I’m not even going to pretend that I follow soccer, a.k.a. “The Other Football,” on a regular basis.
Oh, I’ve tried on numerous occasions to keep up on Premier League, but the time difference and keeping up which player is out on loan to where and what team is staying in Premier and which team is in danger of being demoted to Football League — which is confusingly called Championship League for short — while teams from Championship League can win their way into Premier but don’t forget there are hundreds of more clubs in the levels below Championship and by the way, don’t forget the top Premier clubs qualify for UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) European Cup — which is ALSO confusingly called the Championship League — and then a few middle Premier teams make the middle UEFA Europa Cup AND WAIT A SECOND I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING HERE, YOU WANT ME TO FOLLOW ITALIAN, FRENCH, SPANISH AND ABOUT FIFTY OTHER COUNTRIES FOOTBALL TEAMS. I CAN BARELY REMEMBER TO KEEP THE “E” OFF OF “PREMIER” AND I NEED TO KNOW WHAT NOW?
I ostensibly live in a football city since Los Angeles is home to two MLS teams, the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA, but the Galaxy is always loaning out players who may not come back, (like Landycakes and uber-Laker fan, David Beckham), to European teams and Chivas manages to garner even less coverage than the Kings so it never seems like I’m in a football town. Toss in the confusing CONCACAF acronym, that the Home Depot Center is a good hour and a half away from my place with only moderate traffic, yet another “football pyramid” to get to the US Open Cup and one “Price Is Right” host, and again, I’m lost as a fan.
But all of the above does not mean I don’t like football. The matches are exciting, the players are in incredible shape, the announcers are colorful and by gosh it’s great to watch a sport that isn’t interrupted by commercial breaks — which are more intolerable while actually at an NFL game — or Joe Buck. (The fact that when watching any of the four major professional sporting leagues in the US you have a 50-50 shot of hearing Joe Buck is not something we as American sports fans should be proud of.) So please accept us very casual fans as we invade your pitches and fixtures. We’re all here for the party.
And what can an American Football fan do to get ready for the World Cup? Why some shoddy Google research and what we know best, contests about food, of course!
Announcing the Friday Football Foodie World Cup of Football/Street/National Dishes.
Leading up to the opening match on June 11, I’ll be posting a food that is commonly consumed at football games around the world. What is that? It turns out that not every nation eats at sporting matches? Well then, they’ll be assigned a common street food for the competition. What? What do you mean half of the EU doesn’t believe in street food and insist on tablecloths and silverware? FINE. Europeans and their pushy etiquette. A national dish then.
Voting will last until midnight Pacific Standard Time on the last day of their corresponding Group’s play until the first round is done and then we’ll move on round two along with the World Cup.
Because this football, cheating is allowed. (Just ask the Irish and the French.) If you don’t like that I selected sirovi štruklji for Slovenia, then feel free to pretend that you are voting for gobova kremna juha. If you want to vote on multiple days, then go for it. If your nationality says Australia but your gut says Germany, I won’t tell if you vote with your palate.
Today, Group A – France, South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay. Possibly one of the toughest groupings in the Football Foodie World Cup of Football/Street/National Dishes.
France – Jambon-Beurre
The French take jambon-beurres very, very seriously and they proudly tout the fact that they sell eight times more jambon-beurres than the ever-invading American hamburger. It’s a simple, but tasty sandwich of butter and country ham on a baguette and is the most common street food besides crepes.
Quick fact about the French team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
Zinedine Zadine, the player who head-butted the Italian player Marco Materazzi during the last World Cup final and was ejected, costing France a World Cup victory? Yeah, he’s retired. Don’t ask where he is. And don’t forget about Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland that got the French into the Cup that was mentioned above.
Exotic French food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Mimolette cheese. It is purposely infested with mites.
Other awesome French snack:
Pain au chocolat.
South Africa – Bunny Chow
The origins of bunny chow are disputed — other than it comes from apartheid-era Durban — but the popularity of this South African take out food cannot be denied. Slice the ends off a loaf of white bread, scoop out the insides and fill it with the curry of your choice. The piece of bread that has been pulled out of the loaf is referred to as the “virgin” and is used to scoop the curry out of the bowl, working your way down until the sides of the loaf can be torn off and used as curry carriers.
Remember when I said above that cheating is allowed? With 32 teams to cover for the World Cup, don’t feel bad if you cheat a few of your recipes or you’ll spend the entire tourney in the kitchen and missing all the fun on the pitch. I’ve made Mark Bittman’s Chicken Curry in a Hurry from his book Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times before with excellent results, but most grocery stores carry curry sauces like they do pasta sauces these days so don’t feel bad if you go to the jar for this one considering all the ingredients needed to make a proper curry. Just be sure to add some cubed potatoes and cut carrots to the meat or beans of your choice.
Quick fact about the South Africa team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
Those very loud horns which will haunt your sleep after watching about ten minutes of World Cup coverage are called vuvuzelas and the South African Football Association successfully fought to have a 2008 FIFA ban on them lifted before the 2010 World Cup.
Expect to see as much fancy footwork off the pitch as on it when it comes to reporting on the South African team and what it means to be the first African team to host the World Cup, especially in light of the country’s history of apartheid. Few will nail it as eloquently as Raymond Whitaker has in his piece,“Ballad of a South African Football Fan” in The Economist.
Exotic South African food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Mopane worms. Like most insect cuisine, they’re actually not that bad tasting and are good source of protein.
Other awesome South African snack:
Biltong, which is a dried meat like a jerky but thicker and cured with vinegar so it has a completely different taste. Often eaten along with dried fruits.
Uruguay – Chivito
Anyone who has spent any time with me over the past couple of weeks has heard me go on and on about how good South American sandwiches are and how Uruguay’s chivito perfectly embodies what their nation loves most, meat.
First, you fry some bacon. Then you take a thick filet of beef, cut it in half, and then pound each piece to be a 1/4 of an inch thick. Season with salt and pepper and then either cook it in the hot bacon fat or on the grill, (both methods are considered churrasco style in Uruguay). Stack your churrasco on a crusty roll and then top with ham, bacon and some mozzarella and put it into a warm oven until the cheese has melted. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, chopped green and black olives, and either mayonnaise or salsa golf, which is a mixture of ketchup and mayo.
Try to limit yourself to one for the entire World Cup.
Quick fact about the Uruguayan team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
Despite their rich football history, Uruguay failed to make the World Cup in 2006, although a few people are picking them as a dark horse to go far if they can escape the first round.
Also, Diego Forlán is a ridiculously good looking man.
Exotic Uruguayan food that the rest of us would probably toss:
If you are vegan or vegetarian, Uruguay is not the place for you.
Other awesome Uruguayan snack:
Seriously, have you seen how much meat they eat there?
Mexico – Agua Fresca
I can hear the complaints already. Why not burritos? What about tortas? Or tacos? Or tequila? Well a vote for agua fresca is a vote for all of Mexican food, because without the refreshment of of agua fresca there is no way you would be able to handle the heat of both the land and the food. (Or the tequila hangovers.)
Fresh agua fresca is made by blending fresh fruit or cucumbers with water, lime juice, a touch of either sugar or agave syrup and a pinch of salt and then straining out the pulp. When served over ice, you will not find a better way to take the edge off the heat on a summer day.
Quick fact about the Mexican team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
Despite a dearth of Mexican football talent and 13 World Cup appearances, “El Tri” has never won football’s biggest match. The club was struggling when coach Javier Aguirre (former Mexican team midfielder and successful Atlético Madrid coach) took over the team in spring of 2009. After his return to the Mexican National Team, he led his squad to victory over the US in the Gold Cup, got into a fight with a Panamanian player that delayed the game for ten minutes, and guided Mexico back into World Cup qualification. (He’s also had to apologize to the Mexican people for saying he’s moving back to Madrid once the World Cup is over because he feared for his children’s safety.)
Exotic Mexican food that the rest of us would probably toss:
I don’t care how much foodies both north and south of the border rave about cuitlacoche, (known as “corn smut” in the US), have you seen it?
Other awesome Mexican snack:
Everything. My kingdom for a vat of Oaxacan mole sauce to be poured on everything that comes across my plate.
Voting and comments:
Which dish deserves to come out of the ultra-competitive Group A? What food didn’t make the cut, thus hurting their country from moving on to the second round? I made the food and even I don’t know how I am going to vote in Group A, it is all so delicious.