Eating 5 Pounds Of Corn

On Aug. 20, 2006, at the 68th Annual Cornfest in Ortonville, Minn., Cleveland’s top competitive eater, Coondog O’Karma, set a new world record by eating 5 pounds of corn on the cob in 10 minutes.

My stomach is a tight knit of nerves as I stare at an aluminum pan filled with 12 pounds of dirty-yellow corn on the cob.

I pull my drinking water in tight to my side and shoo off a fly as the crowd counts down from 10 to begin the competition.

The first cob is slick, cold and unappetizing, but that is quickly forgotten as I take a bite of corn to gauge my eating strategy. The kernels come off the cob full and solid like a mouthful of loose teeth. I know these ears are perfect for a corn-eating maneuver I’ve created: the Turkey Flap Twist.

I open my mouth wide, jut out my bottom jaw, and with my elbows held ear-high, twist and grind off the kernels with my bottom row of teeth. I grind a good half to three-quarters of a cob before needing water. That’s the rhythm I need to sustain for the full 10 minutes of the

Halfway though the contest, an errant kernel gets stuck in the snothole in the back of my throat. A slight panic slows me, but a successful snort and a swallow continues my mania.

At around seven minutes, my jaw numbs, my stomach tightens and bloats, the corn begins to take on the taste and texture of crayons; and the thought of swallowing makes the food in my mouth feel as though it is expanding with each chew.

Experience has taught me that I now need to take smaller bites and chew less in order to swallow.

As the contest winds down, my mantra is small bites, swallow, small bites, swallow.

With my stomach sending out strong vomit tremors, it becomes a battle between common sense and competitive spirit. Short breaths and mule-headed stubbornness allow me enough balance to ignore the sour wiggles of stomach acids and nausea as I continue eating down to the very last second to... zero.

The contest finished, I pull back from the table and bend over to relax. The crevice of every tooth is packed tightly with corn. Stuffed and sweaty, I’m suddenly self-conscious of the corn pasted on my nose, cheeks and eyebrows. Embarrassed, I brush away the corn on my face, quickly trying to establish some dignity in my demeanor, as the remaining corn debris is taken away and weighed.

I’m sucking and picking at my teeth, packed and nauseous inside, when the winner, with 4.9 pounds of corn eaten off the cob, is announced... and it’s me.

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