World Cup Dinners

For anyone who has perhaps been at some kind of hipster wilderness retreat for the last couple of months, you may not have noticed that the 20th FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil recently. Last night not only marked the final match of the tournament, but also meant the conclusion of my run of ‘World Cup Dinners’.

I have a love/hate relationship with football. Love, because it’s great. From playing barefoot in the garden, putting cross after cross in to my brother (or a tree if he wasn’t available), to playing at a fairly decent level during school, to now sporadic kick arounds in parks, I’ve always loved playing. I was a right back with a wicked long throw who fancied myself as a winger (too lazy), and despite my crippling self-confidence issues at the time, once on the pitch I never stopped shouting directions and encouragement to my team. I watched football religiously, knew every stat in my Panini albums, and even completed the whole set of Sainsbury’s World Cup ’98 medals. Yes, I was quite a catch. I started going to see Spurs when it cost me a mere Fiver, and even suffered multiple York City matches with an ex, including away at somewhere godawful on Boxing Day one year. I love football.

Semi-final of one of the cup competitions

Taken before the semi-final of one of the county-level cup competitions. I’m wearing my Spurs shorts, like some kind of idiot. I can’t remember if this is the one we lost and I played most of the match with concussion, as that would be pretty apt. You know I’m cool and well ‘ard, because my collar is up. INTIMIDATING.

I also hate football. The astute amongst you may have noticed the word ‘Spurs’ up there. I am a Tottenham Hotspur fan. I have been since childhood, when after returning from my 8 years in Indonesia I decided that it was high time I did the British thing and found my football team, so I studiously sat down with a map of London (my place of birth) and a ruler. I blame my parents for not providing better guidance at the time, because barring a League Cup in ‘99 it’s been pretty much all downhill since then.

Spurs, like England, have an amazing talent for promising so much, and delivering so little. During my more passionate years both of them rather upset me on numerous occasions. Tears were shed. Thankfully with age and life my emotions and passion have (generally) been worn down and numbed somewhat, along with my expectations.

As such, for this World Cup I wasn’t predicting much by way of England’s success. The current side resonates with me the least of any recent team, and our exit at the group stages wasn’t much of a surprise. Thankfully despite that, adding to my enjoyment of what turned out to be an amazing tournament, I had the addition of some bonus fun: World Cup Dinners.

World Cup Dinners was born of a previous tournament; I can’t remember which one. At the time, when struggling to think what to eat one evening, for some reason we decided to take inspiration from a team playing. This year we played from start to finish, with at least a token gesture for every match. And what is World Cup Dinners? Well, see for yourself at the website.

The rules

Each day, pick a team that is playing that day. The aim is not to cook in support of a team, or to pick the winning team; it’s to cook as wide a range of new dishes as possible. Aim to avoid repetition of teams as much as you can. Do not repeat meals.

Germany

Yes, I decided that inflicting my antics on Instagram wasn’t enough, and that it needed to be released properly into the world in its own right. I made a quick site to house the recipes during a couple of train-based commutes. It was ridiculously quick and simple, with images being pulled from Instagram on the whole, posts being written as markdown, and the whole thing being stuck together using Jekyll.

We managed 18 distinct countries (out of a possible 32). The maximum repetition was two teams with three meals each – Germany and Brazil. My favourite meal, outside of my perennial favourite of a shitload of salmon sashimi (Japan), was Carne Colorada (Ecudor) and Joojeh kabab, dolmeh-yeh felfel and borani esfanaaj (Iran). I drank a lot of beer, cooked with a lot of beer, and put on more weight than I wish to know about right now. Despite that, it was excellent fun, I found some great new recipes, and I recommend that you all try it for yourself in two years time for the European Championships and beyond.

Header image cropped from a photo by Alexandre Breveglieri on Flickr.