July 4th Means Nathan's Hot Dog Competition, But Non-Americans Think We're Crazy
Two months ago, I moved to Denmark to live with my boyfriend. (Long story short: He's Danish and we met in New York City last year while he was on exchange.) Since I've moved here, I've noticed a couple of things: For starters, yes, the people here seem pretty happy. And secondly, they eat hot dogs all the time. (I suspect that this is why they're so happy.)
According to The Official Website of Denmark, hot dogs stands in the country sell around 3 million hot dogs per year. That may not seem like a huge number, but considering there are only about 5.5 million people living in Denmark, and this figure doesn't include the number of hot dogs sold at grocery stores, that is a lot of hot dogs. In fact, it's very common for hot dogs to be served in between dinner and dessert. (I like to call it "the pølse course.")
I searched all over the Internet for video evidence of competitions in Denmark, but the only one I found was a wing eating competition held last year at the Memphis Roadhouse restaurant in Aarhus. The winner ate 32 wings in 20 minutes, which, by Joey Chestnut standards, is pretty lame. And the end of the video looks more just like some people enjoying wings. With minutes left on the clock, the competitors are already throwing in the towel, licking barbecue sauce off of their fingers, and taking large, leisurely swigs of water.
It only seemed natural, then, that the Danes would be on board with our annual Hot Dog Eating Competition, hosted every July 4th by Nathan's Famous on Coney Island. Legend has it that today's contest was inspired by a hot dog eating competition held by four immigrants on Coney Island on July 4th, 1916. The group wanted to figure out who among them was the most patriotic, and to this day, Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is held every July 4th on Coney Island. Last year, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut won the contest for the 7th consecutive year by eating 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
Personally, I watch the contest every year with mixed feelings of awe, confusion, nausea, and even a little bit of pride. Sure, it's not the sexiest image of America, but it's strangely exciting. Plus, it's tradition.
Even though people in Denmark eat a ton of hot dogs, when I asked my Danish friends what they thought about our tradition, most of them seemed disgusted. Some were more philosophical.
A French guy named Bruno, who's 23, thinks the whole thing is quite beautiful, actually. "As a European, I should be against it," he says. "But, actually, I can't. I take it as a 3D movie...it belongs to art."
When I told Wan, a 43-year-old man from China about the contest, he looked concerned and asked me, "Did he go to the hospital? I don’t think it’s good for the public. I work in medicine and I think we should set a good example for everyone. Eat correctly and healthy!”
Some people were even more judgmental.
"Europeans would not have a contest like that and they probably would not even think of it at all," Laura Dzino, 23, of Austria says. "I guess it is because we don't associate any kind of contests with national holidays and least of all an eating contest."
Of course, she's right. I searched all over the Internet for video evidence of competitions in Denmark, but the only one I found was a wing eating competition held last year at the Memphis Roadhouse restaurant in Aarhus. The winner ate 32 wings in 20 minutes, which, by Joey Chestnut standards, is pretty lame. And the end of the video looks more just like some people enjoying wings. With minutes left on the clock, the competitors are already throwing in the towel, licking barbecue sauce off of their fingers, and taking large, leisurely swigs of water.
Competitive eating in other parts of the world is similarly disappointing. Apart from examples like the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan, England and the Wanko Soba Noodle competition in Iwate, Japan, there are very few annual eating competitions — at least that we know of. Only in Canada, the UK, and Japan is competitive eating as "accepted" as it is in the States.
"I just think, generally, Americans are more competitive," says another Dane, Emil Hovgaard. "Combine that with an all-American food, the hot dog, and you've got yourself a reason for America's passion for their hot dog eating contest."
That's one theory, but one thing's for sure: We're definitely going to see a lot of passion for the USA this weekend. I hope you have a happy July 4th — whether you're celebrating at home or abroad, spending time with friends or family, watching fireworks, or eating hot dogs to your heart's content.