Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

You can’t beat Man V Food

When I wasn’t working, I spent my holiday time cruising the outer Narnia of the television universe. There’s plenty to discover there. Who knew there were so many places to buy things that chop vegetables with such great ease? But …

Sun, Jul 24, 2011, 22:39

   

When I wasn’t working, I spent my holiday time cruising the outer Narnia of the television universe. There’s plenty to discover there. Who knew there were so many places to buy things that chop vegetables with such great ease?

But the greatest pleasure to be found in these isolated regions is surely Man V Food. If you are not aware of this fine show then, from perusing the title alone, you might deduce that it follows an enthusiastic gastronome as he chews his way around the more unhealthy eating places of North America. The man in question is one Adam Richman. Slightly portly at the beginning of the series, he is steadily turning into a small mountain range. The supposed highlight of each episode comes when Mr Richman accepts a terrifying challenge to eat a particularly enormous or particularly spicy pile of food.

A master of drama, Richman always starts off enthusiastically — “Each bite is a creamy sensation” — before undergoing a traumatic crisis when a few last morsels remain on the plate. “Can I manage one more piece of delicious barbecue?” he exhales. Sometimes he assays various supposedly radical strategies. In one amazing gambit, he ordered French fries while attempting to eat a massive dessert. (The saltiness helped counterbalance the sugar, you see.) But, more often than not, he succeeds. “In tonight’s contest between man and food, man won!” That sort of thing.

My favourite sections of this fine show are, however, those in which Adam attempts to review the food he is eating. Here’s the thing. Everywhere he goes he encounters grub that is “legendary” or “famous”. Sometimes, restaurants have been around “since 1994″. Occasionally they are even older. Each deli counter is awash with people who say they wouldn’t dream of eating anywhere else. But the food always, always looks disgusting. The methods of preparation are invariably the same. A massive quantity of fat and meat is dumped onto a griddle and then rammed into a portion of bread that, though unimaginably huge, is never big enough for the eatings within. Then a special — often “secret” — sauce, dressing or seasoning is applied to the repulsive concoction. I suspect that the only thing special about, say, Ray’s Famous Seasoning is that it comes from two separate plastic tubes rather than just the one.

Anyway, Adam’s attempts to come over all Elizabeth David are consistently hilarious. “Oh first you get the saltiness of the bacon. Then that’s balanced by the creaminess of the American cheese. Then you have the spiciness of the premium frank and the softness of the all-beef patty. To crown it off you have the stinging agony of the cardiac arrest and the jarring shakiness of the journey to hospital.” I made the last bit up.

I am only being partly facetious here. The food may be horrid. The format may be (in more ways than one) very, very cheesy. But Adam is a genuinely engaging character. Bizarrely, he has a masters degree from the jaw-shatteringly prestigious Yale Drama School. No wonder he looks so convincing when he’s eating food as revolting as the French Dip Sandwich.

I endorse Man V Food. If you are mad enough to want to join in, it can be found on the Good Food channel (sic).

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