From Sochi time to dinnertime in Durango

For 18 days, we watched the world’s best winter athletes perform amazing feats of athleticism and win shiny medals. Most keep the focus on the games, but others see the Olympics as a world stage for geopolitics. So what is it, sport or politics? Actually neither, the Olympics is a global gourmet conspiracy designed by the food-and-beverage industry to challenge and inspire our conventional taste buds and boring palettes.

I discovered this by accident.

I was watching a hockey game and heard the announcer shout, “a shot by Borscht, and a save by Stroganoff.” By the time the game was over, I had added six kinds of root vegetables to our grocery list. That night, I ordered “Ratatouille” from Netflix, a movie I’d already seen three times.

Every time there was a photo of Vladimir Putin, he was toasting somebody. Why waste an opportunity to raise a lead crystal glass of icy cold Russian vodka? It worked for me, I ran out and bought a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka and put it right in the freezer just in case Vladie and the boys stopped by.

The Polish team inspired me to go online for a good potato and leek soup recipe. I could tell the smiling Norwegians were tapping into their native Aquavit liquor. I found it to be a perfect match with creamy herring and a goose pate. Since the games ended, I’ve had an incredible unexplained appetite for German sausages with sauerkraut, French pastries and baguettes, Austrian wiener schnitzel with spaetzle and Swedish meatballs.

I knew this was not just affecting me. Out of nowhere, my wife said, “I feel like making crepes with fruit and vanilla sauce.” The last time we had homemade crepes was near the end of the last century. It had to be because of those speed skaters in skin-tight orange suits from the Netherlands.

At Olympic events, each country hosts a sort of home-away-from-home for its country’s athletes, sponsors, families, media and invited guests. An American reporter did a story from the Italy House, and I could smell the homemade pasta and steaming red sauce on his plate. Groups of Italians sat at checkered tablecloths laughing, eating and drinking red wine. That very day, I tossed out the Ragu sauce and began chopping tomatoes and mincing garlic while opening the Chianti.

The “hunger games” may be over, but thankfully my palate has been re-awakened. It may surprise you, but among the many places to dine in Durango, all those ethnic foods are already on menus somewhere downtown. From sushi to sausage, pasta to pastries, crepes to cannoli, we enjoy an amazingly diverse restaurant scene right here at home.

Got a sudden urge for Jamaican jerked beef? Why else would Jamaica send four guys to Russia to slide down an icy pipe at 80 mph? It’s all marketing. So give in and enjoy. Food is life, life is food. Bob Kunkel is the downtown business development manager for the city of Durango.

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