Competitive appetites

Ikra eggplant spread

Today the Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia. While there has been controversy about dilapidated hotels, strange toilet configurations, and cameras in the showers, food hadn't been part of the hullabaloo. But now that, too, has become an issue. It seems that a trade dispute involving dairy foods will keep U.S. Olympians from enjoying their Chobani Yogurt (Chobani is a sponsor of the U.S. team). However, the lack of yogurt probably won't factor into the athletes' performance. Lyman Currier, a halfpipe skier, noted that part of being an elite athlete is managing unanticipated glitches. "We all have different routines before competing but I think that part of the sport is adapting,'' he said. ''So whether we have our yogurt or not, we'll be able to adapt.''

While high protein yogurt and elite athletes is a natural pairing, some Olympic competitors have surprisingly unhealthy eating habits. Perhaps because of the staggering amount of calories needed to fuel their strenuous activities, junk food ends up on the athletes' plates. Hurdler and bobsled competitor Lolo Jones reports eating a whopping 9,000 calories per day in preparation for the Sochi games, and some of those calories apparently include McDonald's Double Bacon Cheeseburgers. And who can forget the tale of Michael Phelps' mythical 12,000 calorie-a-day diet?

Most of us can only eat a fraction of the calories these athletes consume, but we can still embrace the Olympic spirit by eating Russian foods. Beyond the traditional borscht and blini, you can try Saveur's shashlik, a Russian lamb kebab with a tomato-prune sauce. The Kitchn offers baklazhannaia ikra, a sweet and smoky eggplant spread (the recipe cooks the eggplant in the oven, but if you don't have to shovel snow to get to your grill, I think that would be even better). Olivier salad, a potato salad with added vegetables, is another enticing option. My personal favorite is an old family recipe, Holubtsi (also Golubtsi or Halupki). This dish, consisting of cabbage leaves stuffed with meats and grains and covered with a tomato-based sauce, has its roots in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. I use a recipe that has more spice than the traditional version, similar to this variation by Emeril Lagasse.

Do you plan to celebrate the Olympics with any special foods?

Photo of baklazhannaia ikra courtesy of The Kitchn

1 Comment

  • boardingace  on  2/7/2014 at 7:25 PM

    Your family recipe sounds delicious, and very familiar to some of my husband's family recipes.

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