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Mind over Maki

I get emails from The Pitch, and a few weeks ago, one contained an invitation to a “Sushi Slam” at Edokku out in Lenexa. The food challenge was to consume 10 sushi rolls (your choice) in an hour, 80 pieces. I immediately sent it on to my husband and brother-in-law, and J-Wo replied within minutes that he’d signed up.

I thought, “Why not? After all, if you don’t finish, you get to take it home, and they charge you, sure, but $31 for massive amounts of sushi is still a great deal!”

So I signed up, too.

And Sunday afternoon, off we went. We were in the second group (joined by Fox4 movie critic Shawn Edwards, who kept saying he was going to eat 80 rolls, which would have been nigh-impossible, but nobody corrected him.)  We were early, and we watched from a distance as they counted down the time, and then as people exited with their plastic plates of sushi, covered in saran wrap. “That’s gonna be you,” egged my husband.  Stubborn as always, I told him where he could shove it.

Then we were seated. A guy across from James looked at me and said, “You gonna do this?” and I said, “Yes. It’s mental.” He completely agreed. He kept talking, and I wondered about what might be going on, as he had major bags under his eyes and kept saying the same things over and over. (turns out, we later discovered, he’d smoked a big ol’ joint to get his appetite going.) His plate of sushi arrived, and I looked at it somewhat askance, as the whole plate was full of one type of sushi, and each piece contained fried shrimp. “Dude, that’s a lot of fried food. You gonna eat the tail?” “Hell no, I ain’t eatin’ the tails,” he retorted. Ooook. Good luck there, Cheech.

We were also instructed by the referee that if we chose to dip our sushi rolls into the saucer of soy, any remaining rice in that dish would need to be eaten. I immediately opted not to use my dish.

James’ plate arrived first:

Mine arrived last, so I didn’t get a picture of it. I had errantly ordered one roll that was gigantic and tempura-battered. Fuck. It was utterly delicious, rich, and warm, filled with eel and cream cheese and hell if I can remember what else. I had wisely gotten smaller rolls of simple maki – tuna, eel, etc. The timing began and we were off.
You get two plates – and while I thought it would go quickly, it didn’t. I judiciously took tiny sips of water to keep things lubricated, and tried to enjoy the process as much as possible. About 2/3 of the way through my plate, my husband has already finished his first, and is on to the second. He proceeds to win the entire group’s challenge by finishing in just over 9 minutes. Two plates of sushi. The ref was talking to him like he was trying to make a pass at him, all sorts of praise and complements, it was cracking me up. Apparently he was downing the smaller rolls two pieces at a time. He won a gift bag and a t-shirt, and then sat there and tried to encourage me.

Plate 2 arrived. The previous fried roll was here again, and it taunted me with it’s excesses of warm gooey textures. I plowed back in, grateful I’d eaten very little all day, and then it came down to the big fried roll, and a smaller roll. About 13 pieces. I almost stopped. I thought, it’s ok. $31 is fine. I was starting to get sweaty, and I thought of all those “Man vs. Food” episodes where I’d never fully comprehended just how fucking hard this sort of thing was. A few more pieces and then it happened. One of those horrible moments where your brain is fighting with your body. A sip of water. Rest. There was still half an hour, but as my husband reminded me, rice expands in your stomach, so the longer I waited, the harder it would get. He then hit on the magic solution that saved me: eat some pickled ginger. The crunchy bite cleared my palate, restored a little clarity, and with three pieces staring at me, I told myself paying $10 for each of those pieces was just plain silly at this point. And I polished them off, each with a piece of ginger on top.

For those of you reading this in horror, I completely get it. I was/am pretty horrified myself. I won’t repeat the event, or anything like it, ever again. There were some interesting social aspects to it, too. I’m a fat chick. Big fat chick. Dare I even say, good-looking, funny-as-hell, in-your-face fat chick, sure. And once people are around me and see and know more than the fatness, they tend to enjoy my company and see me less as just a fat person and more for all my parts. But society is just not so much on the fat chicks, and strangers are rude, and kids stare and say shit, and a grandma with dementia once announced to everyone in Price Chopper that That Girl Is Really Big! No matter the bravado and teflon coating, I’m well-aware of the hatahs.  So, there was part of me that felt a little like I was somehow fulfilling society’s stereotype of the fat person, and in participating, somehow adding to the stigma and therefore signing a blank check to insults and stereotypes.  And frankly, as someone who’s had a jillion issues with food and weight over the years, let me tell you how weird it is to have people shake your hand and high-five you…. FOR EATING. That in of itself spoke volumes to me about the messages I have gotten over the years – and the ones I give myself – about food. Nobody has ever said, “Wow, great job! You cleaned your plate!” LOL!

All-in-all, it was an experience. I learned that one really can eat so much food you reach the point of physical discomfort and you think you might involuntarily puke all over some stoned-out dude who also apparently hates fake crab meat.  (Oh, you THINK you’ve been there, after Thanksgiving dinner, but friend, unless you’ve done something like this in a timed event, it just isn’t the same. I thought that, too, and this proved me wrong 10x over.)   It also was interesting to see just how much you can use your mind to overcome pain, circumstances and focus on a goal, which is rather heartening when you think about applying it in the reverse direction.

And yes, I still love sushi…. in moderation.

2 Comments

  1. I’m one of those folks who watch food eating competitions just to laugh when someone finally hurls and the commentator calls it “a reversal of fortune.” But damn a fuckton of sushi sounds pretty awesome. Maybe not awesome enough that I’d give it a try, but kudos to you for doing it and for completing it!

  2. Oh Jennifer I love you. I love you for what’s in you..sans the sushi!!!! You are one of the most unique, inquisitive, wickedly brilliant people I know! My dear friend I have never seen anything but you, my zany nutty friend….not the shell around it!! Luv ya!

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