On the cold dark nights, in those moments between finishing work and going to bed, the Boyfriend and I have taken to watching Man Vs. Food.
It’s a dreadful program – as the Boyfriend frequently points out, if they took out all the repetition after each advert break, it could be done in half the time – but it holds something of a fascination for me.
Because I just don’t get it.
For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: Foodie Adam travels round America to sample the signature dishes in various States, then undergoes an eating challenge, either to eat as much as possible of something, to finish an enormous portion, or to eat something exceptionally spicy.
I visited America once when I was about five, and thought that was twenty years ago now, even then I remember it being a country where bigger was widely hailed as better. I don’t know how true that is of America today, but from my viewing of Man Vs Food, it certainly seems to be the case when it comes to portion sizes.
I’ve never heard of an eating competition or challenge in England. Perhaps that’s because I’ve never been to the right sort of places, but the closest I’ve known here is ‘All you can eat’ restaurants. I don’t know of anyone being lauded for their efforts in gorging themselves.
Adam seems to carry some small celebrity in America though, and the mere fact that there are enough of these challenges to sustain a series of TV programmes suggests they are quite prevalent. And though I don’t see why anyone would want to put themselves through it, or why others would celebrate them for doing so, I can’t help but watch, obsessively, as he eats 29 pieces of fried catfish, or takes on the spiciest sushi ever.
I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to see in real life, and if I was to discover a circuit of Man Vs Food style challenges in my local area, I wouldn’t be rushing out to try one. But, it’s the beauty of international broadcasting and the internet that these little windows into other cultures are opened for us, without the expense of travelling abroad.
And despite the terrible style of filming and production, I do find Man Vs Food hugely entertaining.
Just not when I’m trying to eat myself.