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DEBUT LIVEBLOG: how to eat a 4 lb burrito

by sam. 21 may 2011

Q: Why is the monkey in the foreground sad?

Sad Monkey

A: Because he is a machine, and has no hope of eating the large burrito in the background!

Terrifying backstory: my business associate Chris invited Ben and myself to the El Toro burrito eating contest at Pica Taco in DC - 4 lbs in 45 minutes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), we already had concert tickets to see both Julian Lynch/Real Estate (Friday) and Dan Deacon (Saturday) the very selfsame weekend, and thus could not attend. However, strapping young lads we be, decided to complete the challenge by ourselves, in the comfort of our own home. Thus, at 12:30PM on 21 May 2011, we will join our business associates around the country to consume a 4 lb burrito in 45 minutes or less.

Here's a photo of the Pica Taco El Toro burrito, from their Facebook:

El Toro Burrito

Here is the composition of the home-made El Toro burrito:

1 lb meat (half steak, half chicken)
3/4 lb rice
3/4 lb beans (half black, half pinto)
1/2 pound tortillas (about 4)
1/4 lb cheese (sharp white cheddar)
1/4 lb guacamole
1/4 lb sour cream
1/4 lb salsa

And the nutritional information:

3155 calories
171.1 g fat
311.8 g carbohydrates
169.1 g of protein.

Should be just what the doctor ordered! All ingredients acquired yesterday from the Union Square Trader Joe's (though I believe almost all were on the Trader Jose's line) for $31.77 - however, that includes more rice, guacomole, and salsa than we actually need. But, that does indicate that the $15 Pica Taco charges is a surprisingly good deal.

As for the question that is presumably on the tip of your tongue by now: Yes, I know that a burrito is not the same as a taco, and is in fact quite different. However, as with the rest of the Articles section of Tacosmog, we must here explore all taco-related things in order to 'winnow and sift' our way to a true definition of (firstly) what makes a taco and (ultimately) what makes that taco great. If you want to check out a photo-timeline of the entire process, click here!

20.may.2011, 5:30pm - 19 hours to go
I just returned from the store, purchasing all the necessary ingredients. I also performed some quick calculations to determine the exact nature of the beast - see the results above. How am I feeling about it? A bit sleepy, inspired, my left leg is falling asleep due to my position on this couch, and eager. Gettin' ready to cook that meat... yeah... gonna get it all ready tonight... that way tomorrow morning Ben and I can just assemble the burritos, pop them in the oven for re-heating, and devour at the appropriate 12:30PM starting time. Right now I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm still full from lunch, but I plan to eat a particularly large dinner (perhaps I'll even make a trip to Zaragosa as part of my preparation). My main fear is that attempting to eat 4 lbs of food in the early afternoon will render my evening plans slightly less enjoyable - I'm heading to a Dan Deacon show tomorrow night, and I want to be mostly finished with the digestive process at that point. (HEADLINE: just changed positions, leg getting that tingly feeling as it starts to wake up). Man just thinking about the approximately 2 liter capacity of my stomach in relation to all these products we purchased is getting my excited. I think it should be able to fit pretty well. Trying to decide on the best morning preparatory regimen - probably gonna eat a banana then walk over to Strand and look at books, because that always makes me hungry. Plus I just finished The Monkey Wrench Gang and I need something new to read! (shifted my legs again, back to leg-asleep position, if I wasn't usually this fidgety I'd say I was nervous)

Assembled Ingredients

20.may.2011, 5:55pm - 18.58 hours to go
I've realized that this will be the most difficult thing I've ever attempted to do, which certainly says something about the challenges I faced during my middle-class upbringing. (leg status: not asleep).

20.may.2011 7:20pm - 17.17 hours to go
I just finished cooking the meats and beans - 1 pound of steak, 1 pound of chicken, and 1.5 pounds of beans (to be divided equally between Ben and myself). We're just hangin' out, Bryn and Sarah are here, reading about Tamikko Beasty, cookin' food, listenin' to Bob Dylan. Not so much food. We can do this. Both legs awake. Time to go eat a practice burrito at Zaragosa - I'm thinkin' big!

20.may.2011 8:25pm - 16.08 hours to go
Warm-up burrito estimated at 1.2 pounds, consumed easily in 7 minutes. We think we can go bigger. We think we can go better. (and now we think we are going to the Julian Lynch/Real Estate concert)

Zaragosa - Warm-Up Burrito

21.may.2011 2:05am - 10.42 hours to go
Just returned from the show. It was awesome! Also ate 2 slices of pizza (99 cents each!) from the place on 2nd St & Ave A, which does not seem to exist on either Google Maps or Yelp). It was awesome, and compares quite favorably to Mamani's. Gameplan alpha: brush food residue off teeth, slumber while digesting pizza slowly, wake up early, eat small breakfast, run around outside, assemble burritos, consume.

21.may.2011 10:00am - 2.5 hours to go
Q: How many hours of sleep do you need to eat a 4lb burrito?
A: Hopefully only 6!
Just woke up and prepared myself the breakfast of champions: an IODP mug full of green tea and a banana. Assuming I eat it fairly quickly, I should have about 1.5 hours to go run around and metabolize before the burrito assembly begins at 11:30. How do I feel this morning? Well, mostly I'm relieved the rapture hasn't yet begun (that I know of). I'm partially confused by the quality of my dreams last night - very vibrant, including a long dream about an imaginary invasive seabird called the wify. My conception of it is quite different than the 'urban' definition of wify!

21.may.2011 10:30am - 2 hours to go
Can't decide if I should chug the stomach-expanding gallon of water then run, or run then chug the water. Tips? I can't imagine it being too pleasant either way.

21.may.2011 11:25am - 1.08 hours to go
Metabolism activation run complete. Back in the apartment. Actually, it is one of the most pleasant days of all time outside. I ran down the East River Esplanade to the Williamsburg Bridge and back, and there were a tremendous amount of people outside - kids playin' baseball, young people jogging, the DEP's Newtown Creek Sludge Vessel out on the prowl... a great day for you and yours! Go outside! Walk around! However, I did remember why I haven't gone running since I quit the Pomona tennis team 6 years ago: it's super unpleasant. Sure, you can see things, but you can see those while walking and biking. Mostly I just don't like the pounding sensation on my knees, and the fact that every bicyclist that passes me is going way faster and looks like they're having way more fun. Maybe I'll try it again in another 6 years, but I'd really rather not. I did enjoy my time sitting in the grass stretching (also, I believe, for the first time in 6 years). The stretching part of it was horrible and unpleasant, but it's really nice to sit in the grass under a shade tree, watching kids play baseball. Perhaps when I move to Wisconsin I will make grass-sitting a more frequent habit.
Newtown Creek Sludge Vessel
One of my favorite things to see when I bike to/from work along the East River every day is a DEP sludge vessel. I'm not sure why, but I really like the layout (long bow, highly functional, covered in piping). Plus, it means that some sludge is gonna get sucked up somewhere that day! I spot the North River the most, and occasionally the Newtown Creek - I haven't yet seen the Red Hook. I wonder what wastewater treatment plant it has the honor of absorbing!

21.may.2011 11:55am - 0.38 hours to to
Rice is cooking now, the ingredients are all laid out on the table for mental visualization preparation, my stomach is just starting to rumble mightily. I have often fantasized about being in an eating contest - I guess the moment is finally upon me. I'm in the exact right state of hunger for it: I don't feel super hungry yet (meaning my stomach has not yet started to contract) but, mentally, I know that I need an enormous (potentially 4 lbs worth) of nourishment to sate my desires. All is as it should be. I am finally at peace with the world. Let the rapture come.

21.may.2011 12:05pm - 0.22 hours to go
Clock set to US Official Time. Rice being cooked. Almost time to assemble.

21.may.2011 12:20pm - 0.22 hours to go
how is the time the same
Here's the rub: a stay of execution! The official contest has an opening ceremony, and Chris estimates it will begin at 12:45pm. For allegiance's sake, we shall begin at the same time here in Alphabet City. Delay the inevitable victory if you will, Pica Taco, but you shall not escape!

21.may.2011 12:48pm - ??? hours to go
Wrapped, ready, and waiting to go. We've got our burritos in the oven, biding time until the contest begins. We had some difficulty with the wrapping technique, but both have ended up as semi-cohesive burrito-like masses. It's large, but does not look insurmountable. At this point, we just wait for the signal from Chris at Pica Taco, and then we devour. Nervous? No. When you've been training your whole life for something, you don't get nervous.

Ready to eat!

21.may.2011 2:25pm - 0.42 hours post-contest
Dear reader, I am sorry to have left you hanging. Your mind is probably racked with questions. 'How did Sam do? Did he finish the burrito within the time limit?' you may ask yourself. A better question would be 'To what Phase in the official Clean Plate Club scale did Sam complete this challenge?' Well, I am pleased to inform you that both my business associate Ben and myself completed the challenge to Phase Two standards (plate clean enough to be put back in cupboard with nobody noticing). I completed Phase One in just over 27 minutes, and finished my Phase Two with a couple minutes to spare. Ben, with some frantic last-minute water applications, was able to complete his Phase Two as the buzzer expired. ConGRADulations - to us - for we have now become superhuman!

21.may.2011 3:10pm - 1.17 hours post-contest
Well, I'm sitting here, looking through the photos, fielding the congratulatory phone-calls, and thinking about the enormity of what Ben and I accomplished. In a strictly literal sense, what we accomplished was eating more food than was necessary for survival in a short amount of time, and thus providing ourselves with moderate abdominal discomfort. In a greater sense (and coincidentally the only 'sense' that tacosmog acknowledges to be valid), though, we scored a victory for ourselves against something that initially appeared difficult, and I received a tremendous boost to my already-dangerously-high self-confidence. Where will this lead? I'm not sure. But I certainly will not hesitate to take on any future eating challenges I confront! And, from glancing around the internet, there are a lot of them in Wisconsin...

Phase Two

21.may.2011 4pm - 2 hours post-contest
The mass of burrito is beginning to settle into my stomach, and I feel quite full. While listening to Purity Ring has been able to keep my energy level enough to make the official 'Burrito Contest Photo Timeline', I may soon have to abandon the world of liveblogs and go lie in my bed.

21.may.2011 5:45pm - 3.75 hours post-contest
I'm still full. Very full. But I'm past the apex. Fullness is receding. Soon fullness will be a distant memory. Someday, God willing, I may even be hungry again.

21.may.2011 10:15pm - 8.25 hours post-contest
Well, we're done watching Rookie of the Year, and my appetite has slightly returned. I ate half of a muffin and we're getting ready for the Dan Deacon concert... things are lookin' up... yep, everything's great, things are awesome... reckon I'll be hungry in the morning, maybe eat some yogurt, dunno, lotta options... yep my belly's gettin' empty and my mind back to ramblin! Time to go!

22.may.2011 2:45am - 12.75 hours post-contest
As you likely predicted, that was one of those great concerts... everyone in the crowd was loving it, huge dance party, people had a great time. I left coated in sweat and, when I arrived home slightly over 1 hour later, I was still coated in sweat. Compared to last time I saw him (opening for Lightning Bolt) there were three main differences: firstly, he didn't have any backing musicians this time, so it was just him on the floor; secondly, he played a lot more album songs, and did a lot more of the crowd-manipulation antics he's famous for; thirdly, we didn't get hassled by the NYPD. If you ever have a chance to see Dan Deacon, especially in a small place like 285 Kent, go for it. I've showered off now and eaten a Birdbath Bakery snack pizza and am sitting comfortably on a couch, feeling worn out and great. Truly a momentous day - burrito dominance and musical dominance. Good to live in New York, good to live around friends, good to live with a small amount of discretionary income at my disposal. Burrito-wise (is that not what this liveblog is ostensibly about?) I now feel like I had a normal amount of dinner fairly recently, and am excited to sleep comfortably. Tomorrow morning I should be back on a normal schedule of consumption. Exciting to see what sort of foods I eat!!

22.may.2010 12:00pm - 22 hours post-contest
Things are back to normal. Woke up content, ate the classic yogurt-banana-cereal-with-OJ breakfast, and now I'm sittin' around on a couch. Is my life any different today than it was last Sunday? Well, I'd say 'yes.' I now know I can eat a tremendous amount of food in a short period of time, a skill which I believe I can use (paradoxically) to acquire free food in the future. Also, my hearing is slightly worse than it was last week, thanks to Julian Lynch, Real Estate, and Dan Deacon; and, my bandana is quite sweaty, thanks to an excessively high amount of energy in a small room. I'd say I have absolutely no regrets, burrito-eating-contest-wise. Would I do it again next weekend? Probably not... but make sure to check back at the liveblog just in case!!

I've also made a photo-timeline of the whole contest.