The Olympics are behind us but this year’s crop of uniquely British competitions is as varied and weird as ever. Whether you’d rather launch a haggis than eat it or if gravy wrestling sounds oddly appealing, there's a gastronomic pursuit — spectator or otherwise — for everyone.
Perhaps the best-known of Britain’s food-based competitive lunacy, the annual Cheese Rolling race at the vertigo-inducing Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire promises the illustrious prize of an 8-pound round of the finest cheddar... though it almost guarantees hideous strains, breaks, and bruises. Still, think of all the cheese and crackers!
For less adventurous cheese aficionados, there’s Stilton rolling, also in May, in the Cambridgeshire village that introduced the world to this stinkiest of English cheeses.
While you’re mingling the business of competing with the pleasure of, um, winning something that probably won’t be edible after the race is over (if it ever was in the first place) there are any number of contests that don’t involve cheese.
Ignore those custard- and mince-pie eating contests — anybody with an empty stomach and a high tolerance for gloopy pie filling can give those a try — but what about bowling? For a pig. That’s the actual live, snorting, ham-and-bacon kind, which can be won at any number of village fairs, particularly in the east of England. Simply beat the competition in lawn bowling, which is similar to bocce or pétanque, and you win the whole hog.
If swine’s not your thing, you could try the beer-drenched team sport of dwile flonking. It’s not really clear how it works or whether anyone can win, but the loser must chug the "ale-filled 'gazunder,'" so-named because it’s a chamber pot that "goes under" the bed. Again, this sport is mainly confined to the eastern regions, while on the west side of the country there’s a proud tradition of mangold hurling.
Most definitely not to be confused with turnips, a mangold-wurzel is a member of the beet family, that, according to competition rules, must be launched while the contestant stands inside a large woven basket. Please note, though: only bachelors of the parish may compete, unless special dispensation is sought from the Mangold Hurling Association. This is because the winner will be crowned the Mangold King, and be "presented with a selection of village beauties or Mangold-Maids from whom he will select his Mangold Queen."
Rest assured that the association promises that "men in women’s clothing will not be accepted as Mangold-Maids no matter how fetching they look."
Haven’t had your fill of food-related competitions? Take a look at some of Britain’s other culinary contests.
Writer and editor Laura Potts saw a lot of strange things in her time as a journalist in the USA, but none so bizarre as dwile flonking, which she’s not even sure isn’t some elaborate ruse. She’s now based in Norfolk, England, where bowling for a pig most certainly does exist.