Hartley: What to do when eating becomes a challenge | AspenTimes.com

Hartley: What to do when eating becomes a challenge

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

I just got back from dinner at a restaurant in Cave Creek, Arizona, called Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue. I was told before I got there that the place had an eating challenge that was determined by the chef, Bryan.

“Great,” I thought. “I’d be happy to see how many ribs or pounds of brisket I can put away.”

I’ve never eaten competitively, despite trying on numerous occasions to engage a big-talking fellow columnist in a pizza-eating contest, but I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I could eat a lot if I wanted to. I base this assumption on the fact that I almost always eat a lot, even when I don’t want to.

Anyway, I headed to Bryan’s with visions of grandeur dancing in my head, figuring everyone would have no choice but to be awed and amazed by my gluttony. When I got there, however, I learned that the challenge had nothing to with how much food one can eat and everything to do with how disgusting a dish one would be willing to put in one’s mouth.

The challenge supposedly changes each month, meaning you never know before you get there whether it will be, for example, chicken feet or pig tails, both of which have been featured in the past. So what did I get for my challenge? Rocky Mountain oysters and crispy fried duck tongues. Yum.

Now, for those of you who aren’t aware of what they are, you should know that Rocky Mountain oysters don’t come from the ocean. They come instead from the underside of a male cow, and they are, essentially, what separates a bull from a steer.

Still unsure of what I’m talking about? Fine. They’re calf testicles that have been given a fancy name to distract you from the fact that they’re testicles. Duck tongues, on the other hand, are exactly what they claim to be: tongues from the mouths of actual ducks.

I’ve eaten a few odd things in my time. I really enjoy snails. I’ve had foie gras and frog legs once or twice. And I’ll devour just about any fast food, regardless of how nauseating it might seem to someone classier than I am. But there are some things I was sure I would never eat. At the top of that list, or so I thought, have always been Rocky Mountain oysters.

For the record, duck tongues also would have ranked very high on the list if I had known they were considered food; one of my rules of eating has always been that you should never taste something that can taste you back. But since I’d never heard of duck tongues as a dish until earlier that night, I’d never bothered to decide I wouldn’t eat them.

So there I was, faced with a plate of what looked a little like breaded chicken nuggets (the testicles) and another plate piled high with what looked like nothing I’d ever seen before (the tongues). Neither plate looked especially appetizing, but the gross appearance of the dishes and their even grosser descriptions evidently didn’t faze the people I was with, as they dug right in.

If left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have sampled either dish, but faced with that kind of peer pressure, and knowing that I could win a T-shirt by sampling both, I ate half of a Rocky Mountain oyster and one of the duck tongues. I know you’re all incredibly impressed by how brave I am.

Shockingly, the “oyster” actually tasted pretty good, and if I didn’t know it was a testicle I might have even had a few more. As for the tongue, not so much. It wasn’t to my liking. But I ate it, and now I have a T-shirt to prove it.

In addition to the challenge food, which didn’t constitute a meal, I also ate a heaping helping of truly delicious ribs, brisket, caramel corn on the cob (it sounds weird, but it’s awesome) and two desserts that were essentially banana cream pie pudding and strawberry Jell-O pie. In fact, I dare say that had the challenge been to eat as much as possible, I might have won it without even trying.

But in conclusion, will I ever eat Rocky Mountain oysters or duck tongues again? Probably not — unless another T-shirt is at stake. Having now eaten them, though, I’m forced to remove both from my list of inedibles.

It looks like you’re moving up to the top spot, haggis.

Todd Hartley has not thrown up his dinner yet, but the night is still young. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://zerobudget.net.