As one teammate put it, "The lines may be long, but at least the food's bad." You know the food is bad when the Soviets are complaining.
Then again, trying to cater to 10,000 athletes 24 hours a day can't be an easy task.
The cafeteria is located on two floors of the international center in the village. You have the choice of eight lines (four on each floor) that you can wait in. You are greeted and escorted by attractive Korean women wearing long pastel gowns.
The first thing in line after the trays and plates is a dish of what looks to be a fantastic caserole or perhaps some tasty lasagna. But before you pile your plate high you should be warned. You're looking at kimchi, a Korean dish made from spices and aged cabbage which, if it doesn't kill you, is gauranteed to give you a case of terminal halitosis.
Next come the turnips and beets, and then the rest of the meal is pretty much what you'd expect: Scalloped potatoes, rice, beef, pork, chicken, salad, etc.
There are alternatives for the hungry athlete. A hot-air popcorn popper has been going non-stop in our coaches' room. Pop-tarts and fruit rolls brought from home have been very popular although supplies are running low.
The American Embassy has a barbecue every three days and AT&T has a nightly dinner for the athletes at a hotel. We went to a Xerox-sponsored breakfast yesterday. I expected mimeographed pancakes, but it ended up being the best breakfast we've had. As a bonus, Maria Shriver showed up with husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his pects. Breakfast with the Terminator!
Bananas are scarce in these parts. We did finally spot some while in the shopping district of It'aewon. They were the kind my wife usually reserves for banana bread. They cost 12 dollars for two pounds. For that we could purchase two tailored shirts, or three eelskin wallets, or a couple of pair of Reeboks.
Although the team doctors advised against it, I finally decided to eat outside the Olympic Village. It would be a chance to sample the native cuisine and mix with the local people. So while in It'Aewon we ducked into a corner restaurant and dined on beef, lettuce and potatoes, covered with a special sauce. The meal was prepared by native hands and served up with time-honored care . . . it was the best Big Mac and fries I've had in a long time.
There was one catch, however. As I was delivering this diary entry to Lee Benson in the press village, I read this sign underlined in red ink: "Do not eat at Wendy's or McDonald's downtown. Three athletes are sick from doing so!!"
Is nothing sacred?