I stood on the sidewalk ten minutes 'til 4 p.m., patiently waiting for Bagel Street Deli to finally open its doors. I was confident. I love pickles, and I always eat very fast. This competition was going to be nothing. I was going to eat more pickles in ten minutes than anyone else. I was going to win a T-shirt. I was going to donate money to charity. I was going to name a sandwich to go on BSD’s menu board. I was going to be the champion.
At 4 p.m., the workers let the crowd in. I was in the first heat, so I paid my $5 donation and took a seat. Each contestant had a volunteer (I am assuming they were employees at BSD, but I was too concentrated on pickles to ask) who cheered them on and kept count of how many pickles he or she ate.
The guy cheering me on was awesome. He got me pumped up. He was ready for me to win, too.
The chaos in the room was nerve-racking. I was starting to get nervous. The competitiveness within me made me feel that I absolutely had to win. The pressure was freaking me out.
The room counted down. 3-2-1 and a horn sounded. I grabbed a pickle and took the biggest bite that I could. Before I was even close to done chewing that bite, I took another large bite. Gross.
I thought I loved pickles. I thought wrong.
Pickle juice trickled down my hand and to my elbow. It overflowed from my mouth and down my chin. The volunteers started holding up boards. “[Insert name here] ate one pickle!” The room cheered. Two more people finished one whole pickle before I finished my first pickle. Then my name was called, and everyone cheered.
I’ve got this. I can still do this, I thought to myself.
I started in on my second pickle after I took a big gulp of water. My speed was definitely decreasing, and I was trying really hard to not “make relish” at this point. The man in front of me kept cheering me on.
“I’m erasing this number one. I’m putting down a number two. Finish that pickle!” he chanted.
“Okay! Oh. My. God. This is disgusting,” I replied rudely with a mouth full of half-chewed pickle.
As I slowly finished my second pickle, other people were cheering, “[Insert name here] has four pickles!” The crowd cheered more. “[Insert name here] has five pickles!” The crowd roared in response.
“Two minutes left!” a man yelled.
“Two pickles in two minutes. You can do this!” my ‘cheerleader’ shouted.
I bit into my third pickle with repulsion. I was covered in pickle juice, and I felt extremely nauseated.
I made it halfway through my third pickle when the final countdown began. I took a few more small bites to look like I was trying, but in reality I had given up.
The woman next to me, Natalie Stepp (a friend of my roommate), and two other people were announced the winners of our heat. Congratulations on your win with five pickles…I honestly don’t know how you all did it. The overall winner ate eight pickles. Barf.
Before I left, my ‘cheerleader’ gave me a hug, told me that he was proud of me and that he loved me. I wish I would have asked for his name and maybe taken a picture with him, because he was awesome. If you read this, I’m sorry for losing and letting you down! You deserved a better contestant than me.
I left BSD feeling sick and bloated. I had completely forgotten that pickles have a lot of sodium, and sodium holds water. I looked pregnant by the end of the night.
The experience was definitely a weird one. I don’t know if I could ever compete in a pickle-eating contest again, but I would definitely go back to watch another one. If I ever compete in another food competition, it will have to be a pizza-eating competition (I eat more pizza than most people that I know).
I can’t honestly encourage anyone to ever participate in Pickle Fest at BSD, but I can encourage everyone to at least watch the competition. If you absolutely love pickles, then maybe try competing. Just keep in mind that I thought I loved pickles, and now I never want to eat another pickle in my life.
Cover photo: i.huffpost.com