European nights at Anfield have a special place in Liverpool lore. But it is the European aways that are memorialized when the fans sing “there are places I’ll remember all my life.” My first European campaign as a fan saw Rodgers waive the white flag with his lineup selection at the Bernabéu, so it was a few years before I would come to understand how special those trips could be. During the march to Kiev I discovered how for English Liverpool fans a game on the continent could be a delightful journey, a trip with friends to a new city to build lasting memories centered on the match.
The following year I decided to create a match day ritual for European aways, one that would allow me to travel with the team in spirit from my kitchen in Pennsylvania. While traveling fans ate in the local restaurants, I’d make a meal from the country, and ideally region of the country, they were playing in. For that campaign they drew Red Star Belgrade, Napoli, and Paris St. German in the group. Those early meals set my routine for all the aways since, researching the country’s cuisine online, looking for regional variations, trying to match the spirit of the dish even if not the letter. Serbian podvarak (pork, sauerkraut and root vegetables) kicked things off as the team laid an egg on the pitch that night. Pasta e fagioli and chicken fricassee kept my taste buds delighted as Liverpool squeaked into the knockout rounds to set up the magical run to Madrid.
Since I’ve long loved to cook, this was a combination of hobbies, and one that let me bring the festive spirit of a big trip and a big game home. Perhaps this was never more true than when Liverpool traveled to Bavaria to face Bayern Munich in a decisive Round of 16 fixture. Having spent time preparing bratwurst, sauerkraut and German potato salad for a halftime dinner, while listening to a preview podcast recorded by traveling fans in Munich, my own excitement was electric as I sat down to take in the match. I felt part of the occasion in a way I hadn’t before when following English football. I was buzzing the rest of the night as Mane’s sublime strikes reminded the world that he deserves to be thought of as far more than Mo Salah’s sidekick.
As the memories have piled up on the pitch, so too have they in the kitchen. Francesinha, a distinctly Porto sandwich with all the region’s meats, as Liverpool demolished Porto in their own building. Paella to comfort me after Messi did Messi things at Camp Nou. Making cocido madrileño for my cousins visiting from out of town after we’d won it six times. Paprikash for Budapest; shawarma for Qatar; moules frites in Belgium. While Liverpool and its supporters travel Europe making memories, I’m able to explore the places they venture despite living thousands of miles away. So as Liverpool returns to Madrid I must decide another cocido madrileño, or perhaps tapas (can’t go wrong with patatas bravas). Either way I’ll eat well, and hopefully the game will provide memories to match. Regardless, I’ll remember where I was, what I ate, and where Liverpool were all my life.