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Food Challenges for the Super Hungry, Super Competitive or Super Cheap

I recently read a story on Neatorama about a restaurant that's making customers sign a waiver before eating anything doused in their signature hot sauce made with savina peppers. It's similar to the challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings "“ a customer who wants to try "The "Blazin' Challenge" has to sign a waiver and must finish 12 of the hottest wings offered in less than six minutes.

This made me think about other restaurants that offer their patrons a prize for finishing a certain helping of food. I hesitate to post these, because as soon as my husband sees the list he will take it as a personal challenge. Nevertheless, below are a few places where you can get your meal for free "“ if you're up to the challenge of horking down ten percent of your body weight in half an hour.

The Beer Barrel Belly Buster
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub
Clearfield, Pennsylvania

If you scoff at the idea of a quarter pounder, maybe Denny's 15-pounder will wipe the smile off of your face. The 20-inch patty comes on a 17-inch bun and includes two onions, a whole head of lettuce, 25 slices of cheese, three tomatoes and lots of mayo, mustard, relish and ketchup. If you and a friend can get the whole thing down in three hours or less, you'll get the $30 burger for free.

Apparently that wasn't enough for Denny, though. Just last year, he introduced the 123-pound burger. That's not a typo. One hundred and twenty-three pounds. It'll set you back $379, but you get 80 pounds of meat, a pound of lettuce, ketchup, relish, mustard and mayo, 160 slices of cheese, five onions, 12 tomatoes, two pounds of banana peppers, 33 pickles and, of course, a 30-pound bun. [Image courtesy of Offroaders.com.]

12-Egg Omelets
Beth's Café
Seattle, Washington

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Looking for a hearty breakfast (and skyrocketing cholesterol)? Look no further than Beth's Café in Seattle. They serve omelets in two sizes there "“ six eggs for the light eater, 12 eggs for the truly hungry. The omelets come with all-you-can-eat hashbrowns, too. (Note: no prize at this place, just an impressive bullet point to add to your eating resume.) [Photo courtesy of the Official Wedding Website of Jeff & Lisa.]

The Texas King
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Amarillo, Texas

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The Texas King is a whopping 72 ounces of steak. That's four pounds. It will set you back $72, unless you can finish the entire meal "“ which includes the steak, a buttered roll, shrimp cocktail, a salad, beans and a potato "“ in which case it's on the house. More than 7,000 people have succeeded at the challenge since it started in 1960. Frank Pastore, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, finished the entire meal in nine and a half minutes in 1987, which is the record so far. It wasn't his first finish, though, just the fastest "“ he had completed the challenge six times prior to that.

Here's a video of someone attempting:

Continue reading...

Belly Buster Challenge
Pizza Party (formerly Pizza & Pipes)
Santa Clara, California

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There are some pretty stringent rules to enter the Belly Buster Challenge (a 20" pizza). Here's a sampling:

"¢ One person must eat ONE BELLY BUSTER pizza made with cheese and two toppings in one hour or less
"¢ Entire pizza must be eaten including the crust
"¢ You may consume water or any other beverage
"¢ We will supply water, you pay for any other drinks
"¢ No dipping the pizza in the beverage
"¢ You must keep the pizza down until all the pizza is consumed
"¢ Management is the sole judge of completion of the challenge
"¢ If you can't keep it down YOU CLEAN IT UP
"¢ You may not win more than once

But the reward is great: for eating a whole 20" pizza in less than an hour, you get your entry fee back (half the price of the pizza), a t-shirt, a picture immortalizing your efforts on the wall at the restaurant, a certificate and a free extra large pizza every month for the next year.

You can read about one man's 37-minute triumph over the Belly Buster (and two of his friends) here. You can also watch video of it here. Alas, champion competitive eater Joey Chestnut doesn't live too far from Santa Clara and came in to break the record again. His time? A mere 15 minutes.

Monster Burritos
Pinata's Mexican Grill
Bethpage, New York

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Yeah, two burritos doesn't really sound like they would be too much of a challenge to eat, even given a time limit. But when the burritos are three pounds each, the story kind of changes. Pinata's has a Wall of Shame for those who fail in their attempt and a Wall of Fame for those who succeed. From what I can tell, only two pictures reside on the Wall of Fame, and those two pictures are apparently of competitive eaters "“ "Krazy Kevin" Lipsitz and Don "Moses" Lerman.

Finally, here's one that doesn't offer you a prize for finishing, but sounds pretty interesting anyway:

Cold Sweat Ice Cream
Sunni Sky's
Angier, North Carolina

ColdSweat.jpg

Spicy ice cream? Yep. So spicy, in fact, customers have to sign a waiver before they even taste it. It's mixed with three types of pepper and two types of hot sauce. One of the first customers to try it had to go to the bathroom pretty much immediately and throw up. He's had it several times since then and hopes to go for the record "“ 14 ounces in one sitting.

And here's a fun video of a morning show DJ attempting to eat a cup of Cold Sweat. Warning: there is an emergency trip to the bathroom involved at the end.

Do you know of any other extreme eating challenges? Ever been a part of one?

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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