Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Countdown to the Olympics- One World, One Dream

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to encourage families to use food as a way to bring them together, to make occasions out of everyday events. I have written in this blog about football Sundays and Chinese New Year's Eve, and now, as the Olympics approach, while the athletes are training and the broadcasters are putting together vignettes on the athletes, the Chinese government is trying to clean up the air for the games, and the torch is making its way to the Bird's Nest Stadium, I am collecting Olympic Trivia and looking for new recipes for the Dowd version of the Olympics! I started doing this years ago when my children were young and now, even though they are older, they look forward to the Olympics as a family event.

What makes this so special? Each night of the Olympics we have food from a different country. Our tradition is to begin on opening night with Greek food, paying homage to the site of the first Olympic games, and we always end the games with the food of the country of the next Olympic games. Between these two we choose a country for each night including the host country. It is a great way to experience different cuisines, to learn about different cultures, and make an evening of TV viewing into a family event. We post the country by flag each day of the Olympics on the refrigerator, and we have contests throughout the games- questions about Olympic sports, the ancient Olympic games, geography, history and culture of the host country, with the winners getting small prizes that I get. We each post our predictions for the country bringing home the most gold medals and predictions for the number of US medals in the games on a chalkboard that hangs in our kitchen. I makes for a fun time and often attracts friends and neighbors who want to be part of the Olympic dream (without the intense training and sore muscles!)

Sound daunting? It needn't be. Have pizza or spaghetti for Italian night, hamburgers and hot dogs for American night, order out Chinese to honor the host country, or bring home sushi for Japanese night. Fussy eaters? Choose traditional foods and translate your menu into a foreign language using one of the many internet translation tools. Eat with chopsticks, open fortune cookies, make curry, and boboti, and quiche, and souvlaki. There is a world of dishes and you can pick something challenging and complicated or something simple- it is all about the experience.

This year our Olympic fest is a little more challenging since my husband and I are on the South Beach diet. Our normal Greek meal has in the past been pastitsio made from the Jeff Smith book on three ancient cuisines (a great source of recipes, by the way). I love pastitsio because of its no-nonsense combination of pasta,meat and tomatoes topped by a creamy custard with a hint of cinnamon. This Friday though, we are shunning pasta and will have a dish of marinated lamb served with tzatziki, and a Greek Salad. And for each night after that we will be making our way around the world in both food and sports. I will try to post recipes and pictures throughout the games and I hope you will be inspired to join in the Olympic spirit as well. It is a great way to bring your family, and the world, together on common ground. One World, One Dream.


Bistro 613 said...

That is truly a wonderful tradition, and a brilliant way to drum up the family's interest.

Pastitsio is good for cooler months, but I'm completely in love with a basic, simple grilled lamb.

Are you having pitas as well? If so, do you make or buy, and if you buy- where? I've not yet come across any locally that are any good.

Deborah Dowd said...

I have some whole wheat pitas that I got from Trader Joe's, but that is mainly to be compliant with our diet. And since we haven't had bread, even that tastes great! Maybe you have to make your own to get really good pita!