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Eating 21 cannolis?
Child’s play for Tex!

Oct 14, 2003 7:02 AM

HIS NAME WAS TEX! The handle had nothing to do with his place of origin. Like nearly everyone else, Tex grew up in Norristown, Pa., an action-packed city just outside of Philadelphia. Tex was a tall, rugged man. Nearly everyone respected him.

I got to know Tex when he got out of the clinker way back when. We frequented the same watering hole. It was a bar for rounders who loved to play the ponies, poker and the girls on the block.

In the early 1960s Norristown was a little Las Âí­Vegas. There were no casinos, but there was always a game somewhere and bookmakers were everywhere.

There’s one thing I can say about Tex. He didn’t gamble. He said he worked too hard feeding the hot furnaces at a nearby steel mill to waste a dime on Âí­betting. Since most of us in the bar would bet on raindrops sliding down the windowpane, Tex really stood out. But he got along with everyone. He was part of the gang.

One night ”” actually, it was early one morning ”” the conversation at the bar turned to eating feats. Tex was seated right alongside me throughout the conversation. For some reason, breaded veal cutlet came up. Nick, the bartender, said he knew a guy once who could eat three pounds of breaded veal cutlet. The statement brought rounds of disbelief among the bar dwellers. Nearly everyone believed Nick had the story all wrong.

Gussie, who is normally loud and even more so when dipping into the suds, bellowed:

"No way, Nicky! No one’s going to eat three pounds of breaded veal cutlet. You can bet me!"

They all agreed. Not Tex. He nudged me in the side and whispered as follows:

"Rocky, I could eat five pounds of breaded veal cutlet standing on my head!"

I looked Tex straight in the eye. "Would you gamble on it?" I asked.

"I don’t have any money, but if you front me I’ll pay you back if I lose."

I was sold. If Tex, who doesn’t bet, was willing to bet he could eat five pounds of breaded veal cutlet, who was I to argue? Softly I broke into the conversation.

"I know someone who could eat FIVE pounds of breaded veal cutlet. As a matter of fact, I believe there’s someone right here who could eat five pounds of breaded veal cutlet!"

The place went into an uproar. Money came out of hiding.

"Bet me, Rocky . . . Bet me . . . Bet me!"

Nicky, an enterprising sort, started handling the action. There were $20s, $10s, $5s. One guy even came up with $50. Nick counted the money. He was holding $350 of action. He turned to me:

"Do you want to cover this action?"

I turned to Tex: "How much do you want?"

Fifty dollars was the most he could afford.

I nodded yes to Nick and asked when?

The gallery went wild: "Now, right now! Send for the cook and have her come to the kitchen."

I tried to hold out for odds. After all, it was three o’clock in the morning. No dice. As a matter of fact, they wanted to know what Humphrey Pennyworth was going to do it.

Tex stood tall. "Me," he said, I’m going to do it and I’ll do it right now."

Margaret, the short order cook, was summoned. The breaded veal cutlet was prepared. In less than an hour the biggest stack of meat I’d seen in a long time was put on the bar in front of Tex. He went to work.

As he neared the bottom of the plate, Tex gave me a scare. He slowed to a stop. Rubbed his belly ”” larger than somewhat ”” and made a request.

Everyone thought Tex had spit the bit. Count me in that group. Not Tex. He wanted to know if it would be all right to have a large glass of wine to help wash down the veal. A water glass of grapes was poured. Tex downed it in one gulp. And, with great finesse, finished off the five pounds of breaded veal cutlet.

Ka-ching! Ka-ching! It was payday for both of us.

Memories of the great eating frenzy came to mind last week when I read about a fellow, Cookie Jarvis, who set a record by eating 21 cannolis. It seems the International Federation of Competitive Eating keeps track of these things.

Just 21 cannolis? Sorry, Cookie. Tex, come out from wherever you are. There’s easy pickins in Las Vegas!