Legacy is an ongoing column about ways for the very average person to find immortality in Shanghai. It is about facing challenges, and, hopefully, having your picture hang on a restaurant or bar's wall for all the world to see, forever.
Super Diner, and the people dumb enough to attempt their one-kilo burger challenge (finish in ten minutes and it's free), have something in common. They both want to be famous.
Everyone wants to leave a legacy in Shanghai. Most of us are very average, however, and it is only through the misguided consumption of large quantities of unhealthy foodstuffs (burgers, beer, bigger burgers, shots) that we will be remembered.
To wit, Super Diner
's Jumbo Burger.
It is 500 grams of beef patty. It is 500 grams of custom-made bun. It comes with bacon and tomatoes and lettuce, and it is the size of a birthday cake.
It is a terrible idea.
If you finish the burger, and all of the French fries, in ten minutes, it is free. Your picture goes on the wall, and your legacy is sealed in place with Scotch tape, forever.
There is a timer, and, if you attempt, there will be either a brief but intimate camaraderie with the tables next to you, as they wager on the possibility of success and cheer you on, or thinly veiled contempt, as they seethe at the juvenile display of machismo happening next to them.
This is what it looked like last Saturday, as I and three friends were about to start the challenge. The forlorn-looking thing in the center plate is a standard McDonald's hamburger. Note the hands in the background, as Contestant #2 tests a combination Standard and Western grip.
His clumsy attempt to wrangle the burger is telling. Until you've been through the ordeal, and gotten the grease on your fingers, a one-kilo hamburger is a mythical beast. It is difficult to know how to approach. How do you fight Zeus, or Medusa? Can't
know. Not until it happens.
Our table of four employed several strategies, before and during the challenge. I relied on hunger, eating a light lunch the day before, a Dairy Queen blizzard for dinner, and nothing else until lunchtime. I went to the gym immediately beforehand. Stepping into Super Diner, I was light-headed, queasy, and not hungry at all. My stomach shrunk. Back-fire.
Contestant #2 took a very different route - full dinner, and a full brunch (eggs, bacon, toast, sausages) about an hour before the challenge.
I cut my burger into eighths, and recalling Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time Nathan's hot dog eating contest champ who revolutionized the sport, dunked the bun in water. (Disgusting yet effective.) Contestant #2 ate all of the meat first, piled the fries into his now-burgerless bun, and attempted to sprint through the carbs. This is him, here. He is two meters tall.
Contestants #3 and #4 fell in the middle. One cut the thing into quarters and ate it straight. One used a fork and knife (Brits; they seem easily drawn to eating competitions) and sort-of ate all of the meat.
But it doesn't matter. None of it matters. Physical training doesn't matter. Hunger is not an issue (#2 almost finished his). What stops you from eating a massive burger in a short time is not your stomach filling up. It is, primarily, the fact that you want to vomit, and your body wants to vomit, and every cell in your body wants to vomit. Somewhere around 500 grams, involuntarily stomach contractions kick in. Your whole body becomes a spring-loaded gag reflex, and the rest of the time is spent tiptoe-ing around it. A bite here, a bite there, a half-hearted attempt at some fries... Any more will release the spring. That's failure. All four of us tasted its bitter, greasy, ketchup-smeared tonic.
There are other minor factors that play a part. It requires a lot of chewing strength. Your neck may get tired, and your jaw might crap out. Mental preparation is required, but I don't know what you'd do. Super Diner doesn't provide much economic motivation. If you can't finish, it's only 100rmb. Maybe practice throwing up ahead of time and learn exactly where your line is. Drugs. Bring your boss. Something that'll really shame you.
Because the only thing worse than trying to create a legacy for your failure of a person via a one kilo burger is, of course, failing at that too.
Super Diner, 200 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu. More details and a map here.
Hats off to you, the elusive Matt Coles, of Sandbach, UK, the only person in Shanghai (so far) to successfully meet the Jumbo Burger and emerge victorious. King of Jumbo, indeed. May your legacy live on for ten thousand years.