Some dreams — like being able to sample 20 different kinds of mac and cheese —you just don't want to give up on.
I like to think of myself as a decently good eater. I’ve put away half of a pizza, I can finish an entire Chipotle burrito in one sitting and I once accidentally ate two dinners because I forgot I had already eaten one.
What can I say? I’m a champ.
So when I heard about the Mac & Cheese Challenge in New Smyrna Beach this past weekend, I thought it’d be no problem for a pro like me. However, sampling 20 different kinds of mac and cheese for 15 bucks felt more like a privilege than a challenge.
I enlisted the help of my partner-in-crime, Madeline — because I knew she was the one person in the world who could appreciate a dedicated afternoon of eating as much as I could. We were thoroughly convinced that we were about to have one of the best days ever.
I only started to question my ability to eat, when the check-in girl told us “good luck” in a tone of voice that made me think we needed it. I brushed it off, took our official mac and cheese eating spoons and made our way to the first stop.
An older gentleman greeted us with a small serving of Black & Tan Mac & Cheese, and being the professional food connoisseurs that we are, we took our first bite the moment it was handed to us. Slight hangry — because we thought skipping breakfast was a good idea— we scarfed down the first sample and contemplated asking for seconds.
Really happy we didn't. Because after testing out a yummy smoked gouda, an intense tomato and a ridiculously crunchy parmesan, we were officially full — with 16 samples left to go.
We trucked our way to the fifth stop, which was not on Flagler Aveune, but on a side road that felt about three miles away. It was hot, we were full and the world was ending. Not that we were being dramatic about it or anything.
“IT'S SO HOT,” Madeline yelled, exerting what might have been the very last bit of her energy.
I did my best to convince her that we had to keep going. We made a commitment dammit, and we had to see it through. Even if it meant that we couldn’t look at another plate of mac and cheese for the next two years.
With the help of a few store owners who didn’t mind us using their A/C, we regained some strength and tasted three more samples, one of which included gator that Madeline promptly spit out because she felt sorry for the gator. Our physical exhaustion had quickly turned emotional.
On our eighth stop, we sampled a shrimp mac and cheese that was so good it almost made me cry because I wished I could have tried it when I wasn’t so stuffed.
Staring at the half-empty cup of mac and cheese, I knew it was over. The next kind was in soup form, and I couldn't think about it without gagging. So we told the shrimp guy he was our unofficial winner and left the building.
And I probably won't look at another plate of mac and cheese for the next two years.