The Olympics is such a wonderful event. It starts with a bit of pomp and lots of pageantry and maybe just a touch of patriotism with the opening ceremonies. Smiling athletes, wave flags and march through the arena filled with high spirits and higher hopes. Throughout the games we will learn about different sports and the dedicated athletes that play them. For two and a half weeks we will be held spellbound by the world’s best of the best. We will be captivated by the both the games and the players, awestruck by breathtaking displays of athletic prowess and achievement.
Each Olympics has its own special stories, tales that makes each event special and unique. From Los Angeles to Seoul to Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens challenges have been met, dreams have been fulfilled and legends have been created. This summer promises to be no different. From the tiniest gymnast to the gargantuan weight lifter, Olympians will capture our hearts and our imaginations. This year Team USA has a swimmer who proves that life most certainly doesn’t end at forty and another is poised to break decades old records. There are gymnasts ready to astound, basketball players ready rebound and a whole host of runners and jumpers ready to shatter personal and world records. One thing is certain that throughout the seventeen days, we will witness both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Many years ago my sister Brenda threw a little Olympic event of her own. It must have been the summer before she went off to college. She was a lifeguard at our beach. There was a mob of seven to ten year olds, on the beach that year, including our own little brother. After several weeks of swimming lessons Brenda decided that this merry band of little boys and girls needed a reward of sorts to celebrate their stellar achievements. She orchestrated a field day with swimming, running, a bit of jumping and even a sand castle contest.
Her goal was to make sure that there were enough events and enough variety to ensure that every child on the beach would go home with at least one ribbon. Of course she made the ribbons. There really wasn’t any place close by to buy trophies or medals and it didn’t really matter because she didn’t have a budget for her Olympic extravaganza. She cut out what seemed like hundreds of white felt polka dots and labeled each with a big 1, 2 or 3. She then attached blue, red and white ribbons and safety pins onto the dots. She stayed up half the night working on this labor of love.
The day was filled with countless races and contests. The event was topped off with an awards ceremony and ice cream. The little ribbons were worn proudly and then saved. I can still picture my skinny little brother with a couple of his skinny little friends, proud as could be, showing off their ribbons. Even years later looking for swim googles or ski socks, it was possible to come across one of those old ribbons, tossed in the back of a drawer or cupboard, mixed in with the old sunglasses, ski passes and mate-less mitts.
My sister still makes prizes for little boys and girls; she runs a preschool. As for the boys and girls who swam and ran and jumped at that first Pleasant Lake Olympiad, they now have children of their own. A few weeks ago I watched the latest crop of young athletes run, jump, swim and collect their prizes. No one stayed up all night sewing little ribbons but the competitive spirit was still strong and thrill that comes from victory was still there.
With the Olympics in China, Summer Rolls are the perfect treat for your Olympics celebrations. They are light and refreshing, a great warm weather appetizer. Enjoy!
Makes about 16 pieces
48-64 small cooked, salad shrimp
3 ounces rice vermicelli
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
16 round 8-inch rice-paper wrappers
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ribbons with a peeler
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut in julien
16 Chinese pea pods, trimmed and blanched
8 pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut in half
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1. In a medium bowl, cover rice vermicelli with hot water; let soak for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Set aside.
2. Whisk together canola oil, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin, and sesame oil; add rice vermicelli and toss; season with salt and pepper to taste. Roughly chop the mint and cilantro; add to the vermicelli and toss to combine.
3. Fill a shallow dish with warm water. Working with 1 rice-paper wrapper at a time, soak in water for 1 minute; remove and lay flat on a paper towel on your work surface. Place 3 or 4 shrimp on bottom third of the rice paper, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of vermicelli, a pea pod, asparagus and a little carrot and cucumber. Fold bottom of wrapper over fillings; roll over once, tuck in sides, and finish rolling.
4. Place finished roll on a plate; cover with a damp towel. Repeat process with remaining ingredients. Serve with dipping sauce
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
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