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eat the cup 2018, part eight :: tout le monde

allez, motherfuckers
it's been nearly two weeks since france stepped up to claim their second world title in just their third ever world cup final. it wasn't exactly shocking to see them defeat croatia. after all, most people didn't favour croatia to even get to the quarter-finals going into the tournament. furthermore, croatia had had a hard fight to the finish, with several players picking up knocks that might have kept them out of commission in other circumstances. even furthermore croatia had played the equivalent of a whole other game, with their semi-final against england running 120 minutes and their previous two games going that long plus penalties. but that shouldn't diminish the fact that france put on a fantastic show. they were a class act all the way and coalesced in a way that they just didn't two years ago at the uefa euro.

it was an entertaining end to an entertaining tournament that, for once, didn't see the favourites just winnow out all the lesser teams, even though france had to be considered one of the favourites. [in fact, dom had been insisting for months that the french team were simply unbeatable. i said that they were unbeatable on paper, but that brazil might have a shot against them. brazil never got that shot because they capitulated to belgium after a very uneven campaign. very uneven campaigns are becoming such a brazilian thing that i think next time i'll make a dish for them that's kind of cold and kind of burnt at the same time. but that's not happening for years.]

being charged with cooking a french meal for the end of eat the cup felt weird. i work the whole time at discovering new cuisines and figuring out how to combine traditional recipes from various areas of the world and then the whole thing ends with... the country that is synonymous with cuisine. the country that gave us the term "cuisine". [side note :: it just means "kitchen", you know. or "cooking". it's not fancy in french, which is why they had to invent "haute cuisine". because talking about "cuisine" like it's something special in french sounds fucking stupid.]

saying that you're going to cook something "french" is just strange, especially if you live in quebec. everything is french here. but not just here. french cooking has had a massive influence worldwide because france has had a massive influence worldwide. and thinking about that gave me an idea.

i feel like chicken tonight...
the idea started with chicken marengo. a more generic kind of french dish you could not find, because it's essentially just fried chicken parts in a gravy with... other stuff. the whole point of chicken marengo was that it was made from whatever napoleon's chef was able to find on the eve of a battle. the spare parts chicken did the trick apparently, sating the emperor's appetite and presaging a military victory. from that point on, napoleon insisted that the dish be served to him before every battle and he had a pretty good record for a long time.

the idea that there is actually a meal designated for french people going into battle was just way too appropriate as an eat the cup option.

unlike napoleon, however, i wanted to mix things up a bit. because, in case you didn't notice, france is a pretty mixed nation. as in, racially mixed. as in, ethnically mixed. as in, as south african comedian/ american television host put it: africa won the world cup. [side note :: france being dubbed the "last african team" at the world cup is problematic, since it does serve as a reminder of colonialism and of the fact that many african teams are weaker than they might be because their best players choose to stand for france and because that's hardly the only way that france continues to profit from colonialism. but noah's take on things is not unique: i remember working with several trinidadians during the 2006 world cup and, when their team was eliminated, their allegiance switched to england. as one of them told me, it may seem weird, but fans' loyalties switch to the colonizer when their own team is eliminated.] this is a hot button issue for many french people and for the officials of the sport: many european teams benefit from the talents of immigrants and minorities and immigration and minority rights are major political issues in europe right now. and no country benefits more from the influx of talent than france. even if you look beyond the twelve [out of twenty-three] players whose ancestry is african, there's precious little "pure laine" [a term used in quebec that means "pure wool", as in, coming from a single source] french: superstar antoine griezmann is of german and portuguese heritage; striker olivier giroud is italian through both of his grandmothers; giroud's former teammate laurent koscielny chose to play for france, although he qualifies to play for poland; goalkeeper and team captain hugo lloris is catalan. and those are the white guys.

white nationalist groups and politicians in france frequently make a big deal out of the fact that immigrants from africa and other parts of the world can never be truly french, which is one reason why the french ambassador to the united states took noah to task for his joke about africa. nonetheless, it is extremely clear that france's team looks pretty different than the front national's vision of the country. [i've always wondered what team front national supporters cheer for in the world cup. were they backing croatia, since their team reflected the fact that they come from a country that's more than 90% ethnically homogeneous? if they did, i'm pretty sure that disqualifies them as french on its own.]

so how does this relate to the chicken?

well, rather than just make the simple chicken marengo, i figured that i'd mix things up by incorporating elements that pay tribute to the rich heritage of the french national team. instead of just making a regular gravy with broth and wine, i mixed in maggi bouillion, which has already featured in this year's eat the cup, as it's a staple in a lot of west african cooking. that's west africa, as in guinea, the home of paul pogba's family [he was the first of their children born in the suburb of paris where they settled], or senegal and mauritania, home of the family of normandy-born ousmane demebele, or as in cameroon, the homeland of wilfred mbappe, father and agent to kylian mbappe, named the young player of the tournament.

and as a stark departure from tradition, i wrapped the chicken breasts i fried in bacon [from alsace, a region that has a dual german and french identity on its own] and mixed in pineapple in honour of french polynesia, an area so sparsely populated that they aren't likely to ever make an impact in the world of football, and who are struggling to make an impact on world politics, as many countries in the pacific have their very existence threatened by climate change. and i served the chicken over a bed of couscous, the national food of algeria which is the home of kylian mbappe's mother, as well as lyon superstar [and possibly future liverpool superstar??] nabil fekir, who faced backlash for deciding to play for les bleus rather than the country of his ancestors. and, lest we forget, algeria is also the ancestral home of one zinedine zidane, the man who brought france their very first world cup in 1998.

i even added in some diced squash, a new world vegetable, because i'm living in the second largest french-speaking city in the world, which is in north america and not france, and i goddamned love squash.

indeed, as we've discussed before, france is the country with the greatest global reach when you take into account the overseas territories and dependencies that they still have. if you're going to have a world cup, there is no country that has encompasses more areas of the world, for good and for ill, than france.

smile and the world smiles with you...
the issue of immigrants and european national football teams got thrust to the fore in the wake of the world cup when mesut özil, a german of turkish descent, retired from international play citing racism and double standards for immigrants and their children playing for european teams. özil was singled out in the media reports as a scapegoat for germany's terrible performance, criticism which is not borne out by statistics. one german politician referred to him as a "goat fucker" and even after özil had raised the red flag about racism in the national team, he was derided as having been "shit for years" by uli hoeness, the president of bayern munich, by far the most successful club in germany and also the one based in the heartland of far-right support now and back to the time of hitler. [side note :: the term "nazi" was not just a shortening of "national socialist"; it was a derivative of "ignatz" a common name in the inter-war years for men from bavaria, or bayern. the nickname had roughly the same connotation that people from canada and the northeastern united states have when they refer to someone as "bubba": an ignorant peasant. actual nazis hated being called "nazi".]

there is perhaps no issue more likely to cause an argument in any european country than immigration. that includes immigration from different parts of europe and from the developing world. people have very strong feelings. [there are at least a dozen issues that should be of greater concern to every country in europe than immigration. -ed.] it's nice to think that the triumph of france, which has tried to legally dispense with ideas of "otherness" in the name of an all-encompassing french-ness, shows how strong a diverse country can be. but the idea that all of the people on the national team are considered equally "french"- let alone the idea that their families should be considered french- is a pretty myth. the truth is more like what mesut özil says:

I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.

indeed, his open retirement letter spawned a wave of stories from germans who had experienced institutionalized racism because of their turkish ancestry.

questions about immigration, about the legacy of colonialism and about the political and financial relationships that continue to be guided by colonialism are much too big a subject to be tackled here. likewise, the world cup is much too big a stage to be entirely cleansed of politics. özil speaks about his identity conflict for the same reason that domagoj vida, the croatian defender who played for years in ukraine posted videos where he said "glory to ukraine", a clear reference to the ukrainians opposing russia's intervention/ invasion in crimea, and for the same reason that kosovar-refugees-turned-swiss-national-team-players xherdan shaqiri and granit xhaka flashed the hand symbol of the albanian double-headed eagle: the world cup is a big deal and people around the world are paying attention. as we're watching these unbelievably gifted and frighteningly disciplined young men display their skills, it behooves us to consider who they are, how they came to be where they are, and the challenges that face lesser-known people like them.

thus ends eat the cup for another cycle. next up is qatar in four years, and if you think there was a lot of politics here, well... 2022 will be next level. i have a lot of misgivings about the qatar world cup which i'll doubtless be discussing in detail here because i discuss everything in detail here. in the meantime, eat well and enjoy the beauty of the sport and its diversity. 


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