If there was ever any question that America had reached peak kale—from Panda Express dishing out its Shiitake Kale Chicken Breast bowls, to McDonald’s unveiling its kale salad earlier this year—on Saturday, the first ever world kale-eating record was set in Buffalo, New York. Gideon “The Truth” Oji, a 24-year-old Nigerian based in Atlanta, managed to wolf down 25 and a half bowls of the vegetable in order to take home the newly-coveted “Kale Cup” trophy.
“Our flag is red, white and blue but maybe it needs some kale green, to represent the moral fibre and fortitude not only of the vegetable but of our country,” Crazy Legs Conti, another competitor at the Taste of Buffalo food festival, told the Guardian. “There’s never been a food that’s had a storyline like kale. It was a garnish on all-you-can eat buffets and fast food restaurants.”
“It’s the new frontier food in major league eating,” he added.
The term “competitive eating” often conjures up images of gluttons like Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie shoving buckets of water-soaked hot dogs into their gullets. But the sport has been getting a leafy green makeover in recent weeks thanks to Healthy Options, a local organization that put on the “world’s healthiest eating championship” in the hopes of promoting better nutrition.
And while competitive eating is largely about the shock value—a repulsive train wreck one can’t help but gawk at—the Kale Cup was less about mustachioed hipsters and food co-ops, and more about inhaling a nauseating amount of puke-green slop. In order to choke down the dry shreds of vegetable, competitors would combine their bowls of kale with Tang and Gatorade.
“My mouth was pretty stuffed and it was tickling the back of my throat, and I was trying to get some liquid back here to take care of that so I can just swallow it, and keep going,” Eric “Badlands” Booker, said. “A little bit of time got wasted doing that, if that hadn’t happened I probably would have won.”
Though the Taste of Buffalo food festival has perhaps lent kale some much-needed street cred—blasting Eminem’s ode to battle rap and mom’s spaghetti, “Lose Yourself,” as the prizes were awarded—the vegetable still doesn’t count as a full meal.
“I’m still hungry,” said Oji, carrying his trophy off into the sunset. “I’m going to go eat some real food.”
Stay tuned for the quinoa grand derby coming up next month.