This annual songfest is a celebration of all things European – the good, the bad and the kitsch. but, in homage to Sweden, this year’s host country, we’ve taken a minimalist approach to our smorgasbord, while still packing the party with hits from all over the continent.
Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for SBS is a dream job. For the last five years, my co-host Sam Pang and I have been sent to Moscow, Oslo, Dusseldorf and Baku (that’s in Azerbaijan, thanks for asking) to cover the most outlandish song competition in the world. Or Europe anyway.
Standing for hours backstage, waiting to grab interviews by doorstopping each contestant, is a hungry job. With about 40 acts, Sam and I split up and just GO! So we need to be light on our feet and well-fuelled. Which is why food backstage is so important.
Moscow’s Eurovision went way over budget, the food in the stadium was terrible, but hey, you could smoke anywhere you liked… inside, outside, next to non-smoking signs. Anywhere. Hideous. I drank a lot of borscht at the hotel.
Oslo was sunny and cold. Our hotel was near the water and, on a rare hour off, I jumped on a ferry with the most delicious nine Australian dollar latte I have ever had and sailed through the little islands. I also took myself off to a fancy restaurant one night. Just me and my big folder of study notes. I didn’t have the reindeer, but ordered salmon while a pianist played jazz on a white baby grand.
Germany hosted a fabulous event with huge farm carts of fresh apples in the media centre to crunch on all day. The bread was good. The butter was better. And there were baristas… Boy, we were happy. But after the grand final, our hotel for some inexplicable reason closed the bar. We were left to wander the streets of Dusseldorf to find a drink. I still don’t think you could count it as food, but the crew was happy to test their stomachs on a deep-fried bratwurst sausage-type scenario that just looked poisonous. I had a bag of chips. The beer was warm.
Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, provided manna from heaven: dark plump raisins, golden sultanas, exotic dried fruit, fresh nuts of every kind and tea… lots of delicious tea in samovars everywhere. They don’t really do coffee there and I became a tea convert. I actually lost weight on that tour, the food was so healthy.
So what will Sweden be like? Who knows. But feasting on the sounds of more than 40 languages being spoken and sung all around me is my favourite treat.