Any guy will tell you. Eating is far more than a social ritual and a handy way of getting nutrients into your body. It is also a crucial test of manliness.
And wherever two are gathered in the name of food, opportunities arise for men to demonstrate their resolve, their ropness, the steel of their very intestines, by eating macho.
Seeing as you are what you eat, anyone hoping to be seen as a man among men and women, must be seen to devour the most substantial, most challenging and all around most hardcore chows on offer at any given time.
Otherwise you are just a paff.
This means at every opportunity one should make the food choice that puts your mouth, your gut, your alimentary canal and your entire digestive system in the most compromising position possible.
Eat as much as possible, make it as meaty as possible, with the most possible spice available, at all times, while challenging your companions to do the same.
I’m not talking competitive eating like the Americans do. The one where that Japanese dude feeds 73 hotdogs down his neck like a cable and then kotches his lungs out backstage. That’s just in poor taste.
No, I’m talking braaivleis of the manatees. Death by boerewors. Can you chow two whole bags of Cheese Curls? Starter, two mains and dessert. Whole chicken, two-litre Coke and loaf of white. A whole habanero in one go. Nando’s black label… And you keep that stuff down afterwards!
If you do, you will be acknowledged as a man among men. Your name will resound in the hall of the greats alongside the dude who chowed two kilos on rib night, the King of Tonga and anyone who ever ate a whole chicken. You’ll also be making the dumbest dietary decisions known to man.
But that’s the price you pay for greatness!
To take it to the next level, what you need to do is hang out with your most childish eating rivals, those mates of yours who have no qualms about inserting the most ill-advised ingredients into their heads, and then challenge them!
Because that’s the only way to find out who’s the real boss!
That’s how I came to face some of my sternest man challenges, and also how I did some of the most ridiculous things yet witnessed at a dinner table.
Including that time in second year, when I downed a whole thing of balsamic.
For a man of my inestimable manliness, then, it was a bit surprising how poorly I handled that one pickled jalapeno at the Greek restaurant the other night.
My man Chris had said something like, “You’re not going to eat that whole thing, are you?” with a look of pretend-shock.
I knew what it was, though. It was a challenge.
So I took off my jacket and got down to it. It was 9pm in the restaurant, prime time. We had a couple of lovely ladies with us and my manliness was going to be on full display.
It was one of those pickled chillies. Enormous, about the size of a cow’s heart. I took the thing and shoved it so deep in my mouth that the pointy bit was playing speedball with my tonsils.
Then I sank my teeth into that sucker like a multinational tearing a cobalt mine out of a rainforest. That is to say, I took a massive bite.
The thing with pickled chillies, though. They are full of chilli-flavoured vinegar. So when you plunge your incisors into one, that vinegar’s gotta go somewhere. In this case, about 70 millilitres of chilli-vinegar squirted into each of my eyes at the same time.
I gasped in phantasmagorical agony, and breathed half of the biggest chilli I’ve ever seen into my left lung.
Now in danger of dying in public, I turned purple and began coughing, dry-retching, and crying vinegar in lateral streams like I was squirting tears out of my eyes with syringes.
Fortunately the chilli piece popped out of my ribcage and came to rest on my lapel like the angriest snollie of all time, quivering and half-digested by lungbutter.
I had now lost control of my body to such an extent and was making such strange, involuntary noises, that I began headbutting the table to try reboot my constitution.
“No, no! Really, I’m okay!” I blurted, as an 11-year-old girl got up from her table and prepared to give me a Heimmlich.
Cutlery rattled and fell from the table with my every convulsion. I was now officially making a scene anyway, so I grabbed my napkin and ran for the toilets, sobbing like someone who’s been in a crash.
As I sprinted for the bogs crying tears of green hell, I kneed a Greek widow in the bicep and she poured her glass of Graca all over her front. I heard a waiter’s tray crashing to the floor, but that must just have been my turbulence.
I locked myself in the bogs and began climbing the wall upside-down, so that I could lie with my head in the basin facing the ceiling and run a stream of cold into my eyeballs at full blast until my entire skull filled with water and I resembled Jabba The Hut from Star Wars in chilli flavour.
I felt like one of those girls who get drunk and poo themselves at the office party and then refuse to come out of the loo until everyone’s left the jol. But I wasn’t quite that bad.
So when I had regained my sight, and the Parkinson’s symptoms subsided, I sauntered back to the table, chuckling. Ready to make light of it. I was greeted with some alarm as I’d developed a rash of raised bumps across my face, like on rubber basketballs.
To my dismay, Chris was completely unaware that we were having a manliness competition. He was sipping a water, having given up drinking for his wedding or something.
Struck mute by the trauma, I simply nodded meaningfully at each of my companions in turn. My eyes were bulging like Chinese-checker ghoens. These people knew who was the toughest bastard at the table. The dumbest too, probably. But tough, in a certain way.