The Art of Tailgating

Monday, November 7, 2011 @ 11:11 AM

Tailgating is an art. It can be low key, it can be fancy and over the top. But simple or fancy we are all looking for anything to make this art run as smoothly & easily as possible. This is an homage to all those dedicated fans out there. Whether you’re a race fan, college team fan, pro team fan or you’re just looking for a nice day at the beach. We salute you! So pop the tailgate on the back of your truck and lets get cooking!

The history of tailgating goes all the way back to Ancient Rome. Food and wine were sold outside of the Colosseum for gladiator events and chariot races. There was also food & drink served at jousting tournaments in medieval Europe.
Tailgating has now become an American phenomenon tracing it’s roots back to The Battle of Bull Run in1861 where some Union supporters brought picnic baskets out to watch the first battle of the Civil War. The first college football game ever played in America was also host to tailgating with Rutgers & Princeton playing against each other while people grilled fish & wild game. When Harvard & Yale played against each other, the walk from the train to the field was so long, the people brought picnic lunches with them. Now in the 21st century, tailgating is in full swing. More than 20 million Americans tailgate every year. Some stadiums and race tracks even have a special areas just for tailgaters.

The Weather Channel has recently been focusing on many different tailgating groups. They actually had one program totally devoted to what college football teams that they thought had the best set of tailgaters. There were even some tailgaters that come by boat as their stadium is located right on the water. They tie all of the boats together and just start tailgating!!

The Weather Channel also likes to focus on food choices of tailgaters. My favorites are always the groups that prefer to “eat the competition”. In other words, say the team is playing against Baltimore…they make crab cakes. If they play against a New England team they make lobster rolls or have a New England lobster boil that they steamed in their turkey fryer. Therefore essentially eating the competition before the game even starts.

Tailgating is not just confined to the college or pro football stadium parking lot. It can be a day at the beach or an afternoon in the park. Baseball fans, horse racing fans & concert goers are all potential tailgaters. The Kentucky Derby has turned into a major tailgating venue with pomp & circumstance, seer sucker suits & big hats. And then, there were The Parrotheads. Jimmy Buffett fans have more generators to power blenders than any other tailgaters I know. And lest we not forget The Grateful Dead fans that not only went to one concert, but followed The Dead around the country for a whole tour. I bet there were some very interesting food choices along the road when it came to months of traveling.

That being said, tailgating is obviously not confined to just a single event or day. Some sports fans just come to watch the game and sometimes leave early to beat the traffic if the score is not going their way. Race fans are devotees. They come and stay for days, sometimes even weeks during Speed Week. That’s a lot of food to plan for and race fans are serious about their food. This is not just NASCAR fans either. There are lots of drag racing & road course fans out there. Many of these venues are weekend long events. Some people show up on Thursday & don’t leave until Monday morning after breakfast, which is sometimes the last great tailgate. All of the leftovers and the last of the eggs and bacon come out and are still made into a culinary masterpiece.

The perfect piece of equipment, your latest perfected recipe, the coolest new game can set you apart from the rest of the lot. So many set ups and different things to cook. For some people the food is as important as the game. Some people don’t even go in to watch the event. They stay outside for the party and watch the game on TV. Any good tailgate is not just burgers and dogs. Brats, ribs, chili, steak, deep fried turkey, pork loin, beer can chicken are many favorites. The gadgets that go along with all that food are phenomenal too. Not just grills. Coolers, blenders, kegorators, deep fryers, crock-pots, BBQ smokers, even woks. Tents, couches, easy chairs, lawn games are all common place at a tailgate. There are even highly elaborate homemade & professionally made tailgate trailers with cooking equipment, TV’s & sound systems included.

Part of the art of a good tailgate party comes from proper planning and knowing your grill, BBQ smoker, and cooking equipment. Knowing how many people your cooking for is helpful in pre planning your shopping list(and a little extra never hurts.) Get to know your grill and cooking equipment. Use it at home. Get used to your hot spots and cooking zones. Don’t try out a deep fryer for the first time at the track! When you transport your grill, if you don’t have an enclosed trailer to put it in, put it right behind the cab of your truck with the hinged side of the lid to the backside of the cab. Tie it securely! If you loose your lid, your dead in the water.

Some important things to remember about tailgating is having the right stuff you need to make your life easier. Of course you don’t always need everything but if you can get yourself a big plastic bin and fill it with some of these items you’ll be ready to roll at a moments notice. Just always remember to replenish.

•    Grill tools & can opener
•    Meat Thermometer
•    Sharp Knife & Serving Spoons
•    Plastic utensils to eat with
•    Aluminum foil & baggies
•    Salt, Pepper, Your Favorite Seasonings & Rubs
•    Trash Bags
•    Paper Towels(Cloth towels & wash cloths)
•    Stuff to eat off of, Paper or Plastic Plates, Bowls, Whatever

A jug of water is nice to have to clean your hands with. (Soap is good too.) Foil pans are handy for all sorts of things:cooking, storing, serving & leftovers. Whatever your cooking apparatus, it never hurts to have extra fuel. . . propane, charcoal, wood chips. A fire extinguisher is a great thing to bring along & a squirt bottle for small flare ups. Cutting boards are good, but paper plates make nice clean cutting surfaces. Condiments, olive oil, non-stick cooking spray, onions & garlic are necessity. A table to cut up stuff on and set the food on when its done is always a nice option. A fold up chair or two is great to have too when your taking a break from cooking or after the game when your waiting for the parking lot to clear out a little. Extra beer is always plus. . . it’s a great bartering tool if you forgot something at home. ALWAYS make sure you have a good cooler & PLENTY of ice! Lastly. . . NEVER leave your grill or fryer unattended besides the obvious safety reasons your food can get ruined in a heartbeat! PS…use sober, common sense while cooking.

So, yes, tailgating is an art. It doesn’t matter who you’re routing for either. A great tailgate can bring everyone together. But tailgating is still about one upping your neighbor. (Some people even have cooking competitions right at the venue they are at. I was at a weekend long drag racing competition and a whole group of people came just to have a rib cooking competition). It’s never about putting anyone down. It’s the pride of knowing you’re better. From simple to elaborate, regional favorites like Philly Cheese Steak & Buffalo wings, or just showing off, like grilled tequila & chipotle rubbed butterflied leg of lamb. Deep frying turkey for the Thanksgiving Day game and bringing all of the fixings. . From your tailgate bed or your buddy’s RV. Breakfast to dessert with appetizers & dinner in between, beer to blender drinks. Tailgating is about fun times and making memories. So have fun, enjoy yourself & eat hearty!

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply