Well, it's that time of year again. The baseballs are being put on the shelf and the footballs are once again being tossed around. The smells have changed from grass clippings to mud, and will soon be changing to falling leaves. The sounds have changed from the splashing of water in neighborhood pools to the popping of helmets and pads. Weekends are no longer reserved for picnics and getaways as now Fridays mean high school football, Saturdays mean college football and Sundays mean.... NFL football. That's right, kiss your wife good-bye and grab the kids, as it is time for football season. In my humble opinion, there is simply no better time of year.
Now that I have your attention let us focus on what separates us (the football fans) from fans of other sports, TAILGATING. Now, if you are like me I try to tailgate as much as possible. No, I don't mean following a car closely on the highway. I am talking about whipping up some food and drinks with friends all in the name of the greatest of God's creations, football. Tailgating is something that can be tailored to fit the parties that are involved. The lineup of food that is offered up normally contains the likes of chicken wings, ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, brauts, beer, nachos, BBQ chicken, steak, hoagies and hot sausage. A friend once referred to the spread at a tailgate party as "paying homage to the football gods". As if failing to put out a spread that is worthy of Greek mythology might cause your team to draw negative vibes from those football gods.
Football fans are unique in their pre-game feasts. Other than NASCAR, no other sport has a tradition the likes of tailgating. Fans don't need to even be at the game nor do they need a "tailgate". Some of the greatest tailgate parties have been spawned from living rooms, dens and even kitchens of football fans. But the tailgater knows that being outdoors in the elements, much like the warriors that will wage war between the lines, truly is nirvana. The smells that waffle through the parking lots before a game are as intoxicating as any drug available. When the smell of grilling steak mixes with grilling chicken, brauts and ribs...sorry, I lost consciousness for a spell. Some will say the beer is the main ingredient for a good tailgate party. For some that may be true. For most however, it is the food. Beer is a compliment to the main course of a well-prepared party.
So now that you are re-thinking your game plan for your next party, let's (as Emeril says) "kick it up a notch". If you are planning a tailgate party lets start from the beginning. You need to start with a game plan. Set up the roster of possible foods that you might want to have. Then you need to figure out what size of crowd will be in attendance. After that is established, you will need to fill in the lineup with the foods that will be served. Remember these few pointers for rounding out a solid lineup. You will need to consider the crowd and their tastes. Take into consideration your location, being inside or outside may effect what you serve. Make sure you hit all the food groups...salty, sweet, spicy, hot and cold. And most importantly, don't be afraid to delegate some of the grub to your regular attendees. Another hint: Former Redskin Darryl Grant has rolled out some BBQ sauce that should be penciled in the lineup with a marker. For all your BBQ sauce needs, this should be the only option. We'll follow up on that soon in another article.
Now the lineup has been set, the crowd size has been determined, and you have beverages chilling. It is time for you to don your "war gear". For some of us that may include face paint, makeup, Hog Noses, dresses, jerseys, hats or a favorite shirt. This is where the fun starts, my friends. For now you shall eat like like a Roman god and watch gladiators take part in the sport of kings. Enjoy the festivities and cheer hard for your team. Hopefully, someday I will be able to feast at your tailgate party and you will return the favor by feasting at my offerings to those feared football gods.
Be sure to come back next week and check out the view from The Cheap Seats.
This article was released on 2003-09-10.
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