Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Plum Dumpling / Trnkobrani in Czech

I am back from the plumb dumpling eating contest, which was held at Vizovicke Trnkobrani in the Czech Republic. The trip was a lot of fun and I am very thankful to Starobrno, Rudolf Jelinek Distilleries, KISS 98 and all the others that helped make this whole event possible.

My trip over to Czech was a bit wild. I was supposed to get into the Czech Republic at 6 am, but through a series of delays at multiple airlines I did not end up arrive in Prague until about 9 or 10pm. I was very exhausted. Unfortunately, my trip was not over. I still had a 300km car ride, which even more unfortunately was through the dark night with rain and hail through the winding roads of the Czech countryside.

After I made it to the hotel, I fell asleep after unwinding a little bit. Pat Bertoletti came and woke me up and we headed over to the first contest, which was called the meal of champions, or something similar. The contest was comprised of three consecutive rounds. The winner of each round won 3 points, second place got 2 points, and third place got 1 point.

Round one: PIZZA. (The pizza appeared to be about 20” in diameter and was topped with all kinds of things including ham, corn and others.)
Patrick finished first by a long shot. The crust around the edge was rock hard and sharp. I had to use about 5 bottles of water just for the crust alone. I finished 2nd and Kamil finished just behind me.

Round two: PICKLES (30 full size pickles.) These were dill I believe, but I am not well versed in pickles. I was so incredibly bloated from all the water I used on pizza I was praying Brian Seiken would show up and eat this round for me. Pat finished first. I was struggling with the bloated feeling and the strong sour taste of the pickles. My stomach was swirling, but I pushed through. The rule was the first person to stuff the food inside their mouth finished first, so despite being 1 pickle behind Kamil I stuffed in my last two pickles in an attempt to finish ahead of him. Apparently, he was watching me closely jammed in his last pickle at the same time. I couldn’t tell who got it in first, but it turned out he beat me by a split second, so Kamil got second place and I got third in this round.

Round three: ICE CREAM (The tub of ice cream was between 1 and 2 liters of ice cream) At this point I was feeling horrible. I was completely drained of energy and full to the brim of all the food, water, and sour vinegar. The swirling, sour flavor was bubbling up in my esophagus trying to push its way up. I have not mentioned it before, but each round started immediately after the last. I was about ready to be done with this. I was hoping to get this over so I could hurry back to the hotel and catch up with my sleep and get at least my usual 9 hours before the main event. I still had one more round of ice cream to go before I could even start thinking of that however.

My stomach was knotting up and swirling around and around. If the volume of the pizza and nearly 3 liters of water weren’t enough all those pickles had pushed me to nearly my tipping point. I wanted to tap out and throw in the towel, but I wanted to finish strong even more. I had not come all this way to give up so easily. At this point a stood up, grit my teeth, tensed every muscle in my body and then let out a loud scream. Then as they brought the ice cream out I let out a deep breath, relaxed, and focused completely on destroying the ice cream as fast as possible. The crowd counted down and once they said go I took off eating as fast as I could. Half way through I felt some pickle juice rising up, so I took one quick breath, and pounded down the last few bites. I finished the ice cream in about maybe 30 seconds or less which was good enough for second place. Patrick managed to take the lead and put me away when I stopped to catch my breath. One of the former champs said something to me in Czech I didn’t understand, but then pointed at Pat and said “Superman!”. He sure is… a competitive eating Superman. Kamil didn’t manage to finish his ice cream, but instead decided to return everything into a red bucket at the back of the stage. When he brought it back over to the table I felt bad for him and at the same time was shocked he brought it over to the table, disgusted, but decided not to think about it and just started laughing.

The total results were 1 Pat – 9 points, 2 Hall – 5 points, 3 Kamil – 4 points or DQ (not really important)

After this little contest I thought it was time to go rest up. Instead I got entranced by all of the kind Czech people sharing amazing check food such as Goulosh, sausages, and more. Also the Czech beer and Slivowitz (RUDOLF JELÍNEK SLIVOWITZ, plumb brandy), was hard to resist. I knew I was leaving the country in only another day’s time so I felt compelled to accept their wonderful offerings. I have never had better food in my entire life. It was amazing!

I left the festival grounds around 9pm, so I figured I could wake up at 7 or 8am sip on water, walk around and get ready for the main event and feel great. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

I was wrong. I woke up at 10 am with a bulging stomach still full of sausage, beer, and other wonderful things. I walked around some to try and have everything settle down. I was picked up at 10:30am and headed to the main event. Backstage I relaxed and tried to get ready. At noon we went on.

Arrogantly I thought I would still be able to get down at least 200 plumb dumplings despite my lack of usual preparation and rest.

MAIN EVENT:

The plumb dumpling contest started. I threw the first three dumplings in my mouth and swallowed them whole. I was off to a great start and very excited. My real goal I had in mind was to hit 200 dumplings by the 30 minute mark and then see where everyone else was and cruise the rest of the event. Anyhow, 3 dumplings in about 5 seconds was very good news, I was certain I would achieve my goal. Then one of the judges ran up to me and reminded me to pull out the pits and put them to the side in a bowl so they could count them at the end. Oops. I totally forgot about that.

My fourth dumpling I put in my mouth and chewed on it a little bit trying to find the pit. After about 5 seconds of gingerly chewing on it I could not find it. I though maybe this one did not have a pit, so I swallowed it and moved on. This next dumpling I tried chewing it a bit faster to regain my time lost and I bit hard down on the pit in my haste. Ouch! That hurt, but at least I found the pit this time. I reached in my mouth to pull the pit out, but could not find it. Grrr. This was beginning to make me mad. I finally found the pit and moved on. On this dumpling I tried to pull the pit out by hand. I pinched the dumpling in half, but still could not find the pit. I laughed threw that one back on my plate and pinched another in half and could not find the pit in this dumpling either.

Now I was taking this very personal. These pits were mocking me. I was not about to let them get the best of me. I squished the dumpling into a purple mush on my plate. Still no luck. “These pits must be must be champions of hide and go seek” I thought to myself. The dumplings aren’t that big, but they must have found the best hiding spot ever in this bitter, purple, jelly. Another thought I had was that Kamil had trained these pits to hide. Maybe he is an Olympic level coach of hide and seek and I just was not informed. Do these pits speak Czech or plumb? Are they invisible? Are they clouding my mind so I can’t see them? Do I win coins if I find them with unleavened bread?

Focus! “Did I find any pits yet?” I asked myself. The answer was no, I had not seen any in a long time. Hhmmm. “Have I eaten any?” No again, not recently. Then I ate the smashed dumplings and moved on. I decided the only way I had succeed in finding any pits was biting into them, so I put two dumplings in my mouth and chewed. I found one pit and pulled it out. Both plums came out of my mouth when I pulled the pit. I was getting very frustrated at this point with these pesky pits. I pulled the plum off, and placed the pit in the bowl. As I chewed on the remainder of the two plum dumplings in search of the second pit I decided this was the best way to find the pits and continue eating.

At this point I realized why it was an hour long contest. It was going to take me half the time to find these cute little plum pits. “Oh well at least everyone else has to eat slowly”, I thought to myself. As I moved on to my 2nd plate of 30 I heard them announcing Pat was moving on to his 4th plate of 30 and Kamil was a little further behind him. I looked over at a chalk board they had set up showing all the contestants and how much they had eaten and sure enough I was getting obliterated by everyone. There were about 5 people in front of me!

I looked to Pat to see what he was doing. He seemed to force about 5 dumplings in his mouth chew once and then spit out all the pits! Sometimes he would take the dumplings in his hand, squeeze them, and the pits would come flying out of his hand between his fingers and go flying straight into the bowl. Kamil just as easily spooned one dumpling in his mouth, chewed for no more than one second and spit out the pit like it magically floated to the front of his mouth and then hopped into the bowl.

I tried to smash the dumplings, bite them, and crush them to find the pits, but no matter what I did it took me forever to find them. Many have asked me why it took me so long. I have thought about it and dreamt about it every night since and the simple answer is I do not know. All I can do is laugh.

I pulled the pits out as fast as I could and ate until the last second. When the contest ended I found out I had only eaten 134 which was far from my minimum goal of 200. Luckily I had pulled ahead of everyone that was ahead of me in the beginning of the contest. Pat had won with 233 and Kamil got second with 150 something.

In the end they didn’t even count my plum pits. Apparently they are really only needed in case someone argues they ate more dumplings so in this case they can have the pits to prove it.

So, that said if I had to do it all again I would eat my 200 plum dumplings as planned in the first 30 minutes without fail. “How?” you ask? I WILL EAT ALL OF THOSE DANG PITS AND SWALLOW THE PLUM DUMPLINGS WHOLE!

1 Comments:

At 10:21 PM, Blogger "Sweet" Jill Stoler said...

Poor Hall! You have (what looks to be) a sad pout in the second picture you posted. And those plumb dumplings sounded TOUGH! Sounds like a rough cople of contests. You did amazing, though!

I admire you so much; both for your competitive eating skills and for the other feats you've accomplished, such as the marathons. Keep up the great work!

I loved the post and pics!

 

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