Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"1980 Olympic Games in Moscow - Cookbook and Schedule of Events" - Stir-Fried Chicken

Date I made this recipe:  July 29, 2012 (for the Olympics)

1980 Olympic Games in Moscow – Cookbook and Schedule of Events – Favorite Recipes of Prospective U.S. Participants
Published by:  Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers
© 1979
Recipe:  (Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken – p. 62

*Note:  This is one of my longer blog posts but just like the Olympics, it will (likely) only come around every four years so hang in there!

Right then.  So the 2012 Olympics got underway in London on Friday, July 27, with a right smashing Opening Ceremony that included a hilarious James Bond spoof featuring none other than HM, The Queen of England.  That’s right, the Queen of England.  Like most viewers, I must have played that scene back 3 times utterly stunned that it was the Queen, the real Queen and nothing but the Queen.  Who knew that HM had such a sense of humor?  Oh, and Daniel Craig (as James Bond) wasn’t too bad, either. (By the way, in an uncanny coincidence, my community band played music from the James Bond movies as well as John William’s Olympic Spirit this summer.)

So OBVIOUSLY with the Olympics at hand, I needed to find myself an Olympic cookbook, right?  Quite.  Well find it I did in of all places, the charming café/bookstore in my hometown in Michigan – Falling Rock Café – last April and yes, I’ve been holding on to it ever since.  I am nothing if not prepared for the global events!

For those of you who were around in 1980, you might recall that this cookbook is a bit of a head-fake as the Olympic team did not participate in the 1980 Olympics that year.  U.S. tension against the former Soviet Union was already on red-alert when Russia invaded Afghanistan and in response, President Carter decided to cancel our appearance at the games.  (Naturally, the Soviet Union followed suit and canceled its appearance at the 1984 games in Los Angeles and so tit for tat and phooey on all that!)  Let me just say that to this day, I believe this was the wrong decision. Aspiring Olympic athletes devote their whole lives and their bank accounts to make the team and punishing them on behalf of a nation is just wrong – on both sides.

Harrumph.  Any who…so here we are at the 2012 Olympics already and some of the 1980 athletes are now providing commentary on various events, like former swimmer Rowdy Gaines and gymnast Bart Conner.  And since I was a high school swimmer I was all set to make one of Rowdy’s recipes but changed it up at the last minute.  And here’s why:  about the same time that I pulled this cookbook off my shelf as a “must use,” the U.S. observed the 40th anniversary of Title IX, allowing for equality for women in sports. And again, I can only shake my head and marvel how time flies.  And so I decided that this blog would be better served by a recipe from a female athlete and with that, let’s go “off-road” for a bit to talk about Title IX.

Title IX, enacted in 1972 (I was in 8th grade) is a portion of the Education Amendment that established, in part, No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.  This applied to about every level of education including, thank goodness, sports.

And to my absolute amazement, my tiny junior high/high school, jumped on the bandwagon and started women’s sports.  I mean, we are talking about class sizes of just over 100 people per class; by contrast, my husband’s high school class was over 600. We probably barely qualified for Class C sports designation but there we were, in it to win it.  So bravo, William G. Mather High School, bravo!  (And yes, I know that the law said we must comply, but there’s “compliance” and then there’s “compliance!).

Well, this prompted me to go back to my yearbooks to track our women’s sports progress.  In 1972, there weren’t any women’s teams but in 1973 (freshman year), a Girls’ Tennis Team started.  A friend of mine joined the team that year and I joined a year later.  By 1974, we added the Girls’ Swim Team although unfortunately, I was sick the day the photo was taken and so you’d never know I was on it.

So a mere year after Title IX, we had ourselves two bona-fide girls’ teams.  By 1975, we added basketball and by 1976, we had a track team.  Not too shabby!  (For the record though, there is no word that sends me flying faster than someone calling me a “girl.” But that’s another story for another day.).

Now, before you pull out your pom-poms, let me just stress to you that equal opportunity to participate in sports did not equal an equal opportunity to get funding or support.  Oh no – in fact, quite the opposite.

The first year I was on the tennis team, we carpooled to our meets.  Yes, carpooled.  We didn’t have uniforms, we didn’t have managers, we barely had a locker room and you should have seen our city tennis courts – two of them, both with blacktop surfaces and set down by Lake Superior so flyaway tennis balls soon became swim-away tennis balls.  Our second team coach (the first coach was a woman), was also the boys’ wrestling coach and never, ever ceased to compare us weakling “girlz” to his he-man boys team.  He let us borrow his team’s warm-up jackets for meets but otherwise we were on our own.  The coach who followed him was a nice guy but I don’t know: is it a good thing to advise high school athletes that if you’re going to drink, drink Scotch?!!  Mind you, I was all for that but it did crack me up. 

As to the swim team, hahahahaha….well, we tried.  The good news was that our school had one of the very first school pools in the Upper Peninsula.  The bad news was that our school’s pool was not regulation and there were always weird drain problems that caused the pool water to turn various shades of green.  And I am not exaggerating at all.  In fact, when I think about swimming in that pool back then for gym class and swim team and lifesaving classes, I about turn green myself.

So anyway, for every one lap we did at a meet in a regulation pool, we had to do double or triple the laps in our pool.  We could not do a flip turn in our pool because the shallow end was truly shallow but we were allowed at meets to do kind of a half turn above water.  (So dorky and embarrassing but there it is!).  Although we got team swimsuits, for some inexplicable reason, we chose green and gold suits (Go Pack Go) even though our school colors were orange and black.  We did not get to use the wrestler’s warm-up jackets and so had a collection of various and sundry sweat shirts at our disposal.

We did not lift weights or do anything that modern athletes do to build strength and endurance and didn’t care.  In fact, and I say this with fondness, our attitude was pretty much cavalier then entire time we were swimming because we always knew we were outnumbered:  all the other schools had bigger pools, bigger staffs, and bigger athletes.  So we swam for fun and in some ways that made the experience all the more enjoyable.

As to funding, well, my first response is “What funding?” All the boys’ sports (football, basketball, etc.) got $10 a day for food; we got $5.  All the boys were properly attired, we were not.  All the boys went to meets by bus – the big kid’s kind – while we were eventually allowed to use a smaller half-bus to go to meets.  There was no booster club, no parental support (seeing as how our meets were during the day so parents could not attend) and very little interest.  I will however, give props to most of the male athletes in our school as they ended up embracing us in their own way and found many of our antics and experiences hilarious.  In fact, and it’s a long story, but my swim team nicknamed me “French Fries” and when the guys found out about that, they called me that as well.  I was never as popular in high school as I was that year.

And so, back we go to the budget-busting Olympics and my, my how times have changed.  While today’s athletes have their own financial struggles, I think they are nothing compared to what we went through.  Olympic teams nowadays have sponsors and endorsements and even, in many cases, professional athletes.  Can you imagine telling any female swimmer today that she gets $5 bucks for food?  No. 

And so I must confess that the times that I’ve heard women whining about being treated as second-class citizens compared to the men’s team, my blood boils.  In fact, I still recall the whining done by several high school girls’ hockey teams a few years back when they weren’t allowed to use the Xcel Energy Center where our professional hockey team plays for their games like the boys’ teams were.  WHAT?!!!  This is where my age is showing:  “In my day young lady, girls weren’t even allowed to play hockey.  We had to drive to our meets in the SNOW and then walk five miles to the arena….” (Actually true story:  my swim team was on its way to a regional meet in a nearby town that required us to drive along Lake Superior in blizzard conditions.  The famous “lake effect” was such that everything was just a sea of white including the white semi that was jackknifed across the highway.  Our bus driver swerved to avoid hitting it at the last second and we ended up in the ditch and had to wait for a bus tow-truck.  So much for that swim meet.  You want to talk about hardship, I’ll talk about hardship!)

So all this brings me back to why I decided to make a recipe from this book for this blog submitted by a female athlete instead of a male athlete, not only to kill two stones (the Olympics and Title IX) at the same time but also to talk about a subject that is near and dear to me.  And so today’s recipe is all about Gwen W. Cheeseman, a 1980 Olympic field hockey player, and her recipe for (Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken.  And to really tie it to this year’s London events, the former Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge was a field hockey player back in the day AND the last Olympics were held in Beijing, China and so it’s all good.  Women then, women now – hooray! (I am also happy to report that Gwen made the 1984 Olympic team and her field hockey crew won the bronze that year.  Well done!)

Despite my rants about the early years, I was quite “chuffed,” as the Brits would say to be a part of those high school teams and am glued to the set this year as I am every Olympics (save for the 1980 Olympics), reliving my almost-glory days!  I swam the backstroke for my team (first one in the water at every meet) both in the individual event and the 400 Individual Medley Relay (back, breast, butterfly, freestyle) and also swam the 400 Freestyle Relay, my absolute favorite event and sometimes anchored it.  They were fun times and the thrill of that competition never goes away even though the younger generation is now having all the fun in the pool.  And seeing all these young ladies on the podium?  Well…pass the Kleenex.
(Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken – serves 4
2 large, whole broiler-fryer chicken breasts, skinned, halved, boned and sliced diagnolly into ¼-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium green pepper, cut into think strips
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 pound fresh bean sprouts
1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup raw cashews, halved
1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
½ cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cups hot cooked rice

In a wok over high heat, heat peanut oil.  Stir-fry celery, pepper, onion and ginger in oil until tender-crisp, about three minutes.  With slotted spoon, slide vegetables up onto side of wok to keep warm.  To remaining oil, add chicken and stir-fry until meat turns white, about three to five minutes.  Slide vegetables back down and add bean sprouts, water, chestnuts, mushrooms, cashews, bouillon and water.  Blend cornstarch with soy sauce; gradually stir into wok and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is heated through and thickened.  Serve over hot rice.  Serves 4.

Ann’s Note:  for some inexplicable reason, my grocery store was out of bean sprouts and so I used canned.  Do not do this at home!  I might as well have opened a can of La Choy Chop Suey, the taste was that bland.  Live and learn, people, live and learn.

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