August 31, 2010

LB-U's Guide to Tailgating Part II: Repast

Now that you’ve placated your tailgating visitors with satisfying drink it is time to quell their crescendoing appetite. Before getting into food composition, it’s important to specify rule numero uno. Rule of thumb #1: more is better. It is better to take food home then it is to run out… anytime.

Again, let me lay down some ground rules, this is not meant for the guy that tows a whole hog smoker behind his RV. God bless you sir, but no, this is meant for the average guy, the guy trying to make a name for himself with all his football buddies, their significant others, and coworkers. With that out of the way, now for the specifics: what constitutes a tailgating menu? Let me start off with a story demonstrating what doesn’t belong. I was lucky enough to get my company’s parking pass a couple years ago smack dab in the middle of the affluent section. Parked next to us I witnessed an awful excuse of a tailgate: the menu consisted of grapes, cheese, and Perrier. No meat! How did these people survive? Apparently on Jazz and outdated jerseys. I can’t stress this enough: THIS IS FOOTBALL!!! Very large, athletic men run at very high speeds with the intention of colliding with other very large athletic men running at high speeds. Bones are broken, blood runs, ankles are twisted, piles of twisted man-masses move in a tango of pain and sweat. Rule of thumb #2: bring MEAT! It’s testosterone time; if the word salad is in your menu there better be a starchy adjective preceding it like potato, macaroni, or pasta.

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If this guy strolls by you better have more then a chef salad with a light raspberry vinaigrette.

One of man’s most magnificent accomplishments was to grind up a dead animal and pack it in some sort of casing. Simple, eloquent and delicious. Hot sausage, Kielbasa, or Bratwurst it really doesn’t matter, everyone loves a sausage sandwich with peppers and onions. In addition always carry some sort of quality all-beef hot dog; don’t skimp here get the good stuff.

A rookie mistake might be to assume that steak is a fine choice. Yes this would be fine under normal circumstances but this is tailgating; sitting room is at a premium. Rule of thumb #3: the spork test. It’s nearly impossible to cut a thick juicy steak with plastic silverware on a paper plate. Everything should be handheld or capable of eating with a spork. We would never suggest that you shouldn’t use steak, just do so in an appropriate form like the shish kabob.

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Ah yes, nothing says football like meat on a stick. Easy to make, easy to eat, and hey… you can even get your veggies if you so choose. Make these babies up the night before and let them soak in some sort of oily, savory brine. PA is lucky to have just such a dressing.
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Appetizers are a must because hungry hoards do silly things while waiting for you to cook them some dinner. Keep them at bay with, chips and salsa, bologna and cheese, potato chips, pretzels, etc.

The next selection is a regional thing that our southern friends don’t have to worry about. I’m talking weather. The menu needs tweaked a bit as the leaves fall off the trees and winter’s cold embrace threatens. In the waning months of the college football season, nothing says top notch tailgate like rib sticking, gut warming soup. It will put a smile on your patron’s face. Make two pots and make sure one is chili. Chili is to cold weather what ice cream is to hot, there are very few people that will turn either one down, no matter what kind. Have cheese and sour cream on hand for people like me. The second soup can be any classic like chicken corn, chowder, or beef vegetable, just make sure it follows rule #2.

Finally, throw in some regional charm for out-of-towners and locals alike. Here in Penn Sate world we have Penn State hot dogs, Penn State nachos, Penn State salsa, Penn State beer, Penn State pretzels, Penn State mustard… you get my point. Give opposing team fans a conversation piece as they wonder by and offer them a pre-game, team affiliated food product. It will help raise their spirits and yours.

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