The average person's stomach can hold about a liter of food, or close to two pounds' worth. But who wants to be average? All over town, restaurants are offering up contests of confection, defying brave eaters to ingest more food than they should eat in a week -- daily recommended values be damned!
Armed with a brand-new college degree and a big mouth, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges and prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.
It's time for another contest of intestinal fortitude, and this week, I'm craving Mexican. We are in Arizona, after all.
Some cursory internet research reveals a challenge that's right up my alley: The El Gordito Burrito at San Felipe's Cantina (2000 E. Rio Salado, 480-736-8226). Also known as "the Fat One," the El Gordito is a big ass taco de harina made with chicken or steak, rice, beans and cheese, all wrapped in a tortilla the size of a manhole cover and covered with spicy sauce and melted cheese. If you eat it all in one sitting, San Felipe's will throw you a party and give you a free T-shirt -- size XXL, of course.
San Felipe's online menu makes no mention of the meal's actual weight, but I find some pictures posted by other men who've attempted it, and it looks totally doable. Plus, the thing only costs $19.95 -- a steal! I make my way to San Felipe's in the Tempe Marketplace and order it forthwith.
"Are you sure?" the server asks. "It's HUGE; like, about seven pounds."
I scoff at her; I'm sure she's full of shit. The picture I saw online was three pounds, maybe.
But I was wrong. Dear God, was I wrong.
When I see a beefy chef carrying my plate instead of our tiny waitress, I know I'm in trouble. The thing is seven pounds, at least.
It's the size of a two-by-four, slathered with sauce and gooey cheese and served alongside dollops of sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole that appear to have been doled out via ice cream scoop. This is how David must have felt when he first saw Goliath.
Stricken yet determined, I gird my loins and prepare to spend the next couple hours doing battle with El Gordito. Here's the play-by-play:
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80 minutes: I become exhausted. The remaining section of burrito looks so soft and welcoming, like a spicy pillow. I struggle not to lay my head on it.
90 minutes: Five pounds of burrito are in the books, but I can't go any further. I've stopped eating and have now taken to staring menacingly at the remaining fourth of the meal before me, hoping that it'll magically evaporate.
95 minutes: Each whiff of burrito stink makes me gag a little bit. I decide to do myself and everyone around me a favor and head to the restroom for a little ride on the porcelain pony.
I return from my purge, considerably less overcome by agony. The beer I ordered is untouched and oh-so-welcoming. I may not be able to finish this meal, but I've never not finished a beer. The drink goes down and I pack up the leftover burrito, preparing to attack it anew tomorrow, after I wake up from the nightmares the thing will give me tonight.