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eat the cup 2010, part 3

one of the surprises of this years' winners at the world cup is that those whose cuisine I'm familiar with- the ones I’m already comfortable cooking from- just aren’t winning. So this really is a challenge for me this year.

The third installment of this year’s eat the cup sees a combination of foods from far-flung corners of the world, with different climates and different dishes to accommodate them.

First of all, let’s start with Uruguay. I had to brace myself for this, because this is a cuisine I knew virtually nothing about. As with all things on the internet, there is mixed information available, but one common thing was found throughout the sites that I checked. Apparently, Uruguayans love something called Russian salad. I have no idea why this should be, or what exactly makes it Russian, but every article I found on Uruguayan food lists this as a favourite dish. I had eaten such a salad before, prepared by a Spaniard. So maybe it’s a Spanish-speaking thing. The salad itself is a fairly simple take on a potato salad and makes a refreshing side for a summer meal. (Perhaps it was Uruguay’s penchant for Russian salads that made the US suspicious that they were a secret hotbed of communism that needed to be controlled.)

On the other end of the scale, of course, you have the fondue. This has been one of my favourite dishes since I was a child. After all, what can compete with the sheer joy of being told you are supposed to dunk your food in delicious goo- cheese, chocolate or bouillon- before eating it? These cheese fondue has always been a particular favourite of mine. Hearty, straightforward and generally filled with tangy Swiss cheeses like Emmenthal and Gruyere, this is really the ultimate comfort food for people looking for relief from the alpine winters and the endless stream of tourists asking them if they yodel. Personally, I’m a purist, which means I don’t hold with those who dunk vegetables in the cheese. This is not vegetable country and if you’re trying to be healthy, I might point out that drowning your food in runny cheese is a bad start.

The nice thing about preparing food from countries that are out of the ordinary- and I think that this meal is a great example- is that “new” doesn’t have to mean complicated. This is something that can be prepared even if you’re running short on time (insert obligatory cuckoo-clock joke here). Thus are disparate cuisines brought together.

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