Where to begin? As I recall it, I was either staring down the barrel of the BBQ sauce challenge (with it ahead of me) or giddy with the results (having just completed it). Whatever the case, it happened very much like these things usually do. Bonefish and I were discussing various foodstuffs and I ended up making a casual remark/half hearted boast about whatever it was we were talking about. In this particular case, it happened to be Postum. As we were both quite familiar with this horrible non caffienated coffee "substitute", we had a lengthy discussion about its (de)merits. The discussion finally came to a head with me saying that I thought I would rather eat a can dry than drink the equivalent amount in its prepared liquid form. Just as with the BBQ sauce, this resulted in Bonefish's reply of "you're on". A pact was sealed. I had sold my soul to the devil for the third time (the first being for a stack of comic books when I was about twelve...).
With the official Bosch release party looming in the immediate future, what better time than that to "reel out the Gus"? "Rules" for the event were established, as always, beforehand. They went something like this: I would attempt to consume an entire "standard" sized can of Postum in it's natural dry state, I was to be assisted by only one glass of beer (this being the choice over cold water due to the fact that old George Post, the creator of Postum, was something of a health nut...), and that there was no set time during which I was to consume the stuff; only that I should try to do it as quickly as possible.
While there wasn't an official theme song for the Postum Challenge, it seemed quite clear that I would be attempting to "Get Right Back" (to where I started from) just like the Maxine Nightingale song. By this I refer to the earliest origins of all this Food Challenge business; an origin which my older brother was kind enough to remind me of. It seems that when Ole Gus was but a wee lad, he and his big bro had a peculiar sort of game. This involved each brother taking turns mixing up a horrible concoction (usually involving ingredients such as garlic, milk, orange juice, chocolate syrup, raw eggs, various spices, and even Postum) for the other guy to drink. The whole idea was to mix up something so awful as to make the other person puke. Why would anyone do this willingly? Well, as I see it, it was for many of the same reasons that young boys play football, ride motorcyles, or force each other to drink large amounts of alcohol. To wit: to prove to all that you are indeed BAD ASS!!! But unlike the aforementioned physical bad ass activities, this particular challenge was intended to demonstrate a certain internal strength. "Mind over matter" much more than "kick ass". Only standing to add intrigue to the hype surrounding Postum was young Gus's continuos marvelling at his older sister and mothers love of the stuff. Many a night was spent watching them drink it and lip smack at it's yummy molassesness. All that the perplexed Gusling could think was that Postum was just a horrible tasting coffee substitute which contained none of the caffiene essential to the enjoyment of any hot beverage.
All the factors had been building for many years and it finally came time to show my stuff on Saturday July ??. This time instead of a local coffee shop, the challenge went down at a local wateringhole on the eve of the Bosch newspaper print version's release. There were to be many essential B's in effect that evening including (but not limited to) booze,broads,beer,bands,barfing,bragging,boasting,boogeying, bogarting. After a bit of preshow MCing by the Tuna Can Man, the first of several bands hit the stage. Tuna Can dispensed more of the love and wisdom he is highly regarded for and introduced yours truly as a between bands attraction. Nothing can be more boring than watching someone eat, so I enlisted my good pal Wonderboy to whoop up the crowd with his patented crowd pleasin' banter while I dug in to my Postum. As the band that was set to follow the challenge was through setting up and I wasn't anywhere close to being "done", it was decided (through the good graces of those in the band) that Ol' Gus would be sharing the stage with the members of Clock. With this, the challenge continued.
So what is EATING the stuff actually like? Let me just say that it was considerably more of a physical challenge than a mental. The flavor was horrible, of course, much like eating dry coffee grounds. Unappealing flavor being something that I consider easy to get past (an issue of mind over matter), the REAL issue here was in the physical properties of the stuff. With the issue (or non issue as far as I was concerned) of taste out of the way, let me ask this: Even if dirt or sand tasted like chocolate, would they be any easier to eat? That would be no. I could no sooner take just a spoonful of dry Postum into my mouth then to have it physically gummed shut once it mixed with the saliva in my mouth. It stuck to front and back of teeth, lips, roof of mouth, and tongue like the unholy roofing tar of "Ol' Scratch" himself. Needless to say my original one glass of beer was three quarters gone by the time I got to the second or third gritty spoonful of granular hell. It was clear early on that it would be physically impossible to proceed without further liquid aid. Quite fortunately for me, my improbable plight must have been quite apparent to several fearful onlookers who blessed me with more liquid beverage before I could choke down a fourth spoonful. Had this not happened, it certainly would have been somewhat less than likely that I could have proceeded. Sure, I guess if I wanted to stick to the original rules regarding beverage restriction I could have downed maybe another spoonful or two before blowing clumpy black icor all over an otherwise peaceful crowd. But what kind of fun is that, I ask you? Much better to get some water and beer in me to mix with the predigested goo!!! In anticipation of a much higher projectile rate as a result of a higher liquid ratio, I proceeded.
As Clock continued through a fine set of tunes, I continued to stuff tablespoon after tablespoon of Postum into my gummy black Gushole. About two thirds to three quarters of the Postum was actually making its way down my throat at this point (aided in large part by beveridge assistance). The rest was being gleefully and unceremoniously scraped off the roof of my mouth and flicked at random either off to the side of the stage or directly at those sitting near the front. Occasionally some globules would break loose and proceed to mix with saliva and/or water or beer and be spat “chewin’ ‘tubbaccer” style onto a nearby copy of Bosch. The crowd seemed to become more and more disgusted and/or sympathetic to my plight as the spectacle continued.
By the time Clock had finished their set, I still had not consumed the entire container of Postum. While I COULD have continued on my quest, I considered a few factors: The next band playing may not be as willing to soil their performance with the residue of my antics, the waitstaff of the Neurolux were seemingly annoyed with the mess that I was making, and finally it WAS becoming increasingly physically impossible to continue. So I decided to cash it in. After it was all said and done, I had made my way through nine of the jar’s twelve ounces of dry Postum.
As I ambled from the stage to the bathroom to squeeze more Postum from both ends of me (I had to make room for further liquid refreshment and lessen the odds of “blessing” others with the after effects of copious Postum consumption), many people expressed their repulsion and curiosity at my blackened, seemingly toothless mouth. The staff of the Neurolux also responded in two distinct and opposing ways. While one waitress was concerned that I was feeling o.k., a second gave me a scowl and asked: “So, you’ll be cleaning up the mess, right?” “Of course,” I replied and then proceeded to mosey first to the bar and then directly off into the sunset of another Gus challenge.
Post Script/Author’s note: The first three quarters of the previous article were written immediately after the events described (i.e. several years ago). The remaining portion was fresh yesterday.
Gus is like Peach Schnapps; stomach-turningly sweet and fruity, yet ultimately weak and ineffective.