It’s that time of year again. The summer heat has us sweating bullets, and air conditioners are running full tilt. We celebrate our country’s birthday as we head to the beach, set up our backyard barbeques, and sidle to the park for picnics. And– we eat! If you happen to be at the corner of Surf Ave and Stillwell in New York’s famous Coney Island you’ll not only get to hang out at the beach; you’ll also be able to watch one of the most famous eating contests - the world renowned Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest.
And eating contests is what Horsemen Of The Esophagus is all about. Jason Fagone has done a fantastic job of showing us the world of competitive eaters. The explosion of this – ahem -- sport and its athletes (gurgitators, as the International Federation of Competitive Eating likes to refer to them) already has a bunch of stars with appropriate nicknames: Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, Ed “Cookie” Jarvis, and last but not least, “Hungry” Charles Hardy. But this phenomenon is not uniquely American. Fagone’s travels take him to twenty-seven contests from Nagoya Japan (following now six-time hot dog-eating champ Takeru Kobayashi) to the aforementioned Nathan’s competition in Coney Island.
Along the way, the book delves into the techniques and training methods for competitive eating as it follows the lives of David “Coondog” O’Karma, Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, and Tim “Eater X” Janus, three seemingly average people in pursuit of gorging gold. Overall, the book is well written (perhaps a tad over-written) with a humorous tone. It’s also an eye-opening look at a niche activity (or spectacle) that could explode out of the county fairs and become a hit TV property. A very thorough look at the world of competitive eating.