It's Monday morning, and I'm girding my loins or whatever it is you gird when you're about to eat a lot for the 12th straight year.
But before I venture into the fray, I might as well address those of you who think I'm the scum of the earth for encouraging people to eat themselves to an early grave and ignoring the starving children in China and right here in the Lehigh Valley. I get these letters every year, and it has accelerated since the paper launched the Eating Your Way Through Musikfest contest and began promoting me like I'm Beyonce.
1. This is a once-a-year freak show, conceived to highlight the variety of food available at Musikfest and joke about what it costs. I don't eat like this the other 364 days of the year, and neither does anyone else. But I've already heard from a bunch of people who are having fun with the contest. So lighten up. My diet starts next week.
2. I raise money for Second Harvest Food Bank every year and have tried to bring attention to hunger issues. Some of the best Christmas displays in the area now include food collection baskets, specifically because I promoted the idea. It is possible to eat a lot at Musikfest and still care about hungry people.
OK, enough. I'm wearing my loosest-fitting shorts, I had no breakfast, and I'm ready to roll.
12:13. Krainerwurst, Karl Ehmer, Festplatz. All these years I've been doing this, and I've never eaten anything from Karl Ehmer's meats. This great smoked sausage sandwich reminded me what I've been missing. Outstanding. Cha-CHING. Twelve tickets or $6.
12:25. Large Red Cream Soda, Kutztown's Finest, Handwerkplatz. All their stuff is good. Cha-CHING. Five tickets or $2.50.
1:03. Jambalaya, Big Mama's, Volksplatz. A mildly spicy stew of sausage, chicken, steak, okra and onion, among other things. It was terrific, but I already feel like the sun -- a hot, gaseous body. Cha-CHING. Fourteen tickets or $7.
2:23. Lamb Gyro, Theo's Gyros, Main Street. As I write this, I'm dripping cucumber sauce on the keyboard. This wrap is a great value for the money; full of meat, lettuce and tomato. But I need to pick up the pace. Cha-CHING. Thirteen tickets or $6.50.
2:57. Dirty Banana Smoothie, Island Expressions. Plaza Tropical. Hershey chocolate, banana and very cool. I have arctic brain freeze, and I'm beginning to bloat. Cha-CHING. Eight tickets or $4.
3:35. Twenty-ounce mug of Yuengling Lager, Liederplatz. Cha-CHING. Ten tickets or $5. Combined with some great Celtic music, this really hit the spot. Sitting here in the sun, I feel so good I'll just put my head back for a moment and
4:05. I regain consciousness on stage in Festplatz, dressed like the Dalai Lama and playing accordion. I need to get back to eating, but the darned crowd keeps shouting out requests. I'll play "Tibetan Polka" for my encore.
4:45. Shish-ka-bob, Hogar Crea, Handwerkplatz. I'm a big advocate of meat on a stick, but my chunks of steak are dry and chewy, putting my tired jaws to the test. Cha-CHING. Twelve tickets or $6.
5:13. Medium Root Beer Float, Colossal Cones, Plaza Tropical. When I listed this in my top 25 Musikfest foods ever, I said the Leiby's Ice Cream stand was closed, but Colossal Cones still serves Leiby's in these floats, and they're awesome. Cha-CHING. Six tickets or $3. I'm still way short of last year's record.
6:05. Chicken Taco Salad and Flan, Cactus Blue, Americaplatz. These guys save me with a big, semi-pricy dinner and an excellent dessert. The food was very good and voluminous, not that I appreciated it much at this point. Cha-CHING. Nineteen tickets or $9.50 for the taco salad and 11 tickets or $5.50 for the flan.
That takes me to 110 tickets or $55, just up from my previous high of 108 and $54.
Starving children in China: I'll make it up to you.