SOCHI, Russia ― I’m a man of simple arena food tastes during a hockey game. Give me a bag of popcorn I kick over with my foot several times. Give me that symphony of chicken fingers and fries on a cardboard tray. Give me hot dogs with the mushy bread. Give me pizza; not just pizza, but my own personal pizza.
The Sochi Olympics offer many moments of culture shock, and here is mine: None of these items is available at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena, where the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments are taking place.
Not a popped kernel. Not a fry. Not even a pretzel.
Traditional sports concession foods are replaced with an odd assortment of prepackaged sandwiches, desserts, and vending machines full of gummy bears. It’s like the entire arena food plan was developed by that guy who brings sardines and sunflower seeds to your Super Bowl party.
Know this: Asking around, there is more North American-style arena food found in other parts of Russia, like at Kontinental Hockey League games in Moscow, where they have popcorn. So maybe they are going for a more culturally unique vibe with the food, being this is the Olympics. Or maybe they just don’t want anyone actually buying the food so that they have less to clean up between games.
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Also, there are no food vendors walking inside the arena. You have to get up and fetch the food yourself! (Ugh, right?!)
Join us on this culinary journey, won’t you?
"Let’s all go to the lobby! Let’s all go to the lobby!"
"Let’s go all to the lob-by! ― and get ourselves some…"
… brioche with cabbage.
Here’s the menu at the Bolshoy Ice Dome concession stand. For those doing math at home, one ruble is worth about US $0.03. So if you’re eying one of those salmon sandwiches, it’s about $5.12, which, by arena food standards, is ridiculously cheap, actually.
But how does the food look?
OK, we know what you’re thinking: Beer would help. Beer helps everything.
Hmmm. … Wonder what that “zero” means.
GAH! It means “a federal law banned the sale of alcohol in sporting venues in Russia.” So this Baltika beer is made to "preserve the beer flavor" while removing the alcohol. Imagine going to an NFL game and all they have is O'Douls?
The sandwich with smoked turkey, we promise, has smoked turkey buried somewhere in that menagerie of weird green things.
Brioche with apples
Fruit Danishes. Trust us, it’s in there.
Honey pies. Again, amazing food for a brunch after Sunday Mass, but not so much at a hockey game.
The sandwich caprese, in which tomato slices are placed on cheese with what passes for a pesto sauce in Russia. From someone that consumed the sandwich: "If I were eating it for lunch in elementary school, I would've traded it away for someone's carrot sticks. It was basically Wonder Bread with some Swiss cheese and a soggy tomato."
The salmon sandwich, on the other hand, was pretty darn tasty. The salmon was fresh, there was texture from the lettuce and the bread wasn’t too soggy. I’d eat it again, if I found myself in a place that lacked nearly every other dish my fattening American appetite demands.
If you don’t want to visit the snack bar, there’s only one other option in the Sochi arenas:tThe vending machines.
These contain everything from chocolate bars and croissants to (even more) sandwiches and…
gummy bears for 100 rubles, or $2.84. Amazing, right? I’d fill a swimming pool with gummy bears at that price.
There are also coffee machines on the concourse, so you can purchase an espresso when Canada’s up by six goals in the third period over Austria.
Ah, but what about dessert? How about some incredibly small containers of ice cream?
Somewhere, Ben and Jerry weep.
Welp, we’ve reached the apex of our frustrating journey.
Congratulations, you’ve made it through our tour of odd arena food in Sochi...
Here is your giant chocolate gold medal. Wear it with pride.
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