Weird and Wild British Food Competitions

Forget the London Olympics: Britain’s real medal sports involve gravy, haggis, and stinging nettles

The World Gravy Wresting Championships are held each August.

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!

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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.

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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.