Rushville Republican

May 30, 2014

On the street with REALLY FAST food

By Don Stuart
Rushville Republican

---- — My wife and I are resting up after spending one really fast evening together!

That is to say, we partook of the Speed Street Festival in uptown Charlotte, Nawth Caylina. Wait; what were you thinking?

This was Speed Street’s 20th year. It’s held in conjunction with the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR auto race, held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The See-ix Hunnert, as Nawth Caylinians tend to call it, has been running since 1960. I mean this is the 55th running of the race, not the same race that started in 1960. (Although if my brother Ken was driving, it would be. Slooooowest driver east of the Mississippi, that one.)

On its website, Speed Street is billed as one of the largest consumer events in the Southeast. That either means the consumers are large (I saw lots of those) or the attendees consume in large quantities (I saw LOTS of those, including, ahem, the fella I see when I look in the mirror.)

But there was also a public spectacle of large – REALLY LARGE – consumption: A hot dog eating contest, sponsored by Nathan’s Famous, Inc. That’s it, the whole corporate name. But c’mon, you know what Nathan’s is famous for.

The contest had a lot riding on it – the winner earned a place at the trough of competitive weiner-eating’s pinnacle, the competition at Coney Island, New York, on the Fourth of Joooo-ly.

The event was emceed by a guy named George Shea, who is, I kid you not, employed full-time as the Chairman of Major League Eating.

George had a great patter going, almost making the crowd feel like it was well worth it to broil like franks under the rotisserie of the sun, just in order to watch 15 people distend their stomachs to unnatural dimensions. And because he’s the Chairman of Major League Eating, he knows a lot about the contestants, almost all of whom were local, regional or national champions of consuming gut-busting amounts of one food or another (crawfish for one guy; oysters for another; oyster-stuffed crawfish for another).

Thus, before the serious noshing began, we know we were in the presence of:

> A hush puppy eating champion (mmmm, hush puppies, a speed-eating favorite of mine when I vacationed in Myrtle Beach, South Caylina, as a chile; many’s the time I groaned through the night in misery from the stomach aches caused by eating too many hush puppies. And then woke up in the morning begging my mom for a breakfast of hush puppies.)

> An ice cream eating champion. Did you know that expert ice cream eaters drink hot coffee during their competitions? It helps “keep their core from getting too cold.” Sheesh, that starts to make competitive eating sound kind of science-y, which kinda barfs all the fun out of it, at least for me.

Then there were the nicknames:

• The Velvet Teddy Bear;

• King Voodoo;

• The Houdini of Cuisini;

• and the Deep Fried Diva.

The last of these nicknames belongs to a rather cute little 26-year-old blonde named Meredith Boxberger. The key word in that sentence is not “cute,” which I’m actually going to ask Republican Editor Aaron Kirchoff to strike from this article, lest my wife get ticked off. No, the key word is little. The emcee told us she weighs only 50 kilos! Which is metric for “not very much.”

If you Google Ms. Boxberger, you find that she’s an MBA candidate at Michigan State University, and once owned a Little Caesar’s pizza store. The annual revenues at her location exceeded $450,000. Mostly from food she ate herself, practicing for her competitive eating career, which is going pretty well – her “Deep Fried Diva” website says she’s ranked the 31st best competitive eater in the world. And she came in 4th at the 2013 Nathan’s Famous competition in Coney Island.

She earned her way back at Speed Street! She chowed down 18 dogs in 10 minutes, qualifying her for the women’s competition on the Fourth of Jooooo-ly.

I was rooting for her to win it all at Speed Street, but two guys out-gluttoned her. Maybe she’ll suck it up (that’s kind of how they eat so much in 10 minutes) and take top honors in Coney Island.

If not, I have a suggestion for her: become the top eater of all-beef patty sandwiches served in cartons; yep, she could be Boxberger, Queen of Boxed Burgers.