While rugby has long been a sport foreign to many Americans, it is quickly becoming accepted in youth centers, high schools, and colleges. Yet alongside the sheer athleticism involved in playing the game, rugby comes with a certain lifestyle, almost akin to a brotherhood.
David Martin, who has served as a news writer and producer most of his life, has also been an active rugby player for 32 years. In his new book The Hooligan’s Table: The Rugby Player’s Cookbook, Martin hopes to highlights the broad cuisines enjoyed by some of the best athletes in the world.
“I wanted to put together a book that showcases the wide range of food enjoyed by rugby players around the world and across the table,” said Martin. “Rugby players come from diverse places and have diverse tastes and my book aims to present cuisine inspired by the sport.”
Martin’s love for the game started while attending Florida State University, where a friend invited him to come along and play rugby with the rest of the guys.
“My friend was playing and I wanted to check it out,” said Martin. “I got a good-natured dousing of beer after my first game and I have loved every second of it ever since.”
While looking for book ideas, Martin kept coming back to his experiences with the game. Eventually he settled on the idea, and decided to further explore the common threads that bond rugby players around the world.
Martin has traveled across the United States to cities known for their rugby legacies such as Boston, New York, and Chicago, while also discovering new areas like Louisiana and Los Angeles where the game has surged in popularity. He then went around the world to rugby strongholds like Ireland, Hong Kong, South Africa, and even Singapore in search of his recipes.
“At Harry’s bar in Singapore I was introduced to a delicious Wafu Style Pasta,” says Martin. “The bar has become a go-to spot for all of the rugby playing expats who have taken up residence in the city.”
What Martin also began to notice was the prevalence of Irish culture throughout all of the rugby clubs throughout the United States.
“No matter what we always found incredible stories and recipes at Irish bars,” said Martin. “In New York City alone, Blaggard’s on 38th St gave us a delicious Gaelic Chicken recipe, while O’Brien’s on 46th St gave us some excellent stories from the Muster Supporter’s Club.”
“Just about every rugby team in America goes to and Irish pub after the game,” he continued. “I’d say probably 80% of them have a local Irish hangout to gather in after training. It’s really amazing how the Irish culture has taken over the game here in the United States.”
The cookbook itself takes themes from rugby and organizes recipes accordingly. His chapter on one-pot meals, such as cheddar and chicken stout soup, is called “In the Scrum” and serves as an allusion to the mishmash of bodies locked together looking for ball possession. Meanwhile, the “Sin Bin” chapter, a reference to the penalty box reserved for misbehaving players, is naturally where you will find a wide array of desserts.
Martin hopes that, through a shared passion for food, his cookbook will help newcomers to the game help to understand the intense camaraderie and friendship that comes with playing rugby.
“The spirit of rugby is incredible,” he says. “While everyone is extremely competitive in the game, you know that the first guy to buy you a beer at the end of the day is the same guy you were tackling a minute before. It really is amazing.”
Martin has continued playing rugby, and currently plays for the New York Rugby Club. The club is always looking for new members so, whether you are an established rugby player, or looking to explore the game, you are more than welcome to stop by./
If you would like to purchase The Hooligan’s Table: The Rugby Player’s Cookbook, visit their website at www.therugbycookbook.com. It is also available at Barnes & Noble, as well as amazon.com.