Before I get to the magical unicorn poop sold exclusively at Taco in a Bag in downtown Chicago - the wondrous rainbow patty shaped, rainbow sprinkled meringue-like dessert - that is the perfect compliment to an entire appropriately priced taco-in-a-bag like the Norberto (Spicy Braised Chicken Thigh, Sautéed Pepper and Onion, Pepper Jack, Avocado Jalapeño Sauce, Dried Cranberry, Cilantro) I have a public service announcement to all pro-eating protest-minded folks. If you are going to protest a competitive eating contest, please do so respectfully. Yes, we are the stomach 1% , an elite exclusive club of signed Major League Eating gurgitators. And yes we enjoy the birthdate of our proud country on July 4th celebrating better than anyone by eating too many Nathan's hot dogs. And yes, the founding fathers (rumor has it Ben Franklin could put away four or five cheesesteaks in a sitting) put a lot into the constitution (a much better placemat than the Magna Carta) providing for freedom of speech (and condiments.) But still...if you are a group, covered in fake blood, and you charge the stage at Ribfest trying to disrupt eight minutes of Uncle Bub's rib eating, holding your signs and blocking the amazing manual-to-oral dexterity in the BBQ discipline, at least put a website on your signs so we know what the hell you are protesting for (and blocking Juan "More Bite" Rodriguez's view of the crowd.)
As a Major League Eater, I have been protested before. A polite young couple protesting for world hunger greeting me with frowns at a Nathan's qualifier at the Mall of America in Minnesota. I was protested again regarding Larry the Lobster, a caught 25 pounder, when I aligned myself with the group PETA - not the one you are thinking of - but the "People Eating Tasty Animals" and insisted that Larry be served to me with single-origin drawn artisanal butter on the side. That got me some flak from another lesser known group with the same initials. Even the Shea Brothers who ran the non-televised Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest in the mid 1990's (now fortunately, you can tune in live on ESPN 2 at high noon) hired a woman in a pea suit to protest their own event on behalf of vegetarians. They had someone protest against themselves to stir up media attention. It is true that Nathan's Famous hot dogs does not have a vegetarian option, and when I asked high ranking Nathan's executive Randy Watts why this was the case he replied that they had worked on a veggie option for years, but they all tasted disgusting. I think that is a fair reason to pass on tofu or seitan or soy-laden wieners, but perhaps the plant eaters will still go ahead and demand crappy food in tubular shapes to be put on gluten free whole-wheat non-GMO buns (they might be right about the buns, but still...)
I was mid rack rip at Chicago's Ribfest, tearing the top meat off the mouth-watering ribs when the protester appeared in front of me. A large man, dripping fake blood (it wasn't ketchup because who would put that on ribs), stood on stage yelling something about violence. To me, it felt he was on stage, disrupting the action for minutes, but as this Youtube video shows from the 1:31 mark to 1:49, it was closer to a scant 18 seconds of embarrassing stage disruption. Major League Eating fans don't do pay-for-view (although a Mayweather - Pacquiao gazpacho eating contest is rumored) and they don't pay exorbitant ticket prices a la most major league sports so when MLE representative Sam Barclay says that each fan is choosing to watch pro-eating in their leisure time, we should give them the best show possible, every bite, chew, and swallow. Of the three protestors, two waifish ladies were gently escorted off stage by MLE ref Matt Raible. The guy in front of me was big, maybe 225 lbs and 6 feet. I grabbed the back of his shirt and started to push him forward, until I noticed he would likely fall on Juan "More Bite" Rodriguez's sister ("Nikki Mouth" ) and their Aunt (no nickname). I pulled the protester back and he hit the table, knocking into debris trays and my clearing liquid (cucumber lime Gatorade, only available in bodegas in Chicago and LA and the most wonderful Gatorade flavor ever.) Later, MC Sam Barclay would compliment myself and the eater to my left for eating one handed while pushing the protestor off the stage. I didn't recall that until I watched the Youtube video and saw that indeed, I must have some stomach-body muscle memory to achieve the one-handed rib stuff and other handed ribcage push that got the protestor off the stage. I was greatly helped by the eater to my left, an amateur turned pro, "The Douche" (no actual name). The Douche is actually a lovely sweet fellow who just plays the part of a bodybuilding sleeveless meathead because that is what the Windy City wants. His beautiful girlfriend and stunning Mom were in the crowd and made up a DNA dynasty of the future of humankind. The Douche has a young Ahnold-like body, but wouldn't flex for the crowd until his attractive girlfriend gave the OK. All I saw as the protestor went flying was The Douche's tricep, defined like Mt Rushmore below a triumvirate of deltoids which weren't even flexed in the mild effort to push the protestor off stage. We returned to our primary purpose and focused on the ribs. Michelle Lesco would win her first outright title and first novelty giant check (seriously where do you cash those?) with 3.21 pounds in 8 minutes. I would place last in the prize money covering enough for three cases of Old Style canned beer and two of Miller Lite which I would consume responsibly with friends over the following 30 hours (is playing laser tag while drinking a six-pack responsible? My moral compass may be slightly off.) The Douche sadly, would not place, perhaps the loss of those 18 seconds, like the missing 18 minutes of the Nixon Tapes (all excessive lunch orders from what I can surmise) would cost him a place on the prize money pantheon. I know in my stomach, that The Douche will fight to live to eat another day.
My adrenaline was pumping as the BBQ was digesting and the afterparty was at Taco in a Bag. There I learned that the unknown protestors were going for total animal liberation, which if you've followed the Tbilisi, Georgia Zoo escaped animal story it really doesn't work out in the short term. A wiser man, Sam Barclay, pointed out that everyone had their moment - eaters, fans, and protestors alike - and no-one got hurt. It was a fine contest and one for the upcoming Major League Eating book series, "Profiles in Stomach Courage."
Despite my 1.5 pounds of ribs and copious Old Style beer I had room enough for the unicorn poop from Taco in a Bag. I have previously written about "The True American Food Outlaws," Gravy Brown and Deepdish Bertoletti. Gravy and Deepdish own and operate the fast food mecca that is Taco in Bag. After debuting a food truck titled, "Glutton Force Five" and a year's lease won on Food Network's "Food Court Wars" in a distant mall, they opened a downtown location for all the drunks, punks, soccer moms, and Bill Murray at 4603 N. Lincoln Avenue. The place is decked out in Gravy's graffiti style, an R rated John Hughes world - a Shermerville taco joint worthy of all the accolades that Deepish's wonderful food gets. They even have salads although bacon vinaigrette may not catch on with the Lululemon crowd (the pants stretch - go ahead indulge yourself.) The next day I would volunteer to work an eight hour shift at register one as a thank you to the hospitality of Gravy and Deepdish, but mostly so I could try every menu item.
Finally now - the unicorn poop - it starts with the texture and taste of a fine Italian pignoli cookie giving way to the non-cloying but sugared sweetness and pull of salt water taffy and did I mention it's rainbow colored and has rainbow sprinkles? It was magical and pairs nicely with the bottles of Unicorn Tears also sold exclusively at Taco in a Bag. Oh sorry, does drinking unicorn tears offend you? I suppose you can join the TULF - The Unicorn Liberation Front, but if you choose to protest my consumption during my consumption, please do so with a modicum of dignity. Let's keep unicorn poop eating classy.
Taco in a Bag is in Chicago run by The Taco Thief @TacoinABag. Crazy Legs Conti is in NYC and is run down @colemansbandg.