When I was a little girl growing up in Venezuela, I was infected with the fútbol craze. I know most Americans don’t get too nutty around soccer once it graduates from shuffling fifth-graders to after school practice in minivans and turns into proper fútbol (although that is slowly changing) but when the World Cup comes around every four years, the rest of the world stops to watch. Not that Venezuelans have any claim on fútbol; their sport is baseball and they master it well. But in the summer of 1978 all eyes, at least a tiny set of Abbady eyes, were on that final World Cup match between the Netherlands and Argentina. I remember rooting aggressively for the Netherlands. I was seven, so, I’m not sure how such a strong loyalty had formed at such a young age.
I had no affiliation of any kind with the Netherlands.
If anything, I should have been cheering Argentina, whom I knew invented those succulent blood sausages I’d enjoy regularly at my family’s favorite steakhouse in Caracas.
Maybe one of my sisters was set on Argentina winning and so the Netherlands became my pick.
We had a small, sunny room off the side of our one-story house that was crowded by the bulky Zenith television and a worn buckskin leather couch where I’d sit, along with my mother and my two sisters, and jump and cheer and feel hope and despair and hope again as the sportscasters howled their timeless chant: “Gooooooooooooooooool!”
It’s intoxicating to remember your first bout with futbolmanía.
By the way, the Netherlands lost.
So I should remember that feeling, which, nobody likes.
But I don’t.
I remember feeling elated, joyful, entranced!
I remember shouting at that Zenith as if it were an irresponsible younger sibling crossing the road without holding my hand.
“No! Stop! Don’t do that! You’re not going to …wait!”
And then directing the players as if I were the coach on the sidelines.
“Pass it to him! Go! Go! Go! Run!”
At least I think that’s what I said. It’s hard to remember accurately when there’s a room of girls shouting.
Fútbol returned to my life this month with the 2014 World Cup Brazil and I’m still shouting at the television.
This year my son is watching with me.
Not because he is particularly a fan of the sport, but, because he gets front row seats to watching his mother unravel into a crazy, screaming, lunatic. He’s hoping I may throw something at the television. He’s also grateful for the World Cup because it means all Social Norms of Proper Behavior in the Martinez household are temporarily on pause.
This includes eating at the table.
The dinner table is way too far from the television and thus guilty of committing an egregious infraction worthy of its own red card. Plus, eating at the table feels too orderly and civilized and we’ll have none of that during matches of fútbol.
Meals have become quick and easy to transport- preferably one-stop dishes that work in bowls or are okay to eat with fingers. Nothing too distracting or requiring too much eye-hand coordination as the eyes must be on the television screen. Trout is out.
The next match’s meal will showcase Chili.
Perhaps in tribute to team USA, which is still a contender in the World Cup even after yesterday’s loss to Germany. Considering they were nowhere to be found when I became a hard core fútbol fan in ’78, I figure I’ve got a lot of cheering to catch up on for them. Chili also offers up the best of World Cup chow because it is a tasty, quick, and fire-hot dish I can make in between games and have ready to scoop up into bowls when that first whistle is blown.
It goes great with tortilla chips too.
Some crumble them into the bowl first, maybe add steaming white rice, then scoop on the chili and all the other fixings. Some use those little scoop chips and do Martha Stewart-Style Chili Bites, complete with toppings (this is great for the more restless, un-interested family member forced to watch the game.) Others (and I won’t name any names) occasionally toss them at the television and reprimand, like one would to an irresponsible, younger sibling: “No! No! Why did you do that?! No!”
- Make the Chili Con Carne:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lbs. ground sirloin
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons grain mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 16-oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 16-oz. can of red kidney beans
- ½ cup sweet corn kernels (canned is okay)
- ¼ cup sliced green olives
- Heat olive oil in large skillet or small soup pot, add onions and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add meat and cook over medium-high head until brown.
- Stir in tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, mustard and salt. Saute until fragrant, 3 minutes.
- Add wine and canned tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients, correct seasoning, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- To make Martha Stewart-Style Chili Bites: Pick your most bored family member to assemble- a scoop of chili, then some fixings (see below), then neatly arrange these on a plate to be thoughtlessly gobbled in seconds by the fútbol obsessed members of your clan.
- Fixings may include: sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, jalapeños, and avocado.
- Serves 6-8