Thanks to shows like Masterchef, Hell’s Kitchen and Bake Off, we’ve all got used to the idea of competitive cooking. Gone are the days where hiding in a kitchen could be relaxing. Today, you have to crush your enemies as well as making something delicious.
Strange as it may seem, food related contests are not solely confined to cooking. All over the world, communities engage in a range of unorthodox activities around food, many of which have a distinctly competitive edge. It’s easy to think that actually making the food is the be all and end all. As this list proves, there’s a whole lot more to discover. Here are eight of the weirdest food contests from around the world.
1. Beer Tölt
Over the centuries, the good folk of Iceland have come up with some novel ways to keep themselves entertained. The Beer Tölt is a test of how well participants are able to handle their booze, both literally and metaphorically. Contestants must ride around on horseback, whilst balancing a mug of beer. The winner is the rider who spills the least.
2. Cheese Rolling
One of England’s most well-known quirky events, Gloucestershire's annual cheese rolling championship is as stupid as it is beloved. Attracting contestants from all over the world, the competition involves chasing a wheel of cheese down a sheer slope, risking life’ limb and dignity in the process.
3. Grit Rolling
In 1985, the town of St. George, South Carolina decided to put their claim to the title of “most grit loving settlement on earth” to the test. Bill Hunter, manager of the local Piggly Wiggly supermarket, set up the inaugural grit rolling championship, where contestants have 15 seconds to lie in a pool of the corn-based slop and collect as much of it as physically possible. No one has disputed their claim since.
4. Haggis Hurling
No one could ever accuse haggis hurling of being a disingenuous event. First started in 1977, the event requires competitors to throw stuffed sheep’s stomachs as far as they can. Despite some claims that the sport has an ancient tradition, recent research has revealed that it is actually the result of an Irish hoax to test how gullible Scots are. Not that that has stopped contestants.
5. Marathon Du Medoc
Running is already hard enough. Running while wasted is another matter entirely. The Marathon du Medoc sees competitors tear around the French countryside, stopping for regular servings of red wine, cheese and oysters. Taking place every September, the event is a celebration of extreme physical hardship and alcohol.
6. Mashed Potato Wrestling
For those who think traditional wrestling doesn’t do enough for their masculinity, we suggest that you head to Minnesota, South Dakota and Maine. Several different potato festivals offer visitors the chance to strip and grapple in pools of mashed potato in what is a spectacular, if messy, spectacle.
7. Stinging Nettle Eating
Humanity has held eating competitions for all sorts of strange ingredients over the years, but there can’t be many more curious than the annual contest held in Marshwood, England. Here, competitors are invited to eat as many painful stinging nettles as possible, all measured by length. The record currently stands at a whopping 76ft of nettles.
8. World Champion Squirrel Cook-off
It might not be the most traditional of ingredients, but for chefs in Bentonville, Arkansas, squirrel meat forms the centrepiece of a unique annual tradition. Attracting contestants from miles around, participants are encouraged to prepare a range of dishes that are judged for their flavour, presentation and, most interestingly, “use of squirrel”.
For most of us, a guest appearance on Masterchef is about as likely as Greg Wallace regrowing his hair. However, it’s comforting to know that there are still contests out there that can cater to those who might have a more unique talent. Maybe there really is a competition for everyone.