in an era of spoiled, overpaid athletic stars, one can lose sight of the toughness that is required to play a sport. don’t believe me? the temperatures in central canada this week are similar to those in germany. go out and try to run the area of a soccer field for ninety minutes and see how you feel. (assuming you don’t die in the effort, in which case you will feel nothing.)
to that end, it’s hardly surprising that the ukraine claimed a major victory today. because ukrainians are tough, tough people.
their team started off the tournament with what was the single most lopsided score (until argentina eclipsed it) to date, getting crushed by the spanish armada. that’s a harsh way to start things.
then again, one could say that protesting for two and a half weeks in the freezing cold under constant threat from the police is a pretty harsh way to start a government, but the ukrainian people seemed up to the task.
so in honour of their victory over saudi arabia (which erased the substantial goal deficit inflicted on them by the first game), tonight’s meal is inspired by the cuisine of the ukraine.
i struggled with this a bit (wouldn’t it just be easier to cook spanish food again...), for two main reasons:
1. originating as it does from a cold climate, much ukrainian cuisine (like other eastern european cuisines, of which it is essentially a variant) is more suited to the winter than the summer.
2. i have to admit, i don’t like a lot of eastern european food. i’m not overly fond of either sausages or cooked cabbage, both of which are featured rather heavily.
on the other hand, i am tremendously fond of beets, which means i can safely enjoy a great helping of borscht.
what i should say is that i’m tremendously fond of eating beets. cooking them is another matter entirely. they are dense, fibrous buggers that take a shocking amount of time to cook (to say nothing of cooling and skinning) and that tend to make a righteous mess. cooking them means basically resigning yourself to the fact that your home is going to be steamy, going to be mysteriously flecked with splatters of magenta that cling better than 90% of commercial dyes and going to reek of beet smell for the foreseeable future.
the reward is that you get something that is hearty and comforting. the perfect dish for when you need to steel yourself. the kind of thing that helps reinforce your inner toughness.