"Trotters or Flats in race four?" I asked a rail side spectator at the Tioga Downs Casino and Racetrack, as if I was a grizzled harness race veteran, looking for an inside tip. The truth was I was three races into my harness race knowledge and despite learning some of the terminology (trotters and flats has to do with how the horse gait, but don't hold me to it), I was losing badly. Riders, not jockeys, propel the horses around the turns as they sit, not Ben Hur chariot style, but leaning back in a sling and I noticed, unlike their jockey counterparts, there didn't seem to be a weight restriction. I kept losing money on a rider who looked a lot like Billy Joel, but I probably should have been focusing on the upcoming Chicken Spiedies eating contest sponsored by Lupo's. That, not the ponies, was my reason for taking in the mountain air at Tioga Downs, a scenic near live gaming casino in upstate New York. What exactly is a Spiedies and for the purposes of competitive eating, is it speedy?
The Lupo Spiedies (pronounced "speedees") are marinated cubes of meat -- lamb originally, but now spun off to veal, venison, beef, pork and chicken -- that are skewer cooked and placed in a special soft sesame seed top-split roll. Originally from Italy, "spiedo" means "spit" as in the grilling instrument, and Sam Lupo brought the sandwich (not the actual sandwich, but the idea of the sandwich) to Broome County in upstate NY and in 1951 started the Lupo's empire. Now onto its third generation with four stores and seven marinades (including the just released "buffalo flavor"), the chicken Spiedie entered the gustatory gladiator arena of competitive eating. Is it speedy? Well, chicken cubes can be dense and although these were moist and the buns, like fluffy tempurpedic pillows, each sandwich was an overstuffed ¾ of a pound. Since the contest was no dunking, this would be a battle of jaw strength and who should be the dominate eater in that regard -- Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. Chestnut, channeling the Billy Joel harness rider, would do my potential prize purse in, while chomping his way to thirteen sandwiches -- just barely, lapping my six. I was out of the prize money in harness racing and in competitive eating. Still, the Spiedies were delicious to the last bite and the distant mountains reflected in the setting sun making for a pleasant summer evening. I noticed Stephen Lupo handing out trays and foil to the eaters and that more than half the field was taking home their leftover Spiedies. I have only seen Michael "Per Diem" Parrish haul off leftover corn and hot dogs, never the rest of the field. As a Major League Eater, I feel if I have leftovers, I really haven't done my best in the contest. However, Badlands Booker and Marcos "The Monster" Owens seemed very pleased by their leftover sandwich collections.
I rode back with Badlands and The Monster and though it took only 4 hours to arrive, it took 6 hours to return. Competitive eaters, post-contest are known to get the munchies. Not from any illegal substances, but after a sweets contest, meat is desired (I once saw Badlands eat twenty-one cannolis and then line up for a sausage and peppers hero). After a protein heavy contest, one's sweet tooth kicks in. Badlands and The Monster needed to stop every half hour on the ride home for sweet beverages, donuts and at one point some sort of loaded Doritos, which I could barely identify as human food (it seemed to be leaking neon lava). Their gas station consumption was the opening topic on a podcast I cohost titled, "Eating Disorder" on Sunday night at the Heritage Radio Network. Heritage Radio broadcasts out of a repurposed dumpster behind Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn and all its podcasts are food related. My cohosts, Chef Paul Gerard and the bon vivant Reverend Spyro, were amazed at the array of "stoner food" that was consumed post eating contest. The topic of that night's podcast was cooking with marijuana and pot edibles, so the alien Doritos were fascinating. Shameless plug here: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/programs/122-Eating-Disorder
This week we tackle cannibalism in movies. I have no stories of Badlands nor The Monster craving long pig, but I did once eat "HuFu" -- Human Tofu, a vegetarian option for cannibals. How did it taste? Like chicken.
Crazy Legs Conti always bets the three horse to show at www.crazylegsconti.com