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eat the cup 2014, part four :: cheering the overdog

a strange thing happened to me the other day, something which has never happened before in any international sporting event that i can remember. i got won over by an american team. normally, i dismiss the americans at the world cup as that group who always get included, but who really don't belong. seeing them play has never convinced me otherwise, but on monday, i have to say, i was impressed.

usually, when i don't feel strongly about either of the teams playing, my natural inclination is to root for the underdog, just to keep things exciting. i also have a tendency to root for teams from africa, who are long overdue for a serious title run. and according to fifa's [admittedly questionable] official ranking, the united states comes in 13th in the world, whereas ghana are far below at 37th. that would make the u.s. serious favourites to win their match, no questions asked.

except that a lot of people thought that the u.s. were fated to get pounded to the bottom of what is arguably the toughest group in the entire tournament. ghana were surprisingly resilient in 2010, making it all the way to the quarter finals [and perhaps deserving to go farther], in a run that included knocking the states out of the tournament. in 2006, ghana secured their advancement to the round of sixteen by defeating the americans and relegating them to the bottom of what was, again, an extremely difficult group. so saying that the americans could be confident in their ability to defeat the black stars is just silly. if anything, the odds looked to tilt the other way.

but win they did and it was a fine performance to watch. it is really difficult to dislike a team when you see one of their star players- clint dempsey, who came close to breaking a world cup record by scoring about thirty seconds into the game- break his nose and keep going.



and john brooks' reaction to scoring what turned out to be the winning goal was a surprisingly touching.maybe not the most beautiful game that's ever been played, but not everything can be fluid and elegant, particularly not when someone has their nasal bridge pushed into their brain stem.

so in honour of the gritty american accomplishment and in honour of the fact that i really did get to like them over the course of our 90+ minutes together, i decided that the fourth instalment of eat the cup would be reflective of american culinary traditions.

you can call this cheating if you want.

haute cuisine?
those, my friends, are chicken fingers. yes, there are all sorts of things that you could qualify as american cooking which are far superior, but let me make my argument:


  • no country in the world has contributed more to the development of convenience food than the united states and, for better or worse, it is their most influential culinary legacy. 
  • said fingers come from janes, who are a canadian company, but whose story is the very heart of the american dream.
  • these fingers were purchased at costco, who are one of the few large corporations to take the idea of corporate citizenship- crucial to the ideal of the american capitalist economy- as a serious part of their business. 


but ok, i wasn't going to stop with a plate of chicken fingers.

those of you who follow me on instagram likely saw this disturbing photo i posted and wondered what i was concocting:

if this makes you hungry, your hunger bits are broken
that's actually just a pot of water, but buried in its depths are dumplings, my friends. within a few minutes of that photo being taken, those wonderful little balls of comfort bobbed their heads above the simmering surface to let me know that they were ready for consumption.

but i didn't just prepare any old dumplings. no, those are bavarian style dumplings, made with bread [stale is fine] dampened with milk, with an egg, stir fried shallots, chives and parmesan cheese mixed into them. this is only the second time in my life i've attempted dumplings, but it's such a simple process that it really doesn't require a lot of practice. you mix the ingredients so that they are wet but not so soft that they can't hold their shape. then you form them into little round balls. if your dough feels to wet, you can add more bread or bread crumbs. if it's too dry, add more milk. i find it easiest to form the dumplings if i rinse my hands in cold water after each one, because it keeps the dough from sticking to me.

you pop them in a pot of simmering- not boiling- water and you wait until they come up to meet you. the final consistency is doughy but solid and the combination of the dumplings with the lightly breaded chicken deserves to be in a cooking encyclopedia as the definition of comfort food.

but why bavarian dumplings? well because i would be remiss in not celebrating the annihilation defeat of my football nemesis portugal by the german national team. i can't have been alone in suspecting that the germans were going to thunder right through to the final stages of the competition [i had them making it to the semi-finals] , but i hadn't anticipated they would announce their arrival with such authority. now is the moment when i struggle to find a way to describe their win without using a military metaphor... thinking... thinking... and moving on...

i specifically sought out a recipe from the southern part of the country, because that is the birthplace of young thomas müller, who at twenty-four has already won a golden boot for scoring the most goals at the 2010 world cup and, with three of germany's four goals to his name already in 2014, looks like he might be lining up for another. [there are others who have scored three goals thus far, but only thomas did it in one game.] he has already scored as many world cup goals as argentinian superstar diego maradona did in his entire career. and once again he's twenty-friggin-four. so it is in honour of this skinny phenom that i prepared my dumplings.

to top everything off, i went back to a winner i'd [sort of] featured before, but heck, as i'm writing this they've already won a second game, booking their ticket through to the knockout round. the sauce is called hagao and it is popular over much of colombia- a country that otherwise has a diversity of regional cuisines. it's made with tomatoes, round and green onions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and the ingredients are heated as their blended together. now you know as much about it as i do. i don't think that there are a lot of hard and fast rules about making this. just use your best judgment and personal tastes when deciding how much of each ingredient to use. i leaned a little more heavily on the cumin, and went a little lighter on the onions, since there were already shallots and chives in the dumplings.

i stand by my dish
because neither the chicken nor the dumplings had much salt, the sauce served both to brighten the meal with its tanginess and warm it with saltiness. both of these are good things.

note :: this meal is very filling. dom accused me of trying to feed him to death. govern yourselves accordingly and remember that everything can be reheated.

but remember to save room for...

mancandy of the match

well, the americans might have won the day with their plucky [that's not a chicken joke] performance, but the award for being easy on the eyes, for me at least, went to iranian goalkeeper alireza haghighi.

no man should look this good at the end of a game
if we're dividing beauty up by nationality, i know a number of heterosexual men who have said that the beauty of iranian women is almost beyond compare. i say that there's no reason to limit that by gender. the same genetics is at work in both genders, giving a predisposition to high, aristocratic cheekbones, lush black hair and that combination of arched brows and molten eyes that make it feel like he or she is staring into your soul [and can tell all the nasty things you're thinking].

he heard that
stop that, you're making me squirmy
sir, this is entrapment 
alireza haghighi is blessed with all of these traits, rolled into a statuesque six-foot, four-inch frame. oh, and he's apparently single.

women write love letters to serial killers and this sleeps alone
here's hoping iran defy the odds and hang around a nice, long time in brazil...

Comments

Another beardy! Yes, Iranians are hot by birth, well, most of them.
Kate MacDonald said…
Yeah, I don't think that any country has a 100% hotness score, but Iran certainly has more than their fair share. Alireza is my choice, but there are actually a lot of very attractive options on the national team!

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