The best part about Uruguay being knocked out in the semifinals of the World Cup was that it guaranteed an all-European final, which pretty much guaranteed a final between countries that, at one point or another, fought each other in a war.
The special thing about the showdown in South Africa between Spain and the Netherlands,* though, is that this is a rematch of multiple wars. And it ain’t no rubber game: The Dutch are going for the sweep.
*Did you know that Holland technically only refers to two counties in the Netherlands? And that it really shouldn’t be used to talk about the country as a whole? But that the Dutch don’t seem to mind because they’re so agreeable? Also, where does the Netherlands rank in terms of countries that require “the”? Do they get past the United States AND the Seychelles?
It started in the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648), in which the Dutch revolted against their distant Spanish leaders because they were being taxed too much. Yawn. The Eighty Years’ War is interesting for only three reasons:
Ever since the start of the World Cup, I’ve been waiting for a showdown between Spain and Portugal. But my two-and-a-half weeks of impatience doesn’t even compare to how long the Portuguese have waited for this: It is a chance at revenge 516 years in the making.
It was this month in 1494 that Portugal and Spain decided to update their global colonial claims with the Treaty of Tordesillas, which in principle divided the world between the two Iberian nations. I know, heady stuff, but it’s not like it wasn’t somewhat justified at the time. Columbus had just reached the New World under Spain’s flag, and Prince Henry the Navigator–arguably one of European history’s most famous princes*–had established a strong exploratory culture in Portugal earlier in the century. Amerigo Vespucci, like Columbus an Italian, sailed for the Portuguese and was the first to discover that this South America continent was pretty big, at least from north to south. Continue reading
I love the concept of tapas. Since dinner is served so late in Spain, tapas, a variety of small appetizers, serve to keep Spaniards from suffering from hunger bouts between work and dinner. What I love about tapas is that it allows people to eat a diversity of foods in one meal. One can reasonably eat four tapas for the price of one entrée.
In Spain, tapas precede dinner. But, I see no reason why tapas-style appetizers should not constitute dinner. Most entrees have diminishing returns. As you eat more of an entrée, that entrée becomes less pleasurable. Some of this can be attributed to decreased hunger but much of it can also be attributed to decreased novelty. The first taste of a delicious flavor does more for you than the 35th taste of that flavor (there, arguably, are exceptions: lobster may be one). The last bite of that steak or chicken is rarely as pleasurable as that first bite. Rich foods like creamy pastas tend to have significant diminishing returns. Anyone who has ever eaten penne alla vodka can attest to this. Moreover, one of the benefits of going out to eat at a restaurant is that the chefs cook for far more people (who have varying tastes) than you probably do at your home: as a result, its easier to order a variety of dishes than it is to cook a variety of dishes.