Friday, March 30, 2012

The Saltine Challenge

Every few months, five other couples and our assorted children get together for dinner. We rotate houses, change the menu (though it is always potluck so that the hostess never has to supply too much), and once everything is set up buffet style, let the little monsters free to roam while the adults get to gossiping. As always the men and women separate for a while, but always come back together for the main course. The kids have all known each other since infancy, so there is little bloodshed and few tears. It’s a great night out because while the whole family attends, I can safely ignore both my husband and my children.

This year, the main topic was alcohol. One of the kids, a precocious third-grader who has an entire system set up for taking beer orders from guests, is learning about drugs in schools. Not from other kids, mind you, but from the health teacher. One of the lessons she was taught was that if mom has a drug or alcohol problem, then dad should join a basketball league. Pause to let that inanity sink in for a moment. As three out of the five men at the table are currently in a basketball league, yet none of the women have a problem with sobriety (to my knowledge), we were agog at the answer given - which was that dad needed a coping mechanism. Personally, I think “dad” shouldn’t be leaving his kids home alone with an alcoholic, but I’m not a public school health teacher. I should note that this lively discussion was briefly interrupted by said precocious third-grade asking us all if we wanted another round. Clearly, she wasn't worried any of us had a drinking problem.

While one gentleman regaled us with drunken stories from his youth that needed only the soundtrack from Deliverance to make them complete, other men at the table chimed in with their drinking stories. This is when I learned about such things as the “beer drinking glove.” A beer drinking glove is the glove you need for the one hand in which you are holding your beer. Since you are a man and one hand must at all times must be near or touching your genitals to make sure they don’t fall off, only one glove is necessary. Fascinating!

I also learned about the Saltine Challenge. Can one person eat six saltines in under 60 seconds? The key to it is that they cannot take a sip of any beverage. Of course, this had to be attempted. Watching grown-ass men shove saltines in their gaping maws was akin to watching cats try to cough up a hairball. It was ugly, it was funny, and they made the worst noises. One of them physically could not remain still, but squirmed and tapped and wriggled while he tried not to spew salt crumbs across the table. Sadly, not a single one of them could do it. Upon further investigation, the only person known to have won this challenge is Peyton Manning back in his halcyon college days. The Milk Challenge was mentioned (one gallon in one hour) but sadly, this led more to a discussion about the switch from full to one-percent based on their wives pushing them to drink healthier than anyone actually attempting to vomit lactose for hours on end.

Today, I learned about the cinnamon challenge. The goal is to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. The size of the spoon is not specified. The problem is that cinnamon dries the throat out upon impact, causing the short-term possibility of choking to death and the long-term possibility of pneumonia (especially in asthma sufferers). It also must burn like a sonofabitch. There is a reason most recipes only call for a teaspoon of cinnamon. It's potent. A little goes a very long way. So shoving a honking spoonful in your mouth all at once is going to cause some problems.

Personally, I'm impressed with the parsimony showcased in these challenges. Everyone can afford a carton of milk, or a sleeve of crackers, or even a jar of cinnamon. If not, they can all be easily stolen from college cafeterias or liberated from an unsuspecting cupboard. The stupid human tricks of my college days all required copious amounts of alcohol and while the cheap stuff such as plastic vodka, Boone's Farm, or Mad Dog was readily available, it still required cash money. Even Happy Hour in a small college town required at least $10 (the equivalent to four shots of tequila or eight drafts of Rolling Rock, no tip). Quarters and beer pong required equipment, which my husband and his cronies actually built from scratch. They also built a bar, but that's just because they were practically professional alcoholics. At my school, we stuck to the basics, Drinking Uno or Drinking Jenga, or even just the bare bones challenge of who can drink what the fastest. It was a lot simpler back then.

I do think I need to bring up the Cinnamon Challenge at the next multi-family gathering. There is always a doctor in attendance, so it's not like anyone will actually die. Plus, we might set a fine example for the children. If they see their fathers expelling clouds of cinnamon dust through eyes streaming with tears while their mothers fall to the floor with laughter, all of these ridiculous food-based challenges may suddenly seem uncool and we may just wind up with kids who study in college instead of drink.

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