Food — the world’s greatest ‘unequalizer’

WilliamThomas.WilliamThomas.

I think the lasting side effect of the COVID pandemic is food, more food, expensive food and — OK, let’s go the whole nine courses — gluttony.

Last week in Texas, a mother and son took a road trip designed to put the horrors of Florida’s Hurricane Ian behind them. At a Texas Rangers baseball game, Braylon Sheffield caught the New York Yankee rookie Oswald Peraza’s first big-league home run. Asked if she chose those seats in anticipation of catching a souvenir ball, maybe even one by Aaron Judge, the mother replied, “No. I bought those tickets because they were in the all-you-can-eat section. I have a teenage boy.”

Seriously? Sports stadiums in America now offer all-you-can-eat sections? Good gawd, the sneeze guard over the salad bar must be the length of a football field. I’m guessing the premium seats in this section come with an intravenous drip attached to a nearby keg of cold beer and an automatic mayo gun.

With 83 million Americans with obesity, I’m not sure that Major League Baseball should try to bump that number up to a record-breaking 100 million people. True to the 10-to-1 population differential, 8.3 million Canadians live with obesity.

The Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Lancaster, Pa., America’s largest buffet, employs 500 locals and seats 1,200 diners … precariously. So big, it has a 40,000-square-foot Gift Shop on the Smorgasbords’ lower level, which also includes … things to eat.

Soon, all-you-can-eat food stations will be popping up in churches, train stations and on Greyhound buses. “Dine and drink with aerial views” — Betty Dangers in Minneapolis, Minn., has seating on a ferris wheel.

Not the doubling of prices by restaurants, nor the gouging going on in grocery stores seems to curb our unhealthy appetite for overeating.

Did you know that the province of Ontario offers not one, but two “butter tart trails”? Yeah, there’s one in Wellington County and another in the Kawarthas. Butter tart trails. Be careful, because excessive butter in the mix can make those crusty curves slippery when driving at high speed.

The Culture section of the Toronto Star is really the Food, section with a nod to ethnic recipes and articles featuring food trucks. Except for TV listings and newswire entertainment shorts, like “Kanye West changes his name from him to Otis Elevator” — it’s just all porn for foodies.

Recently the world’s greatest professional competitive eater, Joey Chestnut, capped his 15th championship at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by forcing 63 wieners down his gullet within the allotted 10-minute time limit. In competitive eating matches, puking is referred to as a reverse, and if the vomit can be reswallowed, the competitor is not disqualified. This is one of those rare moments in sports when the player in the game and the fans watching on TV at home get to throw up on their shoes together.

The average American now consumes 2,000 pounds of food each year. Man, that’s a ton of food. The average Canadian wastes 873 pounds of food annually. Sinful.

Professional competitive eating, which is gaining in popularity in North America, has set records in 11 different food categories including pizza, asparagus and bacon. Ten years ago, 32-year-old Edward Archbold died after stuffing himself with live roaches and worms to win a python at a reptile store contest. I’m wondering how those 183 million people in the world who go to bed hungry every night would regard this contest when their daily diet includes even less than roaches and worms.

In one of the lamest marketing stunts ever, PepsiCo Foods Canada, maker of Cheetos, erected an elongated orange 17-foot statue of the popular snack in … Cheadle, Alta. Get the connection? Cheetos…Cheadle? Being held skyward by three eight-foot fingers, the town monument looks like a sad and badly infected phallic symbol. Fail to Launch Day for “The Cheadle Hand Statue” is next month when it comes down for good.

Right about now, the focus for our unnatural obsession with food should be the local food bank, which just can’t get enough of the stuff. Thanks to the pandemic and inflation, the number of people in this province forced to visit food banks is spiraling out of control.

The people, our neighbours, who frequent food banks, are not eating competitively or obsessively; they’re using food for strength and sustainability, as it was meant to be. How about you and help me out? $150 seems about right. There are seven food banks in Niagara. Please donate to the one nearest you. I’m dropping my check off to Port Cares now.

For a comment or a signed copy of any of humor columnist William Thomas’s books, email williamjthomas@gmail.com.

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