It's a feeding frenzy in the dining halls at the two Olympic Villages, the crossroads of the Sochi Games where sports, languages, cultures and cuisines converge. Over three weeks, more than 6,000 competitors and officials will add fuel to their fires by choosing among more than a thousand distinct dishes.
The dining halls have sections for U.S., Asian, Russian and Western European cuisines, though not everyone sticks with home cooking. Jonathan Garcia, a U.S. long-track speedskater, prefers the udon noodles and gobbles at least two helpings a day, sprinkling on them the chia seeds he brought from home. But not all the crossovers have been hits. "Herring?" asked one Canadian athlete. "Tried it. Can't do it."
Labels at each food station list the calorie, fat, protein, carb and sodium counts for every dish. Nutritional imperatives notwithstanding, the fastest mover at the European table was the pepperoni pizza, and the lemon cake with sauce outperformed the oat porridge, rice porridge and traditional porridge. When one athlete inquired as to the differences among the porridges, a smiling volunteer took out a minidictionary and declared, "This one is gruel."
Yogurt is a prized currency for athletes in Sochi. A shipment of 5,000 cups from Chobani, a sponsor of the U.S. team, was held up in a warehouse as officials from Russia's Federal Service of Veterinary Phytosanitary Surveillance pressed the USDA for additional paperwork. That prompted pleas from Senator Charles Schumer to free the yogurt, which remained impounded through the weekend.
Like much other information in Russia, food-related data seems restricted. Prodded for specific ingredients and their quantities in his dishes, the head of food and beverage responded, "There are privileged details from our recipes." He pointed to an Italian stew. "People ask about this," he said, "but I am forbidden to tell."
THEY SAID IT
"I'm definitely going to call them."
Russian snowboarder, 22, who wrote his phone number on his helmet and received so many texts with nearly (or completely) naked pictures of women that his iPhone shut down.
BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRIBUNE/MCT/GETTY IMAGES (FOOD COURT)