It was the most gonzo act of journalism since Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo descended upon the deserts of Las Vegas -- except for the fact that Saturday’s drug of choice was Diet Coke and the soundtrack was Rockin’ Dopsie Jr.
And the landscape was the shore of the Bay of St. Louis in Hancock County.
We were not covering the Mint 400, but rather the fascinating world of championship competitive eating.
Our friends at the Silver Slipper Casino hosted its first competitive eating world championship Saturday at an outdoor festival that was attended by several hundred people. The goal was to see who could eat the most Natchitoches meat pies in 10 minutes. The pies were actually brought in from the Natchitoches Meat Pie company in Coushatta, La. The pies are doughy and fried and filled with sausage, beef and cayenne pepper. It’s like a Hostess fruit pie but filled with hot meat and heartburn.
I was pretty excited when I found out the contest was of the meat pie variety. There was a delicacy served in my high school’s cafeteria called the “taco meat pie” that has become something of urban folklore in the decades since I graduated.
I called my childhood friend and role model (Lewis Grizzard nod) Jim to tell him that meat pies do actually exist in the real world and we did not just imagine them in some type of “Jacob’s Ladder” hallucination.
Jim then reminded how the taco meat pies were such a hit that one of our pals actually broke his leg running to the cafeteria to get a taco meat pie. And another mate set his kitchen on fire by trying to fry one in a shot skillet while it was completely frozen.
The eating championship took on the vibe of a boxing match, complete with a hype-guy announcer and theme music. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was blasting over the PA as the eaters prepared to walk on stage. I texted my good friend who is a rap/hip-hop expert about this and she said it was perfect because it “gets the competitors heads in the game.”
“Plus, the line ‘There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti’ is probably fitting for the contest,” she said.
The crowd was there to see one eater in particular -- world champion Joey Chestnut. He rose to fame by winning the Nathan’s Hot Dog competition shown on ESPN on July 4. And Chestnut delivered by downing 23 meat pies in 10 minutes. He is the world champion of meat pies. (Cue Queen in the background.)
Want to know what he does to prepare for a match? Well, I’m not sure, but Saturday he was drinking a steaming hot cup of coffee in the sun with temperatures hovering around 70. That in itself makes my stomach hurt.
Chestnut was the last guy to walk on the stage and he did so to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
“Are you kidding me,” I thought. “This guy must have some major moxie to bring The Who into a meat pie contest.”
And he did not disappoint. He is a champion at his sport. I respect that.
It’s also worth mentioning that my man Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. was the entertainment for the day. He’s one of my favorite acts on the Gulf Coast.
I saw him a couple of years ago at a blues festival in Bay St. Louis. I liked him so much that I told my wife, Dayna, that I wanted to move to the Coast so I could be closer to Rockin’ Dopsie.
And here I am, meat pies and all.