Hunter S. Thompson did not hold many things sacred, least of all his sobriety. He’s one of those rarified celebrities that have earned a considerable half-life on the walls of college dorm rooms. (The others being, of course, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Che Guevara and whoever it is that designs Ikea’s silkscreens.) You’ll see Johnny Depp in full Hunter S. Thompson garb clenching a cigarette in pretty much any dorm in pretty much any town in America. For the most part, he’s stopped being anything like a real person and much more of a slogan. Read a boring-ass white boy writing about how drunk he is on assignment? Hunter S. Thompson. Your friend wants to take mescaline in Vegas? Who does he think he is, Hunter S. Thompson?
But he was a real person. And he was a real person who loved breakfast. I, myself, am a boring-ass white boy who read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at age 14 and became enthralled with Thompson’s ability to file while seemingly actively snorting whatever powder was around. And I also love breakfast. So I’ve gotten obsessed with this quotation about Hunter S.Thompson's breakfast.
I view Hunter S. Thompson the way I view all writers talking about their supposed routines: They’re just baiting someone stupid enough to try to recreate them into personal or mental ruin. And yet, the breakfast beckoned to me. How could it not? The sheer amount and variety is completely insane. The food alone is enough to stop one’s heart, let alone the drinking and the dessert cocaine.
So I decided to try to conquer it, this Mt. Olympus of breakfast. My attempt at the breakfast took nearly five hours, inspired a minor argument, and was consumed as close to naked as I could get with a photographer and several other assistants around. I couldn’t be alone for the breakfast—I had a photographer, several people helping with the cooking, and other people that just wanted to gawk—but I cherished my few alone moments and understood why he would have valued his alone time. At times I had to lay down. Once, I vomited. Other times, I wish I had. I think I learned something. Definitely I learned about the limits of my endurance.
My ingredients have been assembled. Though it’s not explicitly part of the meal, I’ve decided that I ought to smoke pot to help me make it through the feast. As my assistant and I went through the grocery store, I started to get irrationally confident. I had figured privately that I would have to eat at least two packets of bacon and maybe a whole jug of milk. When I found out that I only had to consume half of each, I began to think I could do this. After all, if I just chugged a glass of milk right out of the gate I could probably get that out of the way quickly. The one stumbling block I anticipate is the Spanish omelet. I had previously thought of it as a normal omelet, forgetting the amount of potatoes involved. So that has me a little nervous. My crew started drinking margaritas early to enable them to get through this without murdering themselves or me. Overall, I feel good and ready. We’ll see how long that feeling lasts. The coffee’s done so I’m going to start drinking it. I’m feeling hungry.
My photographer drops an egg. I try to maintain my calm. Thankfully, the weed is starting to kick in. Now feel extremely hungry.
I’ve started drinking coffee. The photo documentation is unanticipatedly thorough. But I’m going to soldier on. I may have over-done it on the weed. I have to take off my clothes soon.
An argument has broken out about what crab Rangoon is. I’m maintaining that it’s a salad. A temporary emergency with the pan has been resolved by moving the Spanish omelet to the other pan.
More onlookers have arrived. “I see you’re doing a lot of cooking,” one says sarcastically. “I’m the talent,” I say.
I’ve finished my first cup of coffee and my first glass of milk. Everyone is grossed out by how quickly I chugged the milk, but I like milk. Milk is good as a drink and for cereal. Milk haters, stay out.
I took off my clothes, since that’s a requirement of the meal. I’ve now moved on to my first bloody mary. When making them, we couldn’t tell if there was enough vodka so I poured in maybe another shot. Then I realize that I’ll have to drink three more of these. Food is almost ready and while I’m too drunk to fully process my hunger, I’m aware of it in the distance. Like a pale horse, or an army, or whatever.
The crepes Rangoon are almost ready. I’m extremely excited and slightly drunk. Hoping to finish the first bloody mary by the time I sit down to eat. The full enormity of the task is now coming to light. Also, I’m drunk. I mentioned that. These sentences are now taking significantly longer to type.
First food. I’m now eating a crepe Rangoon, which is basically crab Rangoon put inside a folded crepe, while everyone watches. I’m listening to Pulp, which I think qualifies as “good music.”
One of my assistants had to leave to go handle rats because she works in a lab. I feel bad, but I’m at work. Being drunk and naked is work right? Today, it is.
Finished the first crepe Rangoon and feeling a little full. That’s mildly concerning since I have five more drinks and like eight more courses to go. This is why my editor told me not to die.
Having eaten three-fourths of the bacon, I’m already feeling full. My assistant tells me I need to drink those bloodies faster. I feel like some kind of breakfast viking, viciously feasting. This is breakfast Valhalla. I’ve died on the breakfast battlefield and now I’ve been resurrected in a hall of just breakfast. Pulp is singing about common people, which seems hopelessly quaint. I know nothing but breakfast.
My assistant asked to take a plate. “I don’t have time for niceties right now, I’m eating breakfast,” I said. But I’m too drunk to enunciate so I just sort of growled it. I can see why he liked being left alone. My solo times are my only peaceful ones.
I’m getting the appeal of the breakfast. When you’re alone you’re just with this mountain of food that has no beginning and no ending. It’s very comforting to know that breakfast could potentially go on forever. Breakfast is the most comforting meal of the day, when it’s still full of possibility. It’s 1:30 and I’m drunk.
My friend’s prediction that I would vomit now seems prophetic. I need to finish my second bloody.
Every portion Thompson recommends is absurd. I feel like this is something he did to exaggerate his expense account. People are talking about Floyd Mayweather expensing a $20,000 strip club tab. He threw the money on the ground so only the strippers got it.
My first time eating grapefruit. It’s pretty good, except I swallow a segment whole. The onlookers are all making fun of me. “Fuck you guys I have to get wasted,” I say. “Being all high and mighty.” I’m probably too drunk.
My third bloody mary comes out. I’m so fucking unprepared for this. I’m eating grapefruit with the grim determination of a soldier on a march. 1:59 p.m. I had to lay down. One of the onlookers is saying they’d do a better job of this. But I doubt it.
I’ve finished my third bloody mary. I’m starting to feel like I maybe can’t make it. My earlier confidence was insanely misplaced. This breakfast ritual must have taken a full afternoon.
I’ve moved on to my fourth bloody mary. At this point this is all about grim determination. I won’t let this breakfast vanquish me. Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t even that good of a writer. I can do this. I will do this.
Bees have swarmed the food. We fled inside to avoid them. I’m still in my underwear. Half my last bloody is gone. People have left. Tired but strong.
I’ve now finished the last bloody mary and moved on to the margaritas. I’m starting to enter the post-drunk clarity zone.
I just vomited a little from the strain of moving food from plates into the garbage. This is so glamorous, just like writers in the 1970s. I can see why everyone got famous. It was from drinking so much bloody mary mix you vomit near the trash.
I’m double-fisting the margaritas. The only way I can make it through is by thinking of them as one drink. I’m going to have the lemon meringue pie and then I’ll be done. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far. No lie, I feel like an Olympian.
I’m on my last half margarita. A man has come to fix the cable. That’s how long I’ve been drinking, things are being repaired.
The margaritas are done. Now the pie is staring me down like an angry bull. I’m going to do this. So close.
Just ate a piece of pie. It was the closest I’ve come to vomiting without actually doing it. But I’m done. I feel a profound sense of accomplishment. And of fullness. And of drunkenness. And of nausea. I want a nap.
Finishing the breakfast, or coming as close as I did, more or less confirmed my suspicions. This was not a mortal amount of food to eat. Hell, this was not a mortal amount of food to describe eating. I wouldn’t characterize myself as shocked that Hunter S. Thompson would eat (or say he ate) breakfast like this, but I would say I’d be surprised if he did this more than once in his life. This type of eating requires a hotel because it’s elaborate and you couldn’t really find that solitude or nudity anywhere else. Preparing the food took an hour just by itself. One could picture him, cigarette clamped in jaw, growling the order into the phone. One could also picture the person taking the order asking if he needed two place settings.
“Just one,” Thompson might say. “Are you insane?”