Sunday, July 02, 2006

To Be or Not To Be

It is "Vamos Argentina!" no more. After we witnessed grown men sobbing on the football pitch, my Argentine husband coolly analysed the difference in style of coaching received by the two goalkeepers.

The coach for the Argentine goalkeeper believed his duty was to motivate his player and respect his creativity and skills– sound great to me. Post match, the goalkeeper praised his coach for saying "vamos, vamos!!" and telling him jokes between each shot to motivate him.

Now, the German coach also selected the best possible goalkeeper he could, and trained him thoroughly. Before each penalty shot, he briefed his player with statistics of how each shooter shot in penalty situations. The goalkeeper kept notes on each opponent in his socks which he swotted between kicks. Four out of four, the German goalkeeper dived in the same direction of the ball and only missed twice because he didn't reach far or high enough. His performance sealed the fate of Argentina.

A bronzed and bleached porteña (a lady resident of the City of BA) once asked Guillermo how he did academically as a youngster while complaining about her sons' grades at school. I was bemused that she was actually shocked by him admitting that effort was somehow involved. She was disappointed by the answer; I suspect she would continue to ask relative strangers the same instead of guiding her boys to show more interest in their school work.

A little further afield in Australia, there are two types of government high schools. Anyone may attend a normal government school and those who choose to sit for an entrance exam and pass with satisfactory results may be admitted at the selective schools. You may liken it to selective schools such as Carlos Pellegrini or Nacional de Buenos Aires in this country.

One of many divisive debates fostered by the Howard administration in Australia started when research showed the proportion of Asian students in selective government schools has climbed significantly over the past decade. Many of these kids study for the school entrance exam, some with the assistance of tutors and few continue to take extra tuition throughout their high school years. Is it fair? Does it amount to cheating?

The average mum, dad & student (the coach-less ones) cry foul – these kids are studying and preparing for exams after school while the others are not, hence gaining an unfair advantage! You may laugh but this is a really thorny issue, hotly debated in backyards across the country.

I am not leaning one way or the other; Argentina was World Cup Champion twice, the porteña's sons may achieve great things in life, bright kids who are not coached still make up a fair percentage in those selective high schools and certainly the coached ones do not all obtain results adequate for admission.

If these situations demonstrate anything, let it be loud and clear: we all have a choice but we also have to live with it.

So I choose to make a batch of orange & poppy seed muffins (muffins are rarely found in BA and poppy seeds are not used widely either) to bring to the abuelos' (grandparents') this Sunday although I am sure la familia is going to poke at these strange little things and ask what are the black dots!
I shan't complain if they find the muffins too "raro" because I have chosen not to go down the much smoother dulce de leche path. Who knows, they may grow to like the culinary challenges I throw at them.

75g butter, melted
250g self raising flour
25g poppy seeds
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
100ml fresh orange juice
100ml full fat milk
1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, mix orange juice and milk, whisk in the egg and then add melted butter. Now pour the wet mixture into the dry, mixing lightly with a fork. The batter will be lumpy but that’s ok, the muffins will still turn out fine. Over mixing will only result in chewy muffins because the gluten has been stretched.

Spoon the mixture into a 12-hole muffin and bake in a 200C oven for 20min. They are lovely eaten warm.

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