It’s always back to school time somewhere!
Let me state right up front, I am not a sports fan. Sure, I’ll settle in for the Olympics every four years and I can appreciate an underdog victory. But fan-dom, regularly attending games and following the details, I can’t get.
What I do get is tailgating. I love a cultural ritual expressed by food. So Mathis’ pictures of matching dresses and beer cozies, tented tailgates in The grove at Ole Miss, and foil pans full of shrimp boil at East Carolina are insight into another world.
As Mathis points out, on some Southern campuses, tailgating is a century-old tradition, celebrations kept vital by creativity and passion. Mathis gathered the stories and recipes over two and half seasons in twelve states and what he really found are recipes for entertaining friends and family, as well as fans. They don’t have to be cooked in a parking lot, though they make take a special savor from asphalt, fresh air, and team loyalty.
And boy is there ritual—dress, game-day greetings, themed tables, and themed meals.
The secret to the food is that it should be “portable, accessible, and fun,” that is, nothing you have to cut with a knife while you’re balancing your drink. Cookies iced in team colors—you bet. Prepping is key—chop and measure the night before, bake and marinate at home. So is food safety—lots of ice, separate raw and cooked foods. If you’re going to commit to the tailgate lifestyle, Mathis suggests a “tailgating box,” ready to go with hand sanitizer, paper towels, a can opener, plastic gloves, pot holders, trash bags, matches, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. And you thought the players had to prepare!
As for the recipes, fun is the key word. Oranges-n-Cream Punch, made a gallon at a time, is made with whipped cream flavored vodka—an ingredient I didn’t even know existed and which sounds dangerously delicious. Ladies, keep your wits about you! The sophistication continues with Doughnut French Toast and Fried Alligator Strips. But I shouldn’t be glib, there is some good cooking here including Confetti Slaw, Shrimp Boil, Spiced Pumpkin Beer Bread, and Crab Cake Sliders.
Desserts start to get a little silly again with funnel cakes or Deep-Fried Cookie Dough, but no one will turn down Apple Crisp with Bourbon Whipped Cream or Caitlin’s Cranberry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.
So whether it’s Roll Tide or Razorbacks, go tailgaters!