Such a typical scene.
It’s mid-June and I’m in Lake Placid, struggling to put one foot in front of the other to finish a long skate workout. In front of me, two of my biathlon teammates are discussing how to make the perfect stir-fry. “You start out with a simple mixture of sliced onions and grated ginger in olive oil,” Annelies Cook explains to Corrine Malcolm. “Then you put that aside while you cut up the vegetables. It makes a difference how you cut them.” She proceeds to describe julienning carrot strips, separating broccoli and asparagus stalks from their faster-cooking heads, and the precise order vegetables should be added to the wok for even cooking. As we round a corner on River Road, the Olympic ski jumps appear in the distance. It doesn’t look like we have too much further to go, but when you are bonking, even a mile can be too far. Annelies has moved on to the stir-fry’s sauce. “You should include something sweet, something salty and something bitter. For example, maple syrup, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar go well together,” she suggests. I have long since given up on participating in the discussion- it would require too much energy. But I can still hear it, even over my rumbling stomach. Why do our conversations always turn to food at the end of the hardest and longest workouts? It is mouth-wateringly torturous.
A day earlier, I had gone biking with Laura Spector. After an arduous climb up the Whiteface Mountain toll road, we were rolling down the back side off the mountain towards Bloomingdale and Saranac Lake. As we descended towards Franklin Falls Pond, I asked Laura what she was planning to do that afternoon since we didn’t have training.
“I’ve got a butternut squash that I need to cook,” she replied. That, of course, served as a launching off point for the next twenty minutes of food-related discussion.
“Have you ever heard of Kabocha?” Laura asked me.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
“It’s a small squash that looks like a patty pan or an ornamental gourd. You wouldn’t think it would be good to eat looking at it, but it has a deep yellow flesh and such a sweet flavor. You don’t really need to add anything to it.”
I was curious about this Kabocha squash, so I researched it up when I got back to the training center. It looked very familiar and I’ve probably had it before. Kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin is a variety of winter squash. In spite of its name, it didn’t originate in Japan, having been introduced there by Portuguese sailors in the 1500’s. In fact, Japan actually imports a large amount of Kabocha from the US and New Zealand.
As you can see, one of the most frequent topics of conversation among the US women’s biathlon community is food. We like to discuss our favorite cheeses from the farmers market, where to get a hold of fresh rhubarb, and the pros and cons of a gluten free diet for athletes. Cooking and baking are common hobbies on the national team. One evening this spring, I caught a whiff of roast bear and rosemary drifting out of the OTC’s kitchenette. Sara Studebaker and Zach Hall were cooking some meat they had brought back from Alaska and were nice enough to give me a taste. Our coaches also share an interest in homemade food. Jonne uses his own special recipe to bake Pulla (a traditional Finnish bread) and lately Pat has been experimenting with different flavors of homebrews.
After thinking about, talking about, and dreaming about high quality food for over two weeks in Lake Placid, I was psyched to return to Craftsbury and the land of wonderful food. Eating in the Outdoor Center’s dining hall will never get old. It’s also exciting to see how the gardens have progressed in the weeks I was away.