By the strength of the mighty iceberg, University of Minnesota Lettuce Club brings heads together at semi annual meeting

The Lettuce Club’s fall 2021 meeting was marked by fierce competition and a shared appetite for leafy greens.

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Sophia Zimmerman

Students participating in the fall 2021 lettuce eating competition raise their heads of lettuce in the air. The meeting, hosted by the University of Minnesota Lettuce Club, is semi-annual.

by Sophia Zimmerman

Jack Walsh, University of Minnesota Lettuce Club president and winner of last fall’s meeting, arrives at Fraser Hall 101 dressed for the occasion in a pale green button down. Walsh became president of the Lettuce Club by winning the fall 2020 competition and securing the title of Head Lettuce.

In his current role, he’s responsible for the night’s successful execution. His duties include overseeing a competition in which students compete against one another to consume a head of lettuce the fastest and then crowning the winner, his successor, as the new Head Lettuce.

This meeting is special: it’s the first in-person meeting of the lettuce club after the pandemic forced the club online. Barstool’s Adam Ferrone also happens to be present, filming a mini documentary on the club. Crew members are equipped with cameras and mics, distributing waivers to be signed by every individual in attendance. Students continue to steadily trickle in past what was supposed to be a 6 p.m. start time, iceberg heads in hand (this is a B.Y.O.L. meeting). There’s a look of disbelief on the faces of the non-believers as they slip through the door — for some, lettuce club seemed like a meme, a figment of their imagination, too good to be true.

Quickly consuming an entire head of lettuce requires strategy. According to Walsh, some people get their heads wet to get the lettuce down quicker. Others opt for the assistance of their condiment of choice. At this particular meeting, one glance around the room confirms the presence of bottles of Hidden Valley ranch, balsamic vinaigrette, western dressing, a container of homemade egg dressing and a questionable packet of Hellman’s mayonnaise someone’s retrieved from the depths of their backpack.

“JoJo Siwa plates for good luck, Italian dressing for flavor and then Vitamin Water to help it go down,” Alex Maierhofer, third-year student, describes his set-up for the evening. He’s spent the last 24 hours taking part in a meticulous routine discovered via a competitive eating blog that’s meant to help expand one’s stomach.

Once it appears that everyone who wants to be there has made their way to one of the lecture hall’s seats, Walsh begins to go over the rules for the night. These include specifics on lettuce type (iceberg only), assistance allowed (each head of lettuce can be washed, dressing of choice is allowed) and eligibility requirements (only Twin Cities students with one semester left can participate).

He follows the rules by requesting that everyone place their right hand on their lettuce, left hand in the air and recite the Lettuce Creed, which he drafted the night before: “Lettuce compete today with honor, glory, and most importantly a mild appetite for leafy vegetables. If we find ourselves growing weak, let the strength of the mighty iceberg carry us. Even if we do not win, we will be grateful for this little gem of a club and for those of us that will go on to compete in the future, we butter be prepared to toss salad once again.”

At 6:13 p.m., the competition officially begins. The room descends into a lettuce-filled frenzy, with everyone deploying a variety of techniques on their quest to be dubbed the winner. Someone smashes their head against their plate, attempting to loosen the leaves of lettuce. A few partake in the tear-and-dip method, ripping off pieces of their heads and drenching it in dressing before swallowing it. Another attendee stands up while eating, bending down to let discarded pieces fall on his plate while he tries to get it down. There’s a select few taking their time, seeming to almost find pleasure in each bite. One attendee finds a bug in their lettuce head — don’t worry, it was organic. Amid attempts to swallow bites of lettuce, another exclaims that this is the most vegetable they’ve consumed since the pandemic began.

The first person to raise his stem of lettuce in the air, as per the official rules, Hampton Weber is declared the winner of the competition. Amid cheers from his peers, it is announced that he’s rung in at a cool two minutes and thirty five seconds. Andy McKenzie comes in at a close second, clocking in at two minutes and thirty seven seconds.

“Big thanks to mom and dad for always having vegetables out,” begins Weber’s brief victory speech. He ends it by affirming his anticipated return to defend the homemade green crown that’s placed upon his head shortly after.

At 6:35 p.m., the floor is littered with the carnage of dozens of demolished lettuce heads. Bits and pieces of shredded iceberg cling to the carpet, watered-down remnants of the evening’s festivities. Leftover stickers distributed to each attendee stick to the tables. The Barstool crew packs up their equipment, sticking around for a few stragglers requesting selfies. In less than an hour, the meeting is over and done with.

Walsh has successfully pulled off the semester’s meeting, his only fault being that he forgot to activate the Zoom link for the aspiring lettuce-eaters stuck at home.