Meat your maker

This is the “before” picture at Streets of London Pub. Think you can down four patties and a mean ol’ pile of greasy onion rings and fries?

This is the “before” picture at Streets of London Pub. Think you can down four patties and a mean ol’ pile of greasy onion rings and fries?

Photo by Dave Kempa

It's Thursday night, and I'm about to get the meat sweats.

I've cut short a round of beers with a friend to go down to Streets of London Pub on J and 18th streets to test my gastrointestinal fortitude in the Ultimate Big Ben Challenge. For $25, takers get about 6 pounds of greasy bar fare: A four-patty bacon cheeseburger towering over an ungodly mass of french fries and deep-fried onion rings, as well as a tub of cole slaw.

You have 40 minutes to consume everything on the plate. If you don't finish, you get a T-shirt. If you do, you eat for free and still get the shirt.

Is it worth it? Probably not. But here we are.

I have no business doing this. To begin, I'm not much of an eater. I consume probably 1.75 meals per day and almost always need a to-go box.

I'm tall, but marathon-runner thin. I weigh 160 pounds sopping wet. I get a food baby just from eating a slice of quiche.

I'm told there are training methods for this. But none of those methods involve a turkey-bacon-avocado omelet for brunch and an early evening of beer on the Capitol lawn. I'm told that you're supposed to gorge yourself on lettuce in the days leading up to the challenge to help your stomach expand. Suffice to say, this has not been a part of my regimen.

Our writer contemplates what he’s managed to eat so far.

photo by Chakira Parsons

One of the three pretty waitresses standing at my table tells me that in all her years at the pub, she's only seen two people finish the plate. One of them was as skinny as me.

Now, I understand I really have no chance of pulling off this culinary feat. I’m unfit. I’m unprepared. And I've approached tonight with a sense of comic dread. But I'll be damned if, as soon as the waitress starts that timer, I don't give it everything I've got.

I tear down the burger tower first, finishing off the buns and three of the four hamburgers in about eight minutes. I get woozy from all the sodium, so I have to turn my attention elsewhere.

I hate onion rings, so I turn to the pile of fries, dipping them in water to make it easier for them to go down. By now, I’m sweating. A lot. I'm 25 minutes in, and maybe halfway through the food. I'm incapable of speech.

My friend Chakira regales me with stories that always seem to end with someone vomiting. I want to tell her to shut up, but all I can do is shake my head and scowl as I stuff another round of fries in my mouth.

Sorry, but all the beer in the world’s not going to make that go down any easier.

photo by Chakira Parsons

I tap out just after 30 minutes. I'm nowhere near finished with the plate, but my stomach is at capacity. I stand up, careful to not draw any attention, and walk to the bathroom, where, drenched in sweat and failure, I will soon throw up.