I have to thank Hypnotic Donuts for being the impetus for my food-writing career last September. I had spent nearly every Saturday morning of that summer at a pizza joint that for a few magical hours sold donuts topped with fried bacon, Cap’n Crunch cereal and jalapeños, and I couldn’t keep quiet about it. The guys at Hypnotic have seen me stumble into their store before my brain could begin to function, and I always loved the fact that the owner, James St. Peter, could remember my name at a time of day when I could barely remember mine. I would wake up, split a dozen donuts with a friend and then spend the rest of the morning sleeping on my couch. Therefore it is altogether fitting and proper that I spend yet another Saturday lying lifelessly on the couch.
However, this time the donuts won’t be sugar glazed or filled with fruit-flavored jelly. This time the glaze is ablaze. Hypnotic’s ‘Beat the Heat’ spicy donut eating competition starts out with a regular glazed donut, then The Mexico, then The Hellfire and finally The Devil’s Death Dance. Every donut eaten from there on out was a Devil’s Death Dance. The competitor who ate the most donuts in ten minutes or the first person to eat ten donuts would be the winner of 52 Mexico donuts (one each week for a year) as well as a trophy.
The Mexico (glazed donut with vanilla icing, jalapeños and Tabasco sauce) and the Macho Nacho (glazed donut with refried beans, queso and jalapeños) have been on the menu since time began around 2010, but the recent additions of The Hellfire (The Mexico with habanera and Serrano peppers) and The Devil’s Death Dance (The Hellfire with ghost pepper frosting) have inspired donut daredevils to take the plunge.
I sat down next to Alex Perez, who had just won a wing-eating contest at Hooters and has also eaten 15 corndogs in 15 minutes. On my right was a kid who looked to be about 14 and wanted to do an eating competition because it was on his bucket list. He couldn’t have picked a worse competition to start off his career. He dropped out after the first few minutes, which was probably a wise decision. The first donut was a regular glazed that, like every other donut, I smashed and then stuffed into my mouth. We all had one glass of water for the entire competition and Perez and I were both reaching for ours in an effort to make the donuts go down easier. I tried shaking my body to settle the contents of my stomach. I had seen someone do that on the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Perez and I were neck and neck until about the sixth donut, which was the third Devil’s Death Dance. Snot was starting to drip from our noses onto the wax paper and every time I wiped my nose, I managed to push some ghost pepper icing from my moustache into my nostrils. While I am not fazed by spicy food, I’m no good at contests requiring me to eat large quantities. I started to gag as I started my seventh donut. My face was on fire and my stomach had no more room to expand. I could either stay in and risk throwing up in front of everyone or go to the bathroom and cry. I chose the latter and came back in time to watch Alex down his ninth donut (six of which were The Devil’s Death Dance) in ten minutes.
Eating competitions aren’t very glamorous, especially anything involving ghost peppers. By the end of the competition I was reduced to a pile of snot and sweat. So why do people enjoy doing this, again? Perhaps the answer is found in the opening lines of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.” Yeah, they’ll be blackened and changed alright. It seems that some men just want to watch the world burn, and some are willing to self-immolate for other peoples’ entertainment.