Down the Hatch

Competitive eating may get a lot of media attention these days for its negative health implications and general weirdness, but another esophagus-busting sport has become the first to attract scholarly study. As Scientific American reports, the paper “Sword-swallowing and its side effects” gives a detailed medical analysis of the practice.

And if competitive eaters risk diminishing their joy in eating, sword-swallowers have it even worse. There’s the constant threat of perforating the esophagus or puncturing the stomach, of course, but the common condition known as “sword throat” can make it hard to eat for several days. Some performers use butter to lubricate their weapons for a smoother journey, the study says; other authoritative sources talk of cooking oil, olive oil, and Kurobara camellia oil (a nontoxic variety that’s often used in cleaning cutlery).

The study doesn’t get into some of the more fascinating minutiae of the art, but Swordswallow.com sure does. What does it taste like to swallow a sword, you may ask?

In some cases, depending on the type of metal used in the blade, it can sometimes taste a bit metallic. Lady Sandra Reed commented on the taste of metal and Red Stuart often says that your mouth and throat need to learn to overcome the metallic taste so that your throat does not rebel against the strange taste going down your throat.

However, many of the newer swords nowadays have little to no flavor at all—much like the taste of a fork—except as the sword is being removed, at which time there may be the unpleasant taste of the stomach acids.

Kids these days have it so easy. No metallic taste to reckon with … next thing you know, they’ll be lubing up their swords with ice cream.