The World Cup of Food

S. Africa FIFA World Cup Mascot

Image Courtesy of Nestor Cerami

We couldn’t let soccer’s 2010 FIFA World Cup go by without throwing in our two cents — which as you might expect, has less to do with our feet than with our mouths. So while serious sports fans spend this week debating which squads got the crap draw and which teams are most likely to make the second round, foodies can put all that aside and take a look at our 2010 World Cup Food and Drink Rankings, in which we’ve ranked the 32 participating nations from worst to best, based not on soccer skills but on the appeal of each country’s most iconic dish.

For the record, I offer no apologies for the dishes or the order in which they are ranked—I had many discussions with my international friends when researching these and they have disagreed with me on many—for that, you can leave your opinions in the comments.

#32. Australia – Vegemite on Toast

Australia - Vegimite on Toast

Usually when there is a petition on Facebook in support of something, you know it’s a desperate plea, and Vegemite on Toast is no exception. This isn’t one of those love-it-or-hate-it kind of foods, this is simply a hate it kind of food. Yes, there are nearly 111,000 facebook users on the record as supporting it, but I’m pretty sure that’s roughly the population of Australia, right? Let’s hope for their sake that the Aussie lads find something better to chow on before their matches in South Africa.

#31. Ivory Coast – Kedjenou

Ivory Coast - Kedjenou

Factoid: the current coach of the Ivory Coast team is former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. I’m sure old Sven has some tricks up his sleeves planned for the field, but you’ve got to admire the Ivory Coast’s cooking tricks, too. Kedjenou, like many other West African dishes, starts with some tough old chickens and basically cooks the shit out of them ’til they’re edible. It may not be the quickest way to make a meal taste good, but it sure as hell beats Vegemite.

#30. Slovenia – Buckwheat

Slovenia - Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles

I task you with something — Google “Slovenia” and “food.” Whatever the result is it’ll surely include buckwheat. Buckwheat, buckwheat and more buckwheat. Could you be any more boring, Slovenian cooks? If you must have a Slovenian soccer dish, I sifted through the ES archives and stumbled upon this tasty dish, vegetarian too — Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles (and an egg).

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Stalling On the Way to the Kitchen

miso paste

In case you haven’t noticed, 80 and I took a two week vacation to Japan and Korea. In those glorious days of no work I didn’t cook a damn thing. In fact, it shocked me how much I didn’t miss the kitchen.

But now we’re back. I spend my days tapping on slate colored keys, knowing exactly what I’m doing and where I’ll be. I no longer need Lonely Planet guiding my days. Outlook dominates my hours once again.

Because I must get back into, well, being back, I bought something that would force me into the kitchen, but also force me to experiment with the flavors I found so delicious. I bought a big tub of miso paste. (Actually, it’s the only thing in my fridge at the moment.)

I’ve never played with miso paste before, but I have a feeling I’ll be able to find a billion uses for it. At this point, though, I’m very unclear on what those uses are.

Before we left for vacation, 80’s mom sent me Japanese Food and Cooking by Emi Kazuko and Yasuko Fukuoka, to prepare me for the craziness ahead. I’ve spied a few recipes I’m excited to mess around with—Fried Aubergine with Miso Sauce, Pot-Cooked Udon in Miso Soup (with a broth-poached egg!), Broccoli (stem only) and Cucumber Pickled in Miso—but I also want to try a clean miso soup.  If anyone knows where I can find: dried wakame, second dashi stock, shichimi togarashi or sansho – let me know!

And if you have other, less terrifying miso included recipes, comment here please.

There Are Eyes in My Miso


There are fucking fish everywhere. At my last meal in Japan at the Narita airport I knew that I had to ask if the vegetable udon soup was vegetarian, because there’d be a good chance it wasn’t. It could easily contain slices of pork, but this soup instead was based in a fish stock. That just wouldn’t happen in the United States. A menu reads vegetable soup, it’s made with vegetable stock.

I still was shocked, however, to see these dark, circular eyes peering out from my miso soup. It’s not that I overlook miso in the US, I just don’t think much of it.

Broth is always rewarding, so warm and comforting. But when I’m on a sushi bender, I’m concentrating on the raw fish, not the accompaniment (although sometimes tempura battered vegetables steal some of my attention0n.) In Japan, though, broth is the first thought. So even while I’m letting tuna melt on my tongue, the salty liquid is on my mind. Not because I don’t want to choke on prawn’s head, but because of the dimensions of this not so simple side soup.

Cheflebrity Smörgåsbord: Welcome to Salmonella Theatre


The latest and greatest news about celebrity chefs, served up buffet style.

– A Japanese food show sends celebs to sketchy restaurants, braving serious infections for great food.  I wonder if Gansie is re-thinking that half-cooked egg?

– Yes, I’m actually required to include every mention of Sam Talbot, especially when they use the word “photogenic.”

After the jump…Food Network isn’t trying to kill me, Gordo looses the respect of another chef and a date I’ve had circled on my calendar for a while.

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