Can I cook like ... Arsène Wenger?
“The target of anything in life,” Arsène Wenger once declared, “should be to do it so well that it becomes an art.” Having now eaten in the manner of the long-serving Arsenal coach, one thing I can confirm: he has suffered in order to create.
Wenger eats the same diet he expects of his players, largely based on an approach to food he picked up during his stint as manager of the Japanese football club Nagoya Grampus Eight: steamed vegetables, rice and what Arsenal’s head of nutrition once described as a “protein source” – or fish, chicken, meat or quinoa to you and me.
My in-laws got me a lovely new steamer for Christmas, to replace my old one, which would steam the fish, the rice, but also anyone unlucky enough to be near it. As anyone with a steamer will know, provided you can successfully boil water, you can use a steamer.
Even I am perfectly capable of steaming rice, fish and vegetables. In fact, you can cheat by boiling your rice and using the heat from that to steam everything else.
The difficulty comes not on day one, but day three. Steaming is far and away the best way to cook vegetables, if you ask me, but the trouble with cooking everything else that way is that it doesn’t spring a lot of surprises.
Steamed salmon on Monday? Delicious. Steamed trout on Tuesday? Wonderful! But after that I realise that essentially the only way to add variety is to put something funny in the water: a dash of ginger makes for a rather good steamed chicken on Wednesday, I marinate some beef on Thursday, and of course it’s all very easy ... But the effort that you lose in cooking (and indeed washing up, as this is very much one-pot cooking) is more than reinvested in finding ways to make steaming interesting. And at least I can eat meat.
We talk a lot about unsung heroes in sport. One thing that is clear, to me at least, is that the unsung hero at Arsenal football club is the chef who has to find new ways to cook the same old, same old.