Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 10, 2011

James Cook: Four-pound burger tackled


---- — There were essentially two choices.

It was 10-cent hot dog day, so there's that.

And then there's the Fifth Third Burger, a monstrosity so big that a puny plate cannot contain its sheer artery-clogging power. It comes in a pizza box.

So it was quantity or ... quantity.

Quantity, it is. Going with the giganto burger.

When it comes with rules, you know it's one serious burger.

General rules: One person must eat the entire burger in the official competition area. You have until the last out of the game, and a "reversal" results in disqualification -- although at that point, that may be the least of your worries.

Oh, and the four-pound burger costs $20. That's not that much when you consider that it's supposed to be able to feed a family of four. Seriously.

The reward? A T-shirt, your photo on their wall of fame and -- most likely -- indigestion.

Five brave souls attempted the feat on Monday, including this foolhardy one. So here it goes.

There were two teenage brothers from Chicago, a guy in his 20s and another in his 30s. And me.

The terror starts when they hand you the thing. You don't realize how big it is until it's in your hands.

But, of course, it's too big to pick up and eat like a normal hamburger. A knife and fork is needed for this bad boy.

The burger features five one-third pound beef patties and is loaded with chili, nacho cheese, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce and corn chips on an eight-inch sesame-seed bun and packs 4,889 calories -- well over two times the recommended daily caloric intake of a man my age.

It started out all so well. Attacking the huge top bun first, it was gone quickly. Then one entire half was down through two innings. Things were looking good. What started out as a gag suddenly looked like a possibility. Perhaps I'd join the 26 people this season who had their photos on the wall alongside "Man vs. Food" host Adam Richman, who conquered it in just three innings.

The game against the Great Lakes Loons was tied 0-0 after two frames, and a little more than half of the monolith in front of me was gone. One guy had already given up.

There were onlookers, well-wishers and gawkers all throughout. One kid offered to make trips to the concession stand for drinks. Outside of the ballplayers, the entrants are essentially the biggest celebrities at the ballpark, receiving looks of admiration, humor and quasi-disgust from passersby.

Then the inevitable wall hit. It didn't help that the beef patties cooled down and lost their appeal, and I dislike the sour cream that the bun was slathered with.

With rain looming, a reprieve seemed possible. Perhaps the game would be extended by a rain delay. The clouds spit out the occasional raindrop, and the five feasters were moved under the protection of the concourse roof.

But time is not your enemy in this test. It's the capacity of your gullet.

And mine had just about reached its maximum occupancy.

Over the next few innings, I picked at it, discovering that cutting up the patties into small pieces and swallowing them whole was better than chewing them once they got cold and clammy.

It was midway through the fifth inning that it was time to call it quits. There was no more room at the inn. The burger won.

Several of the onlookers were disappointed when I packed up the remaining quarter of the burger in its pizza box and stepped away from the table, although none of the competitors on that day were successful in downing the entire burger buffet.

However, I'll learn from the experience and perhaps try to tackle it again next year with a little more experience. Get the patties and sour cream-soaked part of the bun down first and then go after the rest, perhaps using a Kobayashi-like attack by dipping pieces of the bun in water before intake. And go for speed, not style points.

If you don't want to put yourself through all this, you can just buy a shirt on the team's website for $8.

If only I'd thought of that earlier.