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eat the cup 2018, part five :: last supper

antarctica national football team [proposed]
no, it's not the last supper of this year's eat the cup, we still have a ways to go with that. today's feast was something i made in honour of the african contingent at this year's world cup, none of whom made it into the knockout round. the last time this happened, it was quite a scandal, where west germany and austria contrived to play their game to arrive at the exact scoreline necessary for both teams to advance and to freeze out algeria. and that, my friends, is why the final two games of each group in the opening round of the world cup are played at the same time. thanks for screwing that up for all of us ya krauts.

especially painful was the way in which senegal was eliminated, losing a place in the final sixteen because of a rule introduced at this world cup called "fair play". level with japan on points, goal difference and goals scored, they were cast out of the knockout round because they had picked up two more yellow cards over the course of three games. that's by no means a crazy way to separate teams, but when you're the first one to suffer because of it... well, that just sucks. it also sucks that the video-assisted referee system that's also making its debut at this tournament can't be used to re-evaluate yellow cards even after the fact, so there's no appeals process. seems like, if your team can actually get eliminated because some guy decided to fall over, it would be nice to be able to ask for a second opinion. there has already been some noise that the japanese team ate a loss to poland knowing that they would be saved by the fair play rule.

[side note :: dom had what i think was a better solution, which is that, rather than yellow cards, the determining factor when points, goal difference and goals scored are equal should be the number of minutes teams spent leading in their games. that seems a lot less problematic than counting cards.]

so in honour of the continent we lost [although asia is gone now too], i decided to come up with a way of honouring the five african teams we got to watch for the first couple of weeks: egypt, tunisia, morocco, nigeria and senegal. of course, making a dish that incorporated specific elements from each country was more complicated than i could handle and definitely more than i could see myself whipping up in the 40-degree celsius [over 100 fahrenheit] heat we've had for the last week. seriously, i'm wishing antarctica was in this tournament. [i've even provided photos of their amateur team in the hopes that fifa will consider them.]

my compromise was to combine foods that are typical of west africa and north africa and to try to choose a few elements that came from the specific countries involved.

the "centrepiece" of the dish was my attempt at chicken yassa. it's a senegalese dish that involves marinating chicken in a mix of bouillion, lemon juice, vinegar, onions, peanut oil and bay leaves and then either grilling or sauteing it and boiling the remains of the marinade to form a lovely sauce. interestingly, as i was reading up on the recipe, the one very specific recommendation that kept coming up was that the bouillion used should be maggi brand. [it actually took me a little while to figure out that maggi was a brand and not a type of spice because the name is often used on its own, without reference to its "generic" name.]

i'd seen maggi seasoning and bouillion cubes around before, for certain. i was a little surprised when i was making my grocery list that i had them in the house already. as it turns out, maggi is a swiss brand [meaning that i incorporated another team we lost without even realizing it] that's been around since the late nineteenth century. it was acquired by nestlé just after world war ii. since that time, the bouillion has become extremely popular in west africa, including both senegal and nigeria, where it is a staple seasoning in a wide variety of dishes.

maggi advertising in senegal

[side note :: maggi's reputation under nestlé ownership isn't spotless: they've had problems with products sold in the uk and in india surrounding msg and lead in their products, to the point where the brand was recalled and then temporarily pulled from shelves by indian retailers in 2015. i did not find any evidence of issues with products sold elsewhere.]

to go with this, i made a variation on shakshouka, a dish that originally comes from tunisia, but which has spread across the maghreb. it's basically north african comfort food, a stew or heavy sauce of tomatoes flavoured with onion, red and/ or hot peppers [i used a red pepper and added harissa paste], spices and herbs. once reduced, you crack eggs on top and poach them in the sauce. [i cheated a little here because i live with someone who's not crazy about poached eggs. i let them cook just a little and then swirled them into the mixture.]

i added some rice to the mix as well, in the hopes of ending up with something akin to jollof rice, a nigerian dish often served at celebrations like weddings that generally contains a number of the same spices used in shakshouka. [jollof rice is also similar to the senegalese théboudienne]. while it made a very nice accompaniment, i felt like the rice didn't really add much to the dish and tended to mute the flavours of the shakshouka more than i wanted. in the future, i think i'd just make a simple rice dish to go with the yassa chicken and i'd make the shakshouka on its own.

the point of combining them, however, was to make a dish that contained both the chicken and the egg, the alpha and the omega, to symbolize the beginning and end of africa's journey in the world cup 2018. fare thee well, noble warriors. we hope to see you again soon.

and speaking of things we'd like to see again soon...

man candy of the match

well, there's one moroccan citizen we won't be saying goodbye to just yet. that's because nacer chadli is a dual citizen of morocco and belgium but plays for the latter's national team. chadli scored the winner in the most breathtaking match of the tournament thus far, which saw japan go 2-0 up on the heavily favoured devils, only for belgium to rebound and win the game 3-2. and speaking of breathtaking...

that stare...
those eyes...
what can i say? i love a guy with glasses
yeah, my heart's a little fluttery too right now
wait for it...

dayum
and finally...

you're welcome

he is still technically a player at england's west bromwich albion, however, he's extremely likely to move somewhere else since their relegation to the second tier of english football at the end of last season. i'm in favour of him going anywhere that involves him showing up on my television feed.

[side note :: once again, i can't help but notice that every morsel of man candy featured thus far has now been eliminated from the tournament. since belgium is due to face tournament favourites brazil in the quarter finals, i feel like i'm cursing poor nacer. i really don't mean to. i'm almost always rooting for a surprise from the underdog in any match.]



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