Eggs, by Dan Bern

TUESDAY
On the matter of eating contests, I am mostly dubious and in disfavor. People are starving, and all that. Unhealthy, and all that. Kind of disgusting, the way they shake to make room for more food.
But the Fiesta eating contest on Sunday in Ralph Edwards Park was to be an egg-eating affair.
Egg-eating contests seem different somehow. Maybe it’s because of Cool Hand Luke. In Cool Hand Luke, the Paul Newman character makes his big claim. “I can eat 50 eggs,” he says.
And he does it. Fifty eggs, in an hour.
The Fiesta egg-eating contest is for just ten minutes.
Let’s see, Cool Hand Luke pace, 50 eggs in sixty minutes, would be 8.3 eggs in ten minutes.
I figure I can eat 8.3 hard-boiled eggs in ten minutes. Assuming they’re peeled.
I happen to be an egg guy. I just like eggs. Some people are pancake guys. Some people are waffle guys, or French toast guys. I’m an egg guy.
I’m guessing it will take 10, maybe 12, maybe 15 eggs to win the thing. I’d like to think I can do a dozen. You’d like to be competitive. But maybe that’s a lot, a dozen eggs in ten minutes. That’s over an egg-a-minute. But whatever–my personal goal remains Cool Hand Luke pace: eight-and-a-third eggs.
My training regimen will be simple. I want to be famished when it is time to eat eggs, but with a big stomach. On Friday and Saturday morning I will eat pancakes, to stretch my stomach. I will not eat Saturday night or Sunday morning.
I can’t guard against 350-pounders showing up, those with God-given eating abilities. I can only do my best, given my will and desire, and the gastro-intestinal tract with which nature has seen fit to bless me.

WEDNESDAY
Today I think I passed the point of no return. Despite a moment or two of “Do I really want to do this to my body?” my focus on Sunday’s egg-eating has sharpened. Sometimes you just have to do something to prove to yourself you can do it. Some people walk over hot coals. Some run marathons or escape from a padlocked box submerged in a frozen river. On Sunday, I will eat eggs.

THURSDAY
Today, I had eggs for the last time until Sunday. It was in a café in Las Cruces. They were scrambled, and of no great consequence, and came with toast and hash browns and frijoles. And juice and coffee. On Sunday there will be none of the extras. Just eggs—and hopefully lots of them.
I assume that water may be consumed during the ten-minute contest. Otherwise, you’re asking for hiccups. Hiccups, I would think, would be about the worst thing possible, in an eating contest. Like trying to throw darts with a nervous tic.
I have decided to alter my training regimen slightly. I will take food Saturday night. The risk of my stomach shrinking seems too great. An 18-hour fast prior to the contest seems ample.
(Later)
I just heard that an 8-year-old girl ate 65 eggs in, like, seven minutes. Now, I don’t know if this particular little girl lives in Williamsburg, and I need fear her personally, or whether she lives in, say, Finland. The point is perhaps the same: people can eat an awful lot of eggs in a very short time. Maybe Cool Hand Luke pace isn’t enough. In an era of ESPN eating contests, in an era of international rock stars of eating, like the famed Kobayashi, maybe Cool Hand Luke pace is antiquated, dinosaurish, like wooden skis or tennis rackets. If an 8-year old girl is sitting next to me on Sunday afternoon tossing back eggs like they’re M&M’s, can I possibly keep a cool head, pace myself for my 8.3?

FRIDAY
My failure to finish a single stack of pancakes at BBQ on Broadway gives me my first real doubts about Sunday’s egg-eating contest.
Eight-and-a-third eggs suddenly seems an enormous amount, a mountain of eggs. I am likely to eat three eggs and be full and go no further. Three eggs on a normal Sunday morning carries no shame. But in an egg-eating contest, it is a disgrace. Like walking in ten runs, or airballing free throws. Despite my careful training regimen, I am concerned.
Still. Perhaps there is a natural human response, so far unknown to me, that kicks in when you are absolutely stuffing yourself. Maybe 10,000 years ago you found food sporadically, and when you did, you had to eat like you might not eat for another three weeks. Maybe gorging yourself is as much a survival skill as running fast, or throwing a spear. Maybe in the early part of the 21st century, competitive eating rightfully joins the more traditional track and field events as a test of spirit and survival. Maybe some of that is still lurking in my genetic core.

SATURDAY
Three Eggo waffles for breakfast. Could have done more. Didn’t see the need.
In the afternoon, in the park, wolfed down a couple Hebrew National hot dogs. Could have done more.
A couple roasted ears of corn at night, also in the park. Could have done more. Didn’t see the need.
Is this the quiet, easy confidence of a champion?
We will see.
In truth, I am immensely hungry. Suddenly, I could eat and eat. Is my training regimen allowing me to peak at the right time?

SUNDAY
They have moved the egg-eating contest from 11 to 12:30. This is only good. For me, ideal would be about 4. Like a Wimbledon final.
The later you are called upon to eat eggs, the better.
Hardest thing is to not space out, and eat food. I almost ate a banana this morning. I almost got some fried potatoes in the park. Et cetera.
12:03—My first actual hunger pang, with a growl.
12:40—They push the egg-eating contest back again, to 1:30. More good news.
A fellow competitor, Dominic Apodaca, in his early teens, figures he’s good for 20, maybe 30 eggs. But he admits to having had a doughnut this morning.
12:51—Definitely hungry.
12:53—I see a guy wolfing a huge burrito. He’s definitely not in the egg-eating contest.
1:15—I make my way over to the egg-eating contest, by where the duck races were. Next to the Rock Climb and the Jumbo Jumps and the Dunk-a-Cop, and some hot 3-wheel motorbikes.
1:20—The Spam fried rice looks really good. I must be really hungry.
Around 1:30 the thing finally goes off. There are six egg-eaters in all.
You have to peel your own eggs.
Some people sit down and some stand up. I stand up.
The first shell comes off tough but the eggs are soaking in water, so they come off easier and easier.
Drinking water is key. You’re not so much eating eggs as rinsing them down.
I don’t know when I pass 8.3. The guy across from me is eating eggs fast. They are disappearing from his bowl. I just keep eating.
Keep it smooth. Breathe. Peel with one hand, eat with another. Keep the water going, never a lot, but a constant rinse. Like at the dentist, almost.
At about the six minute mark the guy across from me pukes. I am not too upset. He has been going at a pretty good clip. This will slow him down.
I finish 10 eggs. They bring 5 more. I still feel good. Just keep peeling, keep eating, keep the water going.
The guy across from me pukes again. He seems to be out of the competition.
On the other side of the table, young Dominic Apodaca is just a couple eggs behind. I finish my new five, get 5 more eggs.
A minute to go. I keep eating. With seconds left I have eaten16, with a 17th in my hand. It flashes through my mind that double Cool Hand Luke pace would be 16.6. But there are no half eggs here. You either eat an egg, or you don’t.
Just before time is called, I get the 17th fully in my mouth.
The contest is over. Dominic Apodaca has eaten 15 eggs. I have eaten 17.
I have won. At double Cool Hand Luke pace.
17 eggs.
17 eggs!
I’ve eaten 17 eggs and won the Fiesta egg-eating contest, and the world is mine.