To the disbe-leaf of many passersby on Sept. 23, a circle of students formed––each with two heads: One human, one lettuce. This strange sight was none other than McGill’s second annual Lettuce Club meeting.
Once a year, Lettuce Club members meet with nothing but a 600-gram head of lettuce and an empty stomach. The rules of the game are very simple: Participants have 10 short (or long!) minutes to devour their head of lettuce to the best of their abilities. Although 10 minutes may not seem like enough time to eat an entire head, the real contenders tend to take much less.
To ease this laborious process, competitors can employ any strategy, from dousing the head in salad dressing to adding some seasoning and spices or condensing their lettuce with force—as long as they can prove that they have eaten the entire head of lettuce. The first to finish eating is crowned the Head of Lettuce and is responsible for organizing the next year’s gathering.
McGill’s first Lettuce Club meeting took place last year, organized by Arielle Lok, U3
Management, Bjørn Christensen, U3 Arts, and Joel Conway, U3 Management. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Lok explained that in 2019, the founders were inspired by viral TikToks about Lettuce Clubs at different schools and thought, “let’s bring that to McGill!” The first-ever Lettuce Club was a huge success, attracting nearly 150 students.
But the success of last year’s Lettuce Club was only the tip of the iceberg. This year, more than 200 people formed a circle around the grassy knoll outside Redpath Museum, ready to compete. Aslan LaCouvee, U3 Arts and Science and last year’s Head of Lettuce, entered the centre of the circle wearing the black cloak awarded to the winner.
“The question remains, who wants to be the Head of Lettuce?” Aslan shouted.
With that, the race was off. Participants dug their teeth into the leaves and chewed eagerly. Scraps of lettuce littered the ground as spectators cheered on their friends.
A mere minute after the race began, Eric Zhao, U1 Science, drew the attention of his fellow competitors, as he neared the end of his lettuce. As Zhao chewed vigorously, the crowd’s focus shifted to various other participants nearing the end of their lettuce cores. Finally, Zhao opened his mouth, revealing his lettuce was gone, and, with relief, yelped in victory. LaCouvee presented the victor with the cloak, crowning him as this year’s Head of Lettuce.
After the competition, Zhao disclosed his technique in an interview with the Tribune.
“Most people get caught up in chewing. But I have two hands here––they aren’t doing anything! So, what if I hold my lettuce like this,” Zhao said, forming a claw-like grip on his imaginary lettuce, “and give the old lettuce some chew with my long fingernails so that when it gets in my mouth, it can be more of a slush.”
Zhao’s strategy was clearly effective as he managed to devour his lettuce in as little as a minute and 54 seconds.
Participants were left in awe by Zhao’s speed.
One observer noted, “I’ve been alive 20 years and never seen something like that!”
While he, too, was impressed with this record time, Marlo Nash, U1 Science, was most interested in the team-building aspect of the competition.
“You know there’s a competition [for the Head of Lettuce], but it’s about the collaborative aspects: The “us” in lettuce,” Nash said.
The ambience of the Lettuce Club gathering is certainly light-hearted, but many participants mentioned the sense of community brought about by the lettuce-eating competition.
“I’m here to be a part of the energy, be a part of something bigger than myself,” Jonas Lehar, U1 Science, told the Tribune.
Arielle Lok explained the mission of Lettuce Club: “To unite students, and address the (lettuce) core of the community.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Christensen presented Zhao with the cloak. In fact, LaCouvee presented him with the cloak. The Tribune regrets this error.