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No medal for extreme culinary feats, but jousting is different

Date

Julieanne Strachan

Competitive jousting ... The latest reality television craze.

Competitive jousting ... The latest reality television craze. Photo: Peter Stoop

AHH, summer television - when my favourite programs go on holiday and are replaced by seemingly endless hours of cricket coverage. It's enough to make me reconsider the household budget to see if I can wedge subscription television in there somehow.

I doubt it though. I recently went on the traditional Christmas spending spree and I'm cleaned out until at least February.

If I did find the spare cash, however, I may be able to check out the new frontier of reality television, which my friend Judith tells me now extends to jousting.

Apparently, there are people in America who really are jousting on horseback, with armour and big sticks.

Surprisingly, this is on the History Channel. It's very modern, though. I looked it up online and at least one of the competitors has a sleeve tattoo.

There are 16 of them and they are competing to be the best and win the title of Full Metal Jousting winner.

As odd as all that sounds, I can't really throw stones from my glass house.

Much like the jousters, I presume, I'm finding the older I get the more I want to win obscure titles that I can add to my name.

I never understood it when I was younger - the Country Women's Association ladies performing numerous bake-offs and handicraft meets to be named the best jam preserver in the region, best embroiderer, best in general with an oven mitt.

But now, I do. Oh yes, I want one, hopefully something that comes with a trophy.

In particular, I want to know how my cupcakes stack up against everybody else's cupcakes. Could mine be the best? Doubtful - but everybody needs a goal.

My friend Judith has more insights on the subject of surprising aspirations.

She wouldn't mind laying claim to the title reserved for those who are really, really good at that alternate form of rocking out: air guitar.

However, winning a title in the rarefied world of Air Guitar Championships is, she assures me, really difficult.

''It's much harder than it looks - you'd think it's easy but there's actually a lot involved in it,'' she insists.

In the land of imaginary instruments, it is hard to win.

However, I've been looking on the internet and I have found that there is an Australian Rock Paper Scissors Championship which is contested annually.

I think I'm in with a chance there.

To be honest, this behaviour isn't entirely new, it's just the first time that I've sought a trophy for my efforts.

It's a little bit what I like to call the great cake experiment of 2003, or more accurately - and more embarrassingly - the great gluttony experiment of 2003.

Every now and then in my younger years, when gripped by boredom, I would test the limits of my body. Not by enduring great physical feats or pushing myself to the limit at the gym - how boring - instead I wanted to know just how much I could eat in a single sitting.

There were some surprising results. During the great cake experiment I discovered that eating eight large pieces of cake was no more painful than eating two.

And now a small group of my colleagues are on their own quest: to eat at every pub and eatery in Manuka.

They have kindly extended the invitation to join. ''The Editorial Graphic Artists have a lunch ritual every Friday aimed at trying every single restaurant/ pub/ eatery in Manuka. After we've exhausted everything on offer, we'll move onto another nearby suburb - rinse and repeat.''

Whenever I tell people about the great cake experiment of 2003 (which is rare - and, by the way, the test has never been repeated: the results were conclusive, so there was no need) I get the same reaction.

In short, people are mildly disgusted and enthralled.

I am commonly asked what kind of cakes I used and in what environment.

The answers are - orange cake, Kahlua cake, chocolate cake and vanilla sponge.

This buffet of cakes came on offer at an office where I was working where it was customary for everybody to get a cake on their birthday.

One day, the office baker was on holiday and, due to a communication error, five people thought the duty lay with them to supply a cake.

Compounding this was the fact that half of the office staff had been sent to a training day.

So there we were: 10 staff, five cakes, me and my inquiring mind.

Eight pieces of cake later - and some stunned expressions on the faces of colleagues - I had my answer. The feeling of being painfully over-full reached a peak at the end of the second slice and then remained at a plateau.

I can't carry on in this way any more. I've developed a gluten intolerance. And yes - I've heard of food-karma.

I was reminded of another of my experiments recently when I saw my father telling my little brother about my early food-reviewing career, aged 20.

I ate at many places and enjoyed some oddities, including crocodile.

But I truly outdid myself when I ate 13 Indian meals in one go. It turns out that some restaurateurs will gladly keep bringing dishes until you ask them to stop.

I decided that if I ate a lot in one sitting, I wouldn't need to eat again for the next day or two. Experiment conclusion: the human stomach does not work that way.

The calorific count was off the charts but by the dinner time, I was hungry again. It did not displace even one meal. Again, the findings were considered so conclusive that the experiment was never repeated.

* with apologies to real scientists who value proper experiment methodology.

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