In case you have not seen it, Here’s an article from yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman by my friend Addie Broyles. Look at the online version for some recipes, too! Thanks so much, Addie!
World Cup brings together fans, flavors from around the world
At Claudia Alarcón’s World Cup parties, there are two rules: Soccer games are shown only on Univision. (“American announcers are horrible,” says Alarcón’s husband, Will Larson, who is also obsessed with the sport.)
Second, any food and drink consumed during the 90 minutes of play must be representative of the countries that are competing, with two exceptions: “South African wine is allowed at all times, as is tequila, because I’m Mexican,” Alarcón says during one of the first World Cup games two weekends ago.
As she pours glasses of Indaba chenin blanc for guests who’ve just arrived, she has to shout over the staccato calls of the announcers and the chatter of the guests in the living room of her South Austin home. It’s only the first weekend of the monthlong World Cup, and by Monday, she’ll have prepared dishes from almost a dozen nations and already lost her voice.
There are few things as important to Alarcón as food, and soccer is one of them. So for the 2002 and 2006 World Cup, freelance food writer, blogger and culinary tour guide started hosting daylong watch parties where the menu is as diverse as the teams that are playing.
The Mexico City native was just 6 years old in 1970 when her country hosted the world’s biggest sporting event, and every four years since, she’s among the billions of fans who tune in to watch as the world’s best teams face off.
Up until this year, there weren’t many places in Austin to watch the games
“In 2002, no one knew about it or cared that it was going on,” Alarcón says. She and her friends tried to find bars or restaurants to watch the games but had a hard time finding the big matches, much less the smaller ones. “I thought it would be fun to cook the food and have the drinks of the countries and have people over to share the food and watch the games,” she says.
Every weekend during the tournament, breakfast, lunch and dinner revolve around the indigenous dishes of the teams on the field. “It’s not super representational of the country but rather what people would be eating during the game,” she says.
She spends weeks preparing for the match-ups, digging through ethnic cookbooks, searching online, hunting down ingredients and calling up friends who were born or lived abroad to ask for suggestions. After all, what do Ghanans eat for breakfast and what’s a typical Serbian finger food? (Stuffed avocados and cigar-shaped meatballs called cevapcici, respectively, it turns out.)
Guests often bring dishes of the teams they are rooting for. Rae Wilson fried her grandmother’s potato pancakes just before kick-off of the Germany-Australia game. Australian expatriates whom Alarcón met over sushi just a few weeks ago showed up with – what else? – shrimp kebabs in tow.
Martine and Eric Pelegrin, who met while cooking at Chez Nous and once owned a charcuterie and supper club company called Bistro Le Marseillais , practically move in with Alarcón and Larson during the World Cup. “We go home to sleep,” says Pelegrin, as she assembles abendbrot , a German cheese and charcuterie tray of liverwurst and paper thin-slices of salami.
Everybody waits until halftime to dig in to the buffet inspired by countries a half a world apart: shrimp with mango cilantro sauce and apricot glazed chicken squeezed onto plates next to cold cuts, potato pancakes and rye bread. Before long, talk shifts from Germany’s momentum in the game (they went on to wallop the Aussies 4-0) to why cilantro is called fresh coriander abroad and how liverwurst is really just poor man’s pâté. Pretty soon, the second half has started, but Germany is so far ahead, many of the guests, especially those rooting against the polemic powerhouse, linger around the island in the middle of Alarcón’s cobalt blue kitchen to spin stories from their own experiences abroad.
“Even if you’re not a soccer fan, it’s the World Cup,” Alarcón says when asked why the camaraderie is greater during the soccer tournament other international sports events like the Olympics. “It’s about the unity and bringing everyone together,” she says. “The Olympics just aren’t the same.”