A semi-serious guide to experience the World Cup in Qatar the Italian way
How to cope gastronomically – or not – with the World Cup matches while on the sofa at your home
Even if the Italian national team failed to qualify, we can still bring a bit of Italian tradition to the hottest match nights: German national team player Serge Gnabry is already doing so, celebrating every goal with forkfuls of spaghetti. So why don’t we do it too?
Here is a semi-serious guide on how to face the World Cup, with a dash of Italian style.
Football matches are never to be watched alone. Never. Instead call the neighbour, open the window to share comments on the referees, but the matches to watch alone (and possibly in silence) are only the curling ones.
All the snacks to eat during the 90 minutes should be prepared ahead of the match: chips, bread, and salami, chopped focaccia, beer in a bowl with ice so you don’t have to get up during the game. Oh, and don’t forget the bottle opener.
Stains? No, thanks. The choice of the essential appetisers is up to you but be clever: whether you have prepared the tray with compotes and mustards to accompany a selection of cheeses, or you have opted for chicken wings, nachos or chips to dip in the sauces, the key word is and remains only one: sofa cover.
The after-match pasta is spaghetti: no farfalle, no fusilli, no paccheri even if they do hold the sauce well. Just spaghetti, possibly aglio, olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli) and, just like that, here is our recipe to make them to perfection, because this really is the classic of all classics.
And the rules, the sacred ones actually: no matter how much of a hurry you are in, spaghetti doesn’t cook first if you break it, spaghetti NEVER breaks. Also, be sure to immerse them completely in boiling water before rushing back to the TV to review the action you missed: there is no food critic stricter than friends when it comes to cooking pasta!
The easiest and most practical option, should one really not want to get busy in the kitchen, is always just one: order pizza. But how to get everybody to agree? The solution is to find a pizzeria that makes pizza ‘al metro’, a metre-size pizza: mixed fillings and you’re all set. Pizza, in Italy, is a serious matter: ask your fellow players if everyone likes the pizzeria you choose, as there will already be enough discussions about offsides and penalties being cancelled, let’s make sure that ‘capricciosa’ (temperamental
or moody) is just the name of a pizza flavour.
Is it necessary to have a set table? Although in our country eating all together at the table is the norm and, indeed, not doing so is considered disrespectful to other diners, spaghetti with friends during or after the game is a happy exception. Some eat on the sofa, some sit on the floor, some balance themselves on an armrest or a chair. There are friends who sit at the table, of course, but everyone does what they can in the ever-smaller living rooms of our homes. What counts, in this case, is the mere spirit of sharing. And never losing sight of the match, not even for a minute.
If you happen to be in Qatar and feel a pang of homesickness, hold back and wait until you land home: one of the traditional meals you can enjoy in Doha, and in Qatar in general, is Balaleet, a dish that may seem like a simple plate of noodles on the surface, but turns out, on the first forkful, to be a sweet dish with a scent of saffron and rosewater. Generally eaten for breakfast, accompanied by eggs (fried or in an omelette).
Technical tip: if you intend watching the World Cup matches via streaming, check your internet connection a few days beforehand, and increase the power if necessary. Nothing is worse than hearing someone shout ‘Goal!!!’ and waiting for the video to start up again to see which team has scored.
At the end of the match, always remember that it is just a game, a fun sport, but just a game. If you want to experience it the Italian way, get all heated up during the football match, get angry but then gather around a table to comment on the match and do what we do best: talk about food while eating. This is indeed the Italian national sport!