Before we get to today’s Group B bracket, let’s pause and take a look at the most important film ever to come out of the 2010 World Cup host nation South Africa.
I am of course talking about THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY.
(This is going to be a long walk, so if you want to skip down to the food, go right ahead.)
THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY was a cultural phenomenon, selling out movie houses and theaters for years as it made its trek around the globe from art house to art house. The film’s premise revolves around a glass Coke bottle that has fallen from the sky, (casually tossed out a small plane by the pilot), which lands near a remote village in the Kalahari Desert where possessions are unheard of, everything on the Earth is a useful gift from the gods, and everyone gets along just swell until the amazingly unique object shows up — quite literally — out of the blue. After the Coke bottle has caused the tribe much grief over the unfamiliar emotions of jealousy and attachment, it is decided that the gods must have made a mistake giving them this item so one of the bushmen sets off to the edge of the world where he can return the bottle back to them. Along the way he runs into 20th century civilization and, as they say, hijinx ensue.
Looking back at the film now, THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY is remarkable for many reasons. Despite a ban on South African films in most countries at the time the distributors were able to skirt the embargo by claiming it was a Botswanan movie. Even though it was a South African financed and produced movie, it would go on to make over a $100 million dollars worldwide, with $30 million of its gross coming from the US. (Trinidad and Tobago were the only countries to block its release.)
If you have never seen the film, the set up is below. Note how idealized and yet paternalistically condescending the narrator is when describing tribal life.
They must be the most contented people in the world. They have no crime, no punishment, no violence, no laws, no police, judges, rulers or bosses.
At about 5:40 in the clip, the camera turns its attention to what appears to be Johannesburg and the madness of modern life. The narrator takes on similar tone when describing industrialized life, but gone is the light, airy music that had accompanied the villagers.
And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings, now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt every hour of the day to his self-created environment. For instance, if it’s Monday and 7:30 comes up, you have to dis-adapt from your domestic surroundings and re-adapt yourself to an entirely different environment. 8:00 means everybody has to look busy. 10:30 means you can stop looking busy for 15 minutes.
Even in the early ’80s, this sort of romanticism of tribal life was passé but the hero, N!xau, is engaging and funny enough that the viewer can almost be forgiven for forgetting apartheid even existed in South Africa, (mostly because it never comes up in the film).
Even the ever political (or at least now political) Roger Ebert did not mention South Africa’s problems or apartheid once in his 1981 review of GODS. But you cannot separate politics from art — or sports for that matter — and New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby nailed it in his review.
When the film’s locale shifts to Botswana, ”The Gods Must Be Crazy” becomes a much more carefree fable. However, one cannot help feeling that there may also be something a tiny bit patronizing in its presentation of black Marxists who are quite as bumbling as the black government members they unsuccessfully try to overthrow. Maybe not, but it’s not a concept that would upset the members of any white supremacist government.
Mr. Uys, I suspect, knew exactly what he was doing when he made ”The Gods Must Be Crazy,” which is a film that is often genuinely, nonpolitically funny. Yet he knows that no film, especially no South African film, can be seen as being without any connections to the society in which it was made. All films, no matter what their subject, are to some extent political, both for what they say and what they don’t say.
It’s no accident that throughout ”The Gods Must Be Crazy,” each of the major characters must say with impatience from time to time, always in a comic context, ”I don’t want to think about it.” Kate Thompson says it just after the clumsy Andrew Steyn, carrying her across a stream, has stumbled and dropped her in the mud. Andrew says it when he’s reminded that he is, in fact, the world’s most inept Romeo. ”I don’t want to think about it,” says Andrew.
It’s just possible that this is the way Mr. Uys would characterize the attitude of many of South Africa’s more enlightened white citizens, who may be troubled by the system but incapable of taking any effective stand against it. ”I don’t want to think about it.” It runs through the film like a musical theme.
And unfortunately for too long, neither did anyone else.
I saw this movie in the theater when I was very young and recall thinking — and I still do — that the idea of rhinoceroses being the fire marshals of Africa was one the funniest things I had ever seen. It’s just harder now as an adult to watch the rest of the film.
And now that most of you have skipped the wordy part, let’s get to the food!
Today, Group B – Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea and Uruguay, another tough grouping in the Football Foodie World Cup of Football/Street/National Dishes.
Argentina – Choripán
This popular Argentinian snack can be found at stadia and food stalls all over the country, and quite frankly now that I’ve had a choripán, I believe we as Americans should demand their inclusion in popular US cuisine.
Grill or pan roast a chorizo and then split it in half, grill a few minutes longer and then serve on a crusty roll with chimchurri sauce with salsa golf, (the mayo-ketchup mixture covered yesterday in Uruguay’s chivito entry), or mayonnaise.
Quick fact about the Argentinian team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
Expect to hear about manager Diego Maradona and his friendship with Fidel Castro/stomach stapling/cocaine addiction/tattoo of Che Guevara/general wackiness for the entire tournament. Why? Because he selected one of the final 23 players based upon a dream he had the night before. Maradona has promised to run through the streets of Buenos Aries naked if Argentina wins the World Cup, so if you are unsure who to root for in Group B, just remember there are fewer things funnier than a man running buck naked, chorizo flapping in the wind.
Exotic Argentinian food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Offal. The sweetbreads, chitlings and other various parts of the animal most people prefer not to consume. Almost all cultures eat organ meat, but the Argentinians put a higher price on them than most other cultures.
Other awesome Argentinian snack:
Nigeria – Chinchin (Or chin-chin or chin chin. I’ve seen it spelled three different ways and since I unfortunately no longer live next to a geologist who travels to Nigeria every few months, I have no one to ask about the correct spelling.)
If there is anything to be taken away from covering all the foods of the World Cup representatives, it’s that nearly every country makes some sort of fried dough. In Nigeria, these treats are called chinchin and they are delicious.
I used this recipe for a small batch of the homemade treats, (chinchin is also sold in stores, but tend to be harder and more cookie like), and I still had enough of the sweet treats to get us through morning coffee and evening dessert for a week. If you are cooking for a large group or are looking to open up your own roadside stand, here is a recipe with a much larger yield.
Quick fact about the Nigerian team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
No other African team has the amount of pressure as the Super Eagles put on them to succeed in Africa’s first ever World Cup. If they fail to make a good showing in the first round, the disappointment will be felt across the continent.
Exotic Nigerian food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Weevil larva. In a hundred years when we’re all eating bugs, this will not seem unusual.
Other awesome Nigerian snack:
South Korea – Soju
Similar to vodka, but with a sweeter taste and rougher feeling on the tongue. Incredibly cheap, it’s a nice alternative to beer with spicy Korean food. See the little frog on the bottle of Jinro to the left? Make sure it’s blue before drinking.
Quick fact about the South Korean team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
One of the most dominate football clubs in South Korea is the Pohang Steelers, who like the Pittsburgh Steelers, take their name from the local community’s ties to steel manufacturing.
Exotic South Korean food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Sannakji – A small octopus served still wriggling around while you eat it.
Other awesome South Korean snack:
All the snacks you see behind the soju. It is nearly impossible for me to go into the Korean grocery store Hannam Chain and not load up on Korean snacks. The Corn Chocos? Imagine the lightest, airiest corn puff you have ever had but without any cheese flavoring or anything on it. Now coat one side of it in melted chocolate. Glorious.
Greece – Saganaki
Greek food always manages to pull off the impossible for me, it makes heavy food taste light. Saganaki is no exception. Take a slice of hard cheese such as kasseri or kefalotyri, lightly flour and either flash fry it in a hot pan, or place on a dish, douse with Ouzo then light on fire. Serve with fresh lemon. After a few bites of saganaki, you will swear off crummy mozzarella sticks for the rest of your life.
See the Greek beer Hillas in the background? Next time someone says they have some sort of new Sam Adams summer brew that is perfect for the heat, give it a pass and try either Hillas or Mythos instead. The Greeks are masters of beers that were meant to be enjoyed in the sun.
Quick fact about the Greek team you need to know so you don’t look like an idiot this summer:
True to form, the Greek national team has experienced both extreme tragedy and comedy. 2010 marks just their second World Cup appearance and in their only other World Cup qualification back in 1994, they failed to score a single goal and lost all three of their first round games. (The comedy being that the Greeks overcame 150-1 odds to win Euro 2004 and make Portugal’s golden child Cristiano Ronaldo look like a clown.)
Exotic Greek food that the rest of us would probably toss:
Nothing, although many people don’t like olives because of the texture. Since olives are probably my favorite food in the world, I could probably move anywhere in Greece and be happy with the food.
Other awesome Greek snack?
Who’s the hero with the gyro?
Voting and comments:
Which dish deserves to come out of Group B? What would have you suggested? How far off the rails did I go with THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY?