1. What to eat before football
Hungry yet enthusiastic team mates in the Vauxhall Powerleague, Max Hart-Walsh and Felix Turnbull-Walter deal with the dilemma of what to cook before a match…
An early kick off at the Powerleague Vauxhall has forced our hand. The dilemma, every week, is that there is not enough time for a real plate of food after work, and yet – CRUEL FATE – food remains completely necessary in order to run and score goals. I normally try to eat in the afternoon; Tom (also on the team) once tried to eat four pieces of ravioli on the way there and got bloated.
At a quarter past three, Felix, a faster man than Tom, was worryingly lethargic and needed some carbs.
Max: We’re going to make pasta, but in the proper way like those old Italian ladies.
Felix: For nutrition?
M: Yes Felix, for nutrition. I read an excerpt from an interview with Frank Lampard in the Evening Standard in which the interviewer asks: What would you eat? Frank says ‘A pasta dish, something simple like penne arrabiata.’ And when the interviewer goes on: What’s for pudding? he says ‘Apple crumble’.
So we set about making some pasta. I had done this once before in Brighton where I lived, and another time in New Orleans where my girlfriend’s friends had never before seen a British man crack an egg on a table and yell, triumphantly, “Cooking!” Felix hadn’t seen this either, and stood quietly watching with his ‘mixing fork’ in hand, awaiting instruction.
M: You have to make a flour volcano, into which go the three eggs. You could do it in a bowl but you would have to wash it up, so we will use the table, just like the Italian women.
F: Won’t we have to wash the table?
M: When the time comes, yes.
We began to mix up the eggs in the middle of the volcano with our forks, but then Felix found a whisk so we did that for a while. Gradually the eggs became one colour (a yolkey-white) and the flour got involved from the outside and it was totally melters for a minute but then it became a sticky ball.
M: This is when kneading occurs.
F: Fold and turn, fold and turn.
The trick to kneading is to never stop even if you think you might die. You push it with the knuckles/base of your palms (both hands) and when it looks a bit like a chubby discus it can be folded and turned, thus repeating the process. I’m not entirely sure but I think when it can no longer ‘tear’ it has had enough. The best way to tell if it is ready is to hold it in the air. If it feels as if you have birthed a beautifully soft and friendly baseball, that you intend to cherish for the rest of your life, then you have probably done enough. Well done. Now go to the park with the dog.
We wrapped our dough-ball (DB) in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for an hour. While we waited for the David Bentley to get cold our thoughts turned to eggs:
M: Imagine if we were having a carbonara sauce. That would entail a whole six eggs!
F: That’s not many. You have four in scrambled. It’s different if you think about eggs in terms of fried because then you look at your plate and you just think, ‘I have got so many eggs’, when, really, you always need more.
M: Can you imagine all of the eggs and chickens on the motorway in American service stations as food?
M: Have you ever thought about buying a big tray of eggs and throwing them into the air in a car park?
F: [pause] Yes
It turns out that the Darren Bent was in the fridge to get sweaty, and a little darker which is fine. We took it out of its cling film outfit and put it on the table with some more flour, to keep it from rolling around. Any spilt flour went straight onto the dog’s chin, where, mixed with water from his bowl, it began to resemble an old dog’s beard.
Felix and I took turns with the rolling pin, making it as large and flat as possible. I suppose at this point you could sack off all the hard work and just have gnocchi, but we of Colman’s F.C. are steelier than thou and proud as anything. [Note: It has come to our attention that one can buy a pasta roller-flatter and it sounds fantastic.] When finally it was roughly a millimetre (probably two because this took some hours) thick we cut strips out of it, in fun pregnant or vase shapes. We laid the strips across a pot in a Union Jack formation so as not to allow them to coagulate into a ridiculous ball again. Meanwhile, Felix was in charge of the sauce:
(The following recipe for the sauce is recorded from one Sunday in the White Horse. Felix is taking a break from his trial shift.)
F: Hello future Max. Garlic, uurh lots of garlic. And tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper… uurh, what’s the green we put in? (M: Parsley) Parsley, but also was it spinach? Yeah, spinach. That was it. Simples. (M: What did you do to it? Have you paused it? F: No it’s still going. M: Then what did you do?) Erh, I stirred it – I made it nice. I mashed it, you know, mashed the tomatoes down a bit, that was the extent of my… (M: What did you use to mash it?) …just a wooden spatula. Is that how you call it? That’s it (M: That’s very accurate, yeah. Bit of oil -) Bit of oil, yeah, lots of garlic, really finely chopped.
Boiling the pasta took longer than we could have ever imagined; it was thicker than it probably should have been because we just hadn’t the time to make it thinner. In fact by the time we had eaten our thick bacon-strips of pasta the game was almost upon us and we had to Chris Waddle off to make the start.
We lost a thrilling battle 7-2. We have both since decided that our roles in pasta should be reduced to boiling and eating only. On the Panini World Cup sticker scale I give homemade pasta a:
Tough, Italian, won’t exactly be missed…
(Tough, Italian, won’t exactly be missed)