As the Lambeau Field culinary artist gently heaped ladleful upon ladleful of molten cheese onto the already intimidating two-foot kielbasa link, I knew my large intestine would never quite be the same. What I saw before me wasn’t so much of a “mountain to climb” as it was a bottomless pit of despair and indigestion, and as I handed over my $20, I wondered if I had just made one of the worst mistakes of my life. Fearfully, and yet with more enthusiasm than I can recall having for any other food dish, I dove in.
“The Horse Collar” made its debut this season at Lambeau Field to much fanfare, and it was well-deserved. Reportedly coming in at a tidy 6,000 calories, the Horse Collar requires equal parts hunger and insanity for one person to attempt. Its contents: a 22-inch kielbasa link, tucked inside the equivalent of about three sausage buns, drenched in a hot, viscous beer cheese sauce, and heavily garnished with fried sauerkraut.
People, this is why we have an obesity problem in America.
As New England Patriots fans, every season my father, brother, and I try to take at least one trip to a new city to see our team play on the road. Lambeau Field was an easy choice for this year, so this past weekend we flew from Boston to Chicago, then hopped in the car and cruised another three-plus hours north to Green Bay, Wisc. Knowing about the Horse Collar from its much-publicized debut, I could discuss little else during the entire car ride up. I even fasted for the occasion, downing only an early morning Clif Bar in order to maximize stomach space for what I knew was going to be a truly horrific experience for my digestive system.
Before attacking the signature snack, my father and I asked the vendor if he had any predictions for our battle with this behemoth. “I’m a big guy,” he said (and he was not kidding), “and I’ve tried it twice and can’t finish it.”
Noting our downcast look, he continued “I would suggest cutting it into little pieces. I saw a 12-year-old kid do that once, and he finished it.” While this buoyed our spirits, we failed to ask if the aforementioned 12-year-old weighed 400 pounds. Because he seemingly might have been.
I began to question both my mental state and my physical ability to continue.
Realizing the relatively impossible task in front of us and not wanting to spend large portions of the game touring the various restrooms of Lambeau, my father and I decided that this would be a challenge best tackled as one. With Miller Genuine Draft tall boy cans in one hand and overmatched plastic forks in the other, it was time for us simple East Coasters to find out if we could hang in the Midwest.
Like with any eating challenge, the beginning was, dare I say, pleasant. The kielbasa was piping hot, as was the beer cheese sauce. The bread soaked everything up and held it together just enough to get everything in one bite, and the first couple sections were simply delightful. But as we made the turn from the first straight portion and started in on the curved portion of the link, things started to feel…off.
It’s kind of hard to describe. It wasn’t quite nausea, but there was a general feeling of discontent happening in the middle of my body. It’s the type of reaction that happens when you introduce beef, pork, a lot of paprika, liquefied cheese, beer, and fried cabbage all at the same time. The human body has evolved to handle many things, but clearly the Horse Collar was not one of them.
It was at this point that I began to question both my mental state and my physical ability to continue. My father and I had each consumed what a normal, reasonable human would consider a normal-sized sausage link, one that was loaded with dense, heavy toppings. Our bodies were saying, “enough.” The Horse Collar, however, was saying, “You’re not even halfway done yet.”
Bravely (at least, I would say bravely), we soldiered on despite the long odds against us. The frigid temperatures meant that the bliss of hot cheese and steaming sausage was replaced by the sort of lukewarm, congealed malaise that volume eaters fear most. But chomp on we did, and soon we each found ourselves with mere tiny slivers remaining between us and...glory? Satisfaction? Severe gastroenteritis? Who knows?
My father was first to finish, putting down his final piece with the restrained exuberance of a man who knows he has yet to truly pay the price for what he has done. As I raised my own piece triumphantly off the tray and readied for my crowning moment, I watched in horror as the kielbasa slice tumbled down to the filthy Lambeau concrete floor. Gasping in horror, I stared at it for a good 10 seconds, pondering what I had done and whether the five-second rule applied to sports stadiums. I was frozen in shock, but my thoughts inside were like ...
In one of the most agonizing decisions of my life, I picked up the piece, examined it, and threw it in the trash can. I perfunctorily finished the empty roll I still held in my hand, but it didn’t matter. This final act of defiance by the Horse Collar proved to be an omen for the football game I was about to watch, as my beloved Patriots would also miss a chance at victory in the dying moments of their own competition.
Do I regret this culinary adventure, one that will probably force me to move into the gym for the next three months? Of course not. When in Green Bay, one must do as the Packer fans do. But I did learn a valuable lesson: You don’t beat the Horse Collar. You only hope to survive it.
Doug Sibor is a contributing writer for Complex Sports. He tweets here.