Sound dining judgment has never been my forte. From attempting the "Wisconsin Slam" at Whistling Straits to suffering physical and psychological trauma thanks to Primanti Bros. sandwiches at Oakmont, covering major championships is like a fraternity's "Hell Week" for my stomach. In my head, I told myself I'd be on the snacking sidelines for this year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But in my (likely clogged) heart, I knew this vow -- like a New Year's resolution or Pacman Jones promising to stay out of trouble -- would not hold true. For eating challenges wave a wand in my direction, inspiring an unfounded hubris in my eating abilities. I am their Tantalus, forever reaching the glory that awaits that finish line.
So on Monday afternoon, I traversed to the concession stand to down every major item on the Erin Hills menu. Here is the diary of this dietary ordeal.
Item No. 1: Polish Sausage
Or as the locals call it, pre-breakfast.
Nothing out of left field with this order, although I appreciated the thinly-sliced apples on the dog, which I think meets the state's recommended weekly fruit serving. I asked a 20-something in a Badgers hat next to me if this was considered a normal-sized sausage for Wisconsin. He looked oddly and shook his head, although I get the feeling he thought I was referring to something else (and likely explains those suspicious glances I received from two security officers).
Item No. 2: Chicago Dog
As the enthusiastic woman behind the counter told me, this "is better than anything you can get in the Windy City!" I believe the very-understanding patrons of Wrigleyville might have a different perspective; merely typing this might have started a border war.
The peppers could have used some extra grilling or seasoning, but still a damn good dog. Better yet, two kielbasas down and I felt fine. It's not until later that I'd discover via WebMD there's a 20-minute delay from being full and feeling full. In the words of the great Bob Seger, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."
Item No. 3: Cheese Curd Cheeseburger
At this point I realize documenting said feats will prevent me from attaining full insurance upon the inevitable diagnosis of stomach cancer from this trial. But, like a true American, I find inspiration in a fellow fan's shirt, which reads "On Wisconsin."
Which brings us to the Cheese Curd Cheeseburger. I can wrap my head around fried cheese balls on a burger; after all, Pittsburgh puts pastrami and coleslaw on their creation. But the fact Wisconsinites still feel the need to put a slice of American cheese with the curds is remarkable. And worthy of review by the Hague for a crime against humanity.
Item No. 4: Bratwurst Burger
I called my fiancée and told her, in case anything happens, I love her with all my heart, tears sliding down my cheek. Or perhaps that was the meat sweats. Frankly, I lost sensory touch after the cheese curds.
You got to tip your hat to the locals. Clearly the “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” debate struck a nerve and, deeming the brat under attack, Wisconsin defended its honor by constructing it in patty form. And, hand to God…it was delicious. (And yes, it had cheese on it.) Cheddar headgear aside, these people are an astute bunch.
Unfortunately, I put myself on the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum, as it began to dawn that digesting such a feast in 90-degree heat might have adverse health effects. I don’t want to exaggerate and claim I was in a coma, but I’m pretty sure I saw my dead grandpa in a brief 30-second blackness.
Item No. 5 Italian Combo
That’s right, no photo. In debating if preemptively calling 9-1-1 was the appropriate course of action, I forget to snap a pic. Haters will say I didn’t eat it. My heartburn says otherwise.
Anyway, ever get a sub that has more vegetables than meat? I assure you, such a travesty will never befall you in Wisconsin. The closest thing of healthy variety was pepperoni, which if you squint, kind of looks like a tomato.
After four bites, I had to go horizontal on the picnic table. In the corner of my eye, I saw a "SEVERE WEATHER WARNING" issued on the video board. Rather than panic, I hoped a tornado would touch down and carry me away, for the prospect of walking back to the media center was a reality I could not face. Worse, as I turned my head, I saw another item -- a BBQ Cheeseburger -- and knew my pursuit had again ended in defeat.
But instead of my usual walk of shame, I came upon the revelation that beating one of these farcical, made-up contests is not my Holy Grail. It is the quest itself that is worthy of a chalice, victory or not.
For that fire burns bright, no matter how many Pepto-Bismol tablets try to put it out.