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franklin county times

Burgers anyone? Guinness is calling

By By Robert St. John / food columnist
October 20, 2004
Last week Don Ezra Nicholas entered the Guinness Book of World Records by eating 31⁄5 McDonald's hamburgers.
To break the official record, Nicholas, 19, had to stuff the 31⁄5 hamburgers into his mouth all at once without swallowing. As he did this, the witnesses gathered in Singapore chanted, "Shove it in, shove it in!"
It was the one-fifth of a burger that pushed him over the mark. According to the Associated Press, "the previous burger-stuffing record was set in 1998 by Johnny Reitz, an American who squeezed three into his mouth without spitting or swallowing."
The story didn't state whether the previous burgers were McDonald's burgers. However, it did say that after the current feat was accomplished, "Nicholas jumped up, pumped his fists in the air and shouted, Yes! I am the burger king!'"
A low blow to McDonald's, indeed.
The entire world was focused on Singapore for this record-breaking event. McDonald's probably bought a few thousand dollars worth of brand-identity, corporate-placement advertising for the occasion.
When the future world-record holder was busy stuffing McDonald's brand hamburgers into his mouth, he was probably wearing a McDonald's logo shirt, maybe even a McDonald's paper hat, and, at the moment of truth as soon as the record was broken, he stood up in the middle of the cheering crowd and screamed, "I am the burger king!" Ouch.
Maybe Nicholas was a product-placement double agent and the Home of the Whopper kicked in even more money to have him stick it in the eye of the competition. Nevertheless, when interviewed after the event he said, "I'm on top of the world right now, because everyone's going to know that I can shove more than three burgers in my mouth." Aim high, I always say.
During election season, rhetoric is turned up a notch. It has recently been said that America is losing credibility all over the world. Baloney. How can we be losing credibility when we've got brave souls like Don Ezra Nicholas in island nations such as Singapore stuffing 31⁄5 burgers into their mouth all at once? Who cares about the Kyoto Treaty? Kyoto schmyoto, let's eat.
The story made me think of my lifelong friend Chris Bowen. Chris was a straight-A student with perfect attendance and excellent conduct. But to his friends at Thames Junior High School, he was known for two things: basketball and eating.
At 14-years old, Chris already wore a size 16 shoe. He was a giant, walking, talking, eating machine. His childhood claim to fame was that he could stuff an entire McDonald's cheeseburger into his mouth at once. Kids would ride their bikes from miles away just to watch Chris accomplish this feat. As long as they bought the burgers, no matter how many they bought, Chris would eat them all at once.
In 1974, if we would have known that a shot at the Guinness Book of World Records was on the line, I think we could have talked Chris into breaking that record. One thing is for certain, given the opportunity to break the record, my friend Chris would have "danced with who brung him" and never would have given credit to Burger King.
An event like that would have brought worldwide attention and instant acclaim to the Thames Warriors and the entire Hillendale subdivision of Hattiesburg. We never had a major record holder in our neighborhood.
Sure, we once played host to the world's longest Monopoly game, and a few of my friends held the record for the world's longest basketball game. But eating 31⁄5 hamburgers all at once that's a world record to brag about. That's a record that would have finally put us on the map.
Today, Chris is an admired, respected, and productive member of society. But for the sake of our alma mater, maybe I could talk him into coming out of his self-imposed, 30-year, food-stuffing retirement.
We'll shoot for 32⁄5 hamburgers. I'll put him into intense hamburger-eating training a heavy regimen of three burgers at a time three times a day for three weeks. After all, what's an additional two-fifths of a burger to a guy who could eat an entire cheeseburger at the ripe old age of 14?
Step up to the plate and come out of retirement, Chris. Guinness is calling and the reputation of the old neighborhood is at stake.
Robert St. John is an author, chef,
restaurateur and world-class eater. He is the author of "A Southern Palate," "Deep South Staples" and the upcoming book "Nobody's Poet." He can be reached at www.nsrg.com or www.robertstjohn.com.

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