassailable eating feats. It would appear our own grotesque fascination with watching one man eating his own weight in cheese and meat has now piqued a trend in gluttony right here on our doorstep.

For years our own inflated sense of self-importance has caused us to dismiss American conventions like pie eating contests as the simple pastimes of ‘slack jawed yokels’ without actually perceiving the sheer enjoyment that attempting to eat our own weight in burritos can bring, if not the considerable damage it will make to your waistline in time.

image: © Jim Wall