Saturday, July 01, 2006

Challenging Cuisine

Later today, England plays Portugal in the World Cup. Come on, England!

Excitement is at fever pitch. Stores have put up signs saying, "We will close at 3:30 so our employees can watch the World Cup." I got a parcel delivered at 7 a.m. today because Parcel Force is going to end the day early so they can see the game. By 4 p.m., I am certain there will be no traffic or pedestrians. Nearly everyone in this country will be glued to a television set.

We will be having a small party here at MarathonMum HQ. Thing One and Thing Two have their England shirts ready to go, and we've got England napkins, plates and flags.

Before the World Cup had even started, and we thought we'd be gathering today for another reason (for the Spaghetti Challenge Redux), my friend Sam had the brilliant idea that whoever was playing today, we should make the cuisine of that country. No problem, I thought, as the food of France, Italy and even Germany danced in my head.

But now we've got England (no problem) against Portugal (huh?). On Monday morning, I started to do some research into Portuguese food. I browsed the bookshelves with my 104 cookbooks (not a typo). I found a "Great Recipes of the World" and thought I'd hit paydirt. I paged past nice dishes like French Onion Soup and Chinese Cashew Noodles. Finally, I found one: Portuguese Grilled Sardines. Um, thanks, but no.

Larousse Gastronomique, the encyclopedia of food, was more forthcoming. The Portuguese like fish, especially cod. It suggested some dishes, but no recipes.

After trolling the Internet and checking some more cookbooks, I decided to make paella. I know that strictly speaking, it's a Spanish dish, but I have decided in my own mind that we will pretend that we're in a town in Portugal on the border with Spain. In actuality, it's a recipe from British-born Gordon Ramsay, but it's got lots of fish in it.

My friend Diana also did some dining detective work and found some Portuguese salad recipes on the Internet, which she will bring.

Meanwhile, Sam, who came up with the idea in the first place, rushed up to me yesterday and asked in a panic, "I don't know what I'm going to make! What should I do?" I said we still didn't have any desserts, so she is bringing (wait for it) strawberries and cream.

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