Can I cook like ... Arsène Wenger?

The Guardian - Feast - - Stephen Bush - Stephen Bush

“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.

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